[Episcopal News Service] A reflection guide to Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ," offered by the National Council of Churches USA, has been endorsed by the Episcopal Church's ecumenical and interfaith officer as a helpful guide to parishioners and congregations viewing the controversial film.
The guide is available on the NCC's web site at http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/passionfilmguide.pdf
"This study guide is very good and consistent with our approach to such matters," said Bishop Christopher Epting, deputy to the Presiding Bishop for ecumenical and interfaith relations. "We don't believe in censoring such things, or advising our people not to view them, but to reflect on them within the community of faith. I would encourage Episcopal congregations to consider making this material available."
"The Passion of the Christ," set to open Ash Wednesday (February 25), already has generated both rave reviews and controversy. The NCC Interfaith Relations Commission, which issued the guide, does not comment on the film but offers Christian viewers a framework in which to see the film and to discuss it in their families and congregations.
According to the NCC, the guide recognizes that the story of Christ's Passion is deeply meaningful to Christians and that dramatic depictions of the Passion story can be a powerful experience of faith--but that such depictions also have a tragic history, sometimes leading to labeling of Jews as "Christ-killers" and to acts of violence against Jews.
"Many Christian and Jewish leaders are concerned that this movie might set back decades of Jewish-Christian relations," the guide notes. The NCC Interfaith Relations Commission expresses its concern about the possible rise in anti-Semitism and its desire to foster genuine and constructive Christian-Jewish dialogue.
The guide addresses the question "Who killed Jesus?" and reminds its readers that Jesus was born a Jew and lived as a Jew to the end. It encourages Christians to read at least two Gospel accounts of the Passion along with commentary on the religious and political context of the gospel writers.
When Jesus prayed from the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," what did he mean? the guide asks. Movie viewers are asked to discuss how the movie portrays Jews, and to consider specific steps to build or strengthen relationships with Jewish people and institutions.