What's Wrong With This Picture? | thebereancall.org

McMahon, T.A.

The subject matter has to do with Christianity and, more specifically, what took place in the life of Jesus Christ. Those contributing their ideas about the subject are professionals from Hollywood: an Academy-award winning director, a screenwriter, an art director, cinematographer, actors, etc. Although acclaimed in their field, they're not the most reliable group to turn to when seeking out facts contained in the Bible.

But hey, it's only a movie! Accuracy is irrelevant; entertainment is the main thing. Actually, accuracy is an impossibility in a theatrical film. A movie that attempts to recreate a historic event or time period is at best a creative reproduction that depends more upon the talents of the production team for credibility than concern for historic precision or truth. In other words, the illusion created by the medium of film is the critical thing, even if the elements that create that illusion are mostly delusions.

Most of us who aren't history buffs are rarely put off by inaccuracies in theatrical period pieces (e.g., Gone With the Wind, Gladiator, Cleopatra, Pride and Prejudice) because it's the drama that usually captures our emotions. That's what successful movies do. They manipulate our emotions with a story, images, acting, music, sound effects, special effects, and so forth. It's a purely sensual trip: we cry, we laugh, we sit on the edge of our seats, we scream, we fall in love (or lust), or we exit the theater prematurely because our moral senses were offended. Historical accuracy takes a back seat to all the above.

What about those of us who are biblical buffs, i.e., biblical Christians? What do we think when delusions begin pouring forth in a highly promoted motion picture that implies accuracy yet corrupts the content of historic Christianity? Sadly, many, if not most, Christians buy into the same delusions regarding biblical accuracy that their non-Christian friends and neighbors accept when it comes to historical accuracy. "Not true!" someone cries out in protest. They quickly point out that a large number of leading Christian authors, apologetic ministries, and evangelical leaders have written dozens of books, resource materials, and sermon helps to shed light on the lies presented in The Da Vinci Code. Moreover, I'm told that multitudes of evangelical pastors prepared sermons to beat back the delusion The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown developed in his 40-million-plus copies bestseller, which was further promoted in the Ron Howard-directed, Tom Hanks-starred movie.

Okay. Except, I wasn't addressing The Da Vinci Code.

What I had in mind was a "biblical" movie that became a huge success, thanks especially to the support of evangelical Christians-a movie that had so many obvious distortions of the Scriptures in its first fifteen minutes that one would be hard-pressed to explain why any thoughtful believer would see it through to the end. I am, of course, talking about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. This very Roman Catholic movie, wrongly considered to be the ultimate Christian classic in terms of "historic accuracy and fidelity to the Scriptures," is now used enthusiastically in evangelical churches as a visual resource for various agendas, from Sunday schools to small groups to outreach programs. Many churches taking issue with The Da Vinci Code showed The Passion during Easter Week.

The point of this article is to underscore the irony in a host of leading evangelicals and ministries missing how the Bible was critically distorted in The Passion of the Christ, including an erroneous gospel and another Christ (see Showtime for the Sheep? for documentation), while crying foul regarding The Da Vinci Code. For example, Christianity Today called The Passion one of "our" movies, in comparison with Ron Howard's motion picture. Evangelical leaders seemingly felt a great need to rally pulpits and stuff Christian bookstore shelves with volumes that point out that Jesus did not in fact marry Mary Magdalene. Other than the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, which holds such a belief as doctrine (they claim that He also married Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary), what professing Christian could not easily refute that bit of nonsense? Obviously, a biblically illiterate one.

Hank Hanegraaf, head of the apologetics ministry Christian Research Institute (which highly endorsed The Passion of the Christ, calling its Roman Catholic influence "negligible to the point of irrelevance"), co-authored one of the dozens of books addressing The Da Vinci Code. In an article promoting his book he wrote, "a young woman pulled me aside and, fighting tears, asked me to reassure her that the Christian faith was valid. She, along with a group of her friends, had read The Da Vinci Code and was seriously shaken by its assertions."

What does that tell us about today's Christians, whose faith is gravely threatened by pulp fiction? The woman and her friends could have read the four Gospels three times over in the amount of time it took them to go through Dan Brown's religious conspiracy babble. That certainly would have set them straight about "the Christian faith." But why go to all that trouble when the "Bible Answer Man" can "reassure" her? Or, instead of actually reading the Bible, they could have taken up the latest evangelical trend for this "visual generation," which promotes watching a DVD such as The Jesus Film Project, The Gospel of John, or The Gospel According to Matthew. Who cares if it's an actor playing Jesus, God incarnate, or that it's the film's crewmembers who are interpreting the Scriptures?

I fear that the church is mustering its troops to battle lines against phantom enemies while the Adversary is softening her up from within. Succumbing to Satan's age-old strategy, Christians are using the ways and means of the world rather than adhering to God's Word. Marketing and entertainment have risen to the top of evangelicals' list of "How to Make Christianity Convenient and Popular." However, in attempting to appeal to the culture, the thinking of the culture has so permeated evangelicals that for many it has severely diminished their ability to discern the difference between man's way and God's way.