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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hollywood’s snub of ‘Passion’ actually a tribute

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Steve Massey The Spokesman-Review

Hand-wringing in conservative Christian circles these days over Hollywood’s snub of “The Passion of the Christ” puzzles me.

Yes, it’s a bit annoying that Mel Gibson’s “Passion” has been shunned in filmmaking accolades doled out by the Producers Guild of America, the Golden Globes and many big-city film critics.

It’s also shameful that the upcoming Oscars likely will pass over “Passion” in favor of movies that deal sympathetically with abortion (“Vera Drake”), euthanasia (“The Sea Inside”) and a pedophile (“The Woodsman”).

But, frankly, there is such a thing as unwanted applause. Does it really matter that a movie expressing the sacred Gospel is dismissed from Hollywood’s annual rite of rewarding itself?

Good grief, no. To the contrary, Hollywood’s silence is a thunderous tribute.

And it offers a glimpse at one of the abiding truths of the faith: Christianity, by definition, is opposed to the temporal things valued by our culture.

The Bible tells us that “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 – NKJV). A deep, abiding desire to be approved or validated by our culture suggests our passion as believers is misplaced.

We cannot serve – or please – God and the culture at the same time. Christians who genuinely expect society at large to applaud the Gospel message, even when conveyed through such a popular medium as film, are sadly misinformed. It won’t happen. Not ever.

Jesus said that he came to bring us eternal peace with God, not with mankind: “Do not think that I come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father… and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-35).

Faith in Christ – sincere faith that is lived publicly, without apology – often sets us up for strained relationships and even persecution.

Need proof? Let Exhibit A be Gibson’s sudden fall from favor in Hollywood. How else can anyone explain how an actor and director at the top of his craft suddenly became persona non grata among peers whose own work often pales by comparison?

Throughout the New Testament, followers of Christ are described as pilgrims, aliens and foreigners. This world is not our home; we’re citizens of heaven.

In 1 Peter 1:17, the Apostle Peter instructs Christians in how they ought to conduct themselves “throughout the time of your stay here” (NKJV). It is a wonderful passage of Scripture that helps us see how temporary this life really is and the importance of concerning ourselves with things that will matter for eternity.

It suggests we’ve got to focus a lot less on self and a lot more on the things that really matter to God. Our stay here is brief.

It’s no wonder Jesus went on to say that his true followers are those who daily sacrifice themselves in favor of God’s purposes: “… He who does not take up his cross daily and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Christianity is all about giving up self and abiding in Christ.

Without ascribing a pious motive, it’s interesting to me that Gibson refused to market his film to awards keepers, which puts him in the vast minority of filmmakers.

Other directors, or their studios, spend millions to orchestrate a symphony of self-praise, hoping to draw attention to their work for the sake of an award.

Consider Michael Moore, who has touted his masterfully misinformed “Fahrenheit 911” wherever and whenever possible. He hyped the People’s Choice Awards on his movie Web site and even provided instructions to readers on how to declare his film their favorite movie of 2004.

He won. Ironically, so did Gibson, whose work alone apparently spoke loud enough to win People’s Choice honors for Favorite Movie Drama.

Don’t misunderstand. Gibson is no martyr.

While one hand got slapped for defying the film industry’s scruples, the other raked in millions of dollars in royalties. He took the high road and, this time, got paid handsomely for it.

When the Oscars roll around next month and Gibson’s name is absent, he may just laugh all the way to the bank. And rather than being outraged and indignant at Hollywood’s snub, Christians ought to laugh right along with him.

In the races that really count in life, nice guys don’t always finish last.