Readers respond to column on `The Passion'

March 02, 2004|By Susan Reimer

RARELY IN the more than 10 years I have been writing this column has the response from readers been so swift, so emotional and so overwhelmingly negative as it was to the column I wrote last week on the new film, The Passion of the Christ.

In my capacity as a parent and family life columnist, I was asked to see the movie and comment on its suitability for children - especially given the fact that many teachers and pastors planned to take busloads of youngsters to see it.

I argued that the sustained violence in Mel Gibson's film, which I found harrowing, made it unsuitable viewing for children younger than 17. I went further, saying I couldn't recommend the movie to anyone, because I felt that the message of Christ's redemptive love was overwhelmed by the graphic violence done against him in The Passion.

Readers responded in such large numbers, I thought it appropriate to share some of their reactions. A sampling follows:

Michael Pilachowski wrote that it was a mistake to confuse this movie with entertainment. "It's not about being entertained, or even about Mel Gibson. It's about looking at the part of Jesus' life that we'd rather not see."

Adam Nettina, who identified himself as a 15-year-old high school student, wrote to say that I was "close-minded."

"You seem to fail to look outside your own political boundaries, citing that children shouldn't see this movie because of the gore and bloodshed. ... Yet in a society where we expose children to realistic war violence, drug content, and explicit sexual acts, it seems overwhelmingly hypocritical of you to protest."

Carolyn Williams wrote to say that all the articles that appeared in The Sun that day, including a movie review and a news story, suffered from an "anti-Christ bias."

"The motion picture is very graphic, but all of you missed the underlying message of redemption ... because of your contempt for religion, and Christianity in particular. What kind of film about Jesus the Christ would have been pleasing to you?"

Jennifer Schuberth of Ellicott City wrote that she did not understand how a parent can explain the suffering in the world to children without teaching the crucifixion.

"Many children will not be able to deal with the violence of the movie, but some older teens would. How is it that no one writes articles warning children away from all the immorality and violence in most of the movies and television programs?"

Christian Beyer wrote that we have lived too long with a "Disneyesque" version of Jesus and his ministry.

"Yes, his message was about love. But a meaningful love, a love that allows one to suffer agony, humiliation and death for others. What Reimer appears to exalt are the mere platitudes of our time in which love is expressed mainly in words. Words that can, and are, taken back too easily. ... Just ask these same children she refers to. Odds are that their parents are not married to each other any longer."

G. Talbott wrote to say that the same objections - of unsuitable violence - should be lodged as well against Holocaust movies. "Come on and let us be fair and open-minded to the Christians of this world."

Ryan Adams wrote that the outcry against Gibson's movie can be traced to the anti-Christian bias in the entertainment industry. "The people who control the print and electronic media aren't Christians, either. That explains why some Jews are uncomfortable about this film."

And, Megan Lembach and Susan Galitzin wrote separately to say that they appreciated the debate the movie has stirred.

Galitzin said the movie was painful to watch, "but the film was never intended to portray the life of Jesus. Just his death."

And Lembach saw modern comparisons: "I have personally looked at this event as a very real lesson in human nature. Jesus arrives as a "King" on Palm Sunday and [then] is killed like the most horrendous killer" just a week later.

Finally, many of those who wrote concluded that the lessons of this movie were lost on me and all others who criticized it. That was perhaps best summed up by Schuberth, who wrote: "To those who understand, no explanation is necessary. To those who don't, no explanation is possible."

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