Some Christian friends are telling me that this Easter they will celebrate Christ's resurrection by going to see Mel Gibson's movie … again. They seem shocked that I have not seen The Passion of The Christ since I am the son of a well-known fundamentalist preacher—Francis Schaeffer—who, though he died in 1984, is still a guru to millions of evangelicals.
I have written on religious subjects in my semi-biographical novels and in my non-fiction writing. I lecture several times a year about my conversion from Protestantism to Greek Orthodoxy and as such, my friends, Christians, Jews and otherwise, are asking me what I think of The Passion. They act bewildered when I say, "I'll watch just about anything on the screen. But I won't watch a celluloid Jesus."
I did not watch Pasolini's movie about Christ, or Scorsese's. Nor have I seen the old biblical flicks, like The Robe. And I go to a lot of movies, maybe 30 or 40 a year. I even directed four not very good feature films back in the 80s and early 90s—two horror flicks, a comedy and an action picture. All but one of my pictures were rated "R" for violence. I don't mind violence in films, or sex for that matter.
I wonder if there are any other religious people who feel as I do: I don't want to allow other people's visual images to cloud my spiritual imagination. Perhaps others can understand my reasons by thinking of a favorite book one has read that gets made into a film. If it is something you have loved, even "lived in" through many readings, perhaps you are hesitant to see the movie version. You don't want some movie, no matter how good, to change your imagery, to spoil it for you. Multiply this by a hundred and that is the reason I won't be seeing Gibson's ...1
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