By Randall Murphree
| AFA Journal
Mel Gibson is making big waves with his Biblically-based film, The
Passion of the Christ, scheduled for release February 25. I
understand that most evangelical leaders who previewed the film
came away at first speechless, then generous with their praise for
the power and impact of the film.
Controversy has swirled around the project for months. Critics claim
it is anti- Semitic. Some say its depiction of the beating of Christ
is too violent. Others seem only to take offense that Gibson would
invest $25 million of his own fortune to produce a film based on
his Christian faith.
The Gospel of John, another major Christian film, was released
last fall by Visual Bible International (VBI). Falling in the shadow
of the spotlight on the Gibson film, it has suffered a lack of media
attention. That is unfortunate. I would not for a moment detract
from The Passion, but I do want to champion The Gospel
of John. It is a moving drama that uses a unique approach to
telling the story of John a word-for-word adaptation of the
Historically, overtly Christian films have not been big box office
hits. Of course, there are the occasional perennial classics such
as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur or Chariots of Fire;
but most such hits were produced decades ago.
Over the past 25 years, video has provided a new avenue for movie
sales. World Wide Pictures, a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association, and a number of other production companies have released
many quality movies. The startling success of Jerry Jenkins and
Tim LaHayes Left Behind novel series provided impetus
for two movies that made at least minor waves in the secular film
However, most of the Christian movies have reached primarily
the Christian community. One exception is the recent mega-hit Lord
of the Rings: The Return of the King. It is the third in the
fantasy trilogy from J.R.R. Tolkiens books and based on Judeo-Christian
morality. It won all four of its nominations at the Golden Globe
Awards, and leads the Academy Awards race with 11 nominations.
an exciting production
Cynic that I am, I approached The Gospel of John with expectations
in check. A word-for-word transfer of the Gospel to film? Why not
just read it aloud to myself? My skeptical nature sometimes protects
me from being disappointed when things dont turn out well.
But often, Im wrong and in cases such as this
I can be pleasantly and totally overwhelmed.
The Gospel of John is superb and moving, surprising in its
simplicity and strength. With renowned actor Christopher Plummer
narrating and a cast of seasoned stage actors doing the dialogue,
I began to feel as if John somehow wrote in the first century
for the big screen in the 21st. The film had its world premiere
at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, and
made its U.S. debut September 26. It is available now on video.
At an August screening at Deluxe Film Lab in downtown Toronto, I
was among some 25 journalists, most from secular newspapers. We
were hosted by VBI. In a Q&A session following the screening,
one reviewer asked if the film was intended to have a religious
The project is not, per se, a religious outreach, Producer
Garth Drabinsky told us, but to engage in word-for-word adaptation.
We did approach the work with reverence and diligence. The
script is a recitation-dramatization of the Gospel of John. Producers
and scholars chose the Good News Bible (American Bible Association)
because its informal language seemed like dialogue.
Drabinsky is winner of two Canadian Film Awards for Best Picture,
19 Tony awards and an Academy Award nomination. He said his main
goal was to achieve a high degree of artistic excellence. Mission
an engaging portrayal
While the producer is pleased with the artistic level of the film,
many Christian leaders see it as an excellent evangelistic tool.
The National Association of Evangelicals has awarded it their seal
Movieguides Ted Baehr said the film brings the Gospel
alive. [I]t becomes clear why Jesus and His Jewish followers
were at odds with the Jewish establishment, wrote Baehr. Watching
Jesus throw down the gauntlet of His messianic claims in the face
of the Pharisees and Saducees will clearly call people into the
Kingdom of God. There is no ambiguity here. This is Jesus, the Son
Jesus is portrayed by British actor Henry Ian Cusick in his first
starring role. Cusicks background is primarily on the Shakes-pearean
stage. The supporting ensemble cast is made up of British and Canadian
actors, also with strong stage experience. Stage actors, especially
when performing the classics, are more strictly disciplined to deliver
a perfect word-for-word line. In The Gospel of John, producers
ordered re-takes of scenes if an actor made as simple an error as
saying a instead of the.
Cusick exudes an engaging energy that, indeed, seems supernatural.
With a broad range of facial expressions, he conveys empathy when
he weeps with Mary and Martha over Lazarus death; humor when
he baits hypocritical religious leaders with probing questions;
compassion for the Samaritan woman at the well; humility when washing
the disciples feet. More than once I was moved to tears by
In scenes of Jesus cleansing the Temple and angry mobs screaming
for His crucifixion, I became so much a part of the crowds that
a cold chill ran down my spine. Altogether, the movie was both a
humbling and a rewarding experience.
VBI, a publicly traded, faith-based media company, has exclusive
rights for select translations of both Old and New Testaments on
a word-for-word basis. Under consideration for future projects are
the Gospel of Mark, and 1 and 2 Samuel.
Because of our flight schedules, some of us were whisked away before
the Q&A session ended. Sandwiched in a cab with three secular
reviewers from South Florida, St. Louis and Little Rock
I was interested in their take. Their first reactions were to mumble
about the films length (almost three hours) and their skepticism
regarding its potential at the box office.
I just kept thinking over and over of Gods promise through
the prophet Isaiah Thats how it is with my words.
They dont return to me without doing everything I send them
to do. So be it.
Onemillion moms.com: Networks still attacking family
The major television networks continue to be a wasteland
of wanton disregard for morality and family values. Still Standing
and Two-and-a-Half Men, two CBS sitcoms, may be the worst
of prime-times assault on the family.
The family on Still Standing features a mother and father
who exemplify the worst in prime-times parental role models.
When teenager Brian models his new cheerleader sweater, Dad remarks,
All the times I prayed hed get into a cheerleaders
sweater, I probably should have been more specific (1/12).
When teenager Lauren confesses that she shoplifted a bracelet,
Mom glares at Dad (who believed Laurens earlier denial)
and shouts victoriously, I was right!! (1/19). When
Brian is embarrassed to shower after gym class, Dad brags to everyone
that his son has the largest genitalia in his class (1/26). Every
episode focuses on the parents adolescent behavior and attitudes.
In Two-and-a-Half Men, Alan and his son Jake (about 10)
go to live with Alans brother Charlie, a promiscuous bachelor.
Sex talk infiltrates every scene and Charlie takes every opportunity
to teach Jake that sex is a casual thing that every man takes
from every woman at every opportunity. Charlie refers to his sexual
exploits as his hobby (1/12). A soccer mom offers Charlie casual
sex, then two women openly vie for the honor of bedding Alan (1/19).
In another episode, Charlie is joined by his mother, both of whom
commend lying in front of Jake (1/26)
Families who still care about how the major networks treat family
values can express their concerns to the advertisers below. Both
appeared on some of the episodes cited above. Learn more about
how to voice concerns via the Internet at www.onemillionmoms.org.
this information to write or call advertisers cited in this issues
Circuit City Store, Inc.
Chrm. W. Alan McCullough
9950 Mayland Drive
Richmond, VA 23233-1463
Chrm. John F. Mars
6885 Elm Street
McLean, VA 22101
Mars candies, Kal Kan and Pedigree dog foods