"THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST"
Should children and youths see the film?
Mel Gibson (b. 1958) is an Academy Award winning actor and director. He
co-wrote, directed, co-produced, and financed the "The Passion of the Christ."
The movie opened in thousands of movie theatres across North America on
2004-FEB-25 -- Ash Wednesday.
The movie has been given an "R" rating, which means that children under the
age of 17 are theoretically not allowed to attend without an adult accompanying
them. It received this rating because of the high level of abuse, violence,
blood and gore. "Film critic Michael Medved calls the movie 'two hours of
almost uninterrupted and almost unendurable pain'."
Mel Gibson recommends that the movie not be seen by persons under the age of
The Seattle Times reports that some theatre managers have noticed that many
children, "even very young kids" came with their parents to see "The
Passion" -- more than to a typical R-rated movie. But other managers hadn't
noticed an increase in young viewers.
Access Atlanta, the web site of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
conducted a poll of its visitors. They asked "What age is appropriate to see
the movie: 'The Passion of the Christ?" Response was:
|11.3% 10 and over|
|37.3% 13 and over|
|27.2% 17 and over|
|12.3% Any age|
|11.9% Adults only. (This presumably means 18 and older)|
The total votes cast were 2,310, giving a margin of error of about 1.5 %. This,
of course, is not a random sampling of adult's opinions.
This essay continues below.
Responses of therapists and religious leaders:
|Rick Young, youth minister of First Baptist Church Woodstock, AL, has
suggested that parents view the film themselves, and them make the decision
whether to return to see the movie with thier children. He is taking two
groups of middle school and high school students to see the movie. But he
obtained permission from parents and guardians in advance and has taken the
precaution to include parents and counselors in the group.
|Jerry Johnston, a pastor of the First Family Church in Kansas
City, KS, said: "I think this movie is a wonderful teaching tool for
children. Young people need to be 'spiritually arrested' by the life of
Christ, and the violence in the movie is purposeful violence that will help
children gain faith and feel more secure."
|Cathy Blusiewicz, a child and family psychologist, commented: "Movies
are a very powerful medium. For most children, this kind of violence is not
depicted in Sunday school. To read about it is one thing. When it's
graphically displayed, it can cause nightmares and bring up a lot of
|Bill Maier, a psychologist at the fundamentalist Christian group Focus
on the Family recommends that children under the age of 12 not be permitted
to see the movie. He said: "You run the risk of really traumatizing a
younger child." He also recommends that parents view the movie first,
before deciding whether to take their children.
|Bob Waliszewski, an entertainment
specialist, also from Focus on the Family, commented: "Is it gory? Yes. Is it
gruesome? Yes. Is it raw? Yes." Focus usually condemns violent
movies. But Waliszewski said: "...in this particular case, it's worth it....This
is not 'Kill Bill'-'Texas Chainsaw'-'Scream'-type violence, gratuitous
violence to titillate. This is as close as we get to video footage of the
one historic figure who stands above all. This leaves an indelible mark on
one's spiritual dimension. I want that for my children, and it's why I
recommend it for other teens." 2|
|The Dove Foundation rates family films. Although they strongly recommend
"The Passion," they have withheld the Dove seal of approval.
Spokesperson Dick Rolfe told Associated Press: "There's some pretty
extreme violence in the film, and parents should consider their children's
maturity and ability to handle it before they invite them to come along."
|Peter van Breda, senior pastor of The
Gathering Place in Bellevue, WA, strongly believes that kids should not see
this movie because of the level of violence.
|TV movie critic Roger Ebert rated the movie
positively, but described it as "the most violent movie I have ever seen."
He believes that it should have been given an NC-17 rating which would
prohibit minors from viewing the movie, even when accompanied by a parent.
He wrote: "If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I
have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic."
|Nell Minow, author of "The Movie Mom's
Guide to Family Movies," recommends that only adults view the movie. She
noted that: "this movie is violent in an intense, graphic, personal, even
intimate manner — much more powerful than other R-rated movies with
cartoon-style explosions and shoot-outs."
|Norv Brown, Children's Pastor at Overlake
Christian Church in Redmond WA is taking a group of their students to
see the move. They have to be over the age of 14, and have the permission of
a parent or guardian. 2|
|Sharon Barham, children's director at
Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, WA, suggested that parents either take
their children or allow them to go in a youth group. She said that: "Both
of these contexts allow for responsible adults to monitor and guide a young
person's understanding. This is a good rule of thumb for families wanting to
educate their youth to any world truth: war, the Holocaust, slavery,
etc....Sure, we want to educate and challenge our young people to know and
develop accurate world views of these events, and we want to prepare them to
take responsible positions on those truths. But we also have to make a
judgment call about each child's maturity level to view the nakedness of the
whole truth and their ability to make critical, healthy responses to the
viewing without being harmed by it." 2|
|Cynthia Bosshart, director of faith
formation at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church in Renton, WA,
recommended that parents heed the R-rating: She said: "There are other
multimedia resources available for children regarding the life and death of
Jesus that are educational and age-appropriate." 2|
|Rod Gustafson, a reviewer at www.Gradingthemovies.com, said:
"Just as I could understand the horrors of war prior to seeing 'Saving
Private Ryan,' it's not necessary to subject yourself to one man's visual
interpretation of the Bible in order to fully appreciate or be worthy of
Christ's sacrifice. Your children's personal relationship with
Jesus Christ is not dependent on their viewing of this or any other film.
And for all the positive potential this movie holds, it may have the
opposite effect on a young mind not yet ready for its visual intensity." 2|
Response of movie reviewers:
|Christy Lemire of the Associated Press wrote: "Gibson has
said he wants his film to be shockingly graphic to show the humanity of
Christ's sacrifice. But the idea that children should see "The Passion" as a
learning device — that churches are organizing screenings and theater trips
for their parishioners and catechism classes — is truly shocking. Grown-ups
— even true believers — will have difficulty sitting through the film. Just
think of the trauma it will inflict on kids." 3 |
|Jami Bernard of the Daily News wrote: "No child should see
this movie. Even adults are at risk. Mel Gibson’s 'The Passion of the
Christ' is the most virulently anti-Semitic movie since the German
propaganda films of World War Two. It is sickening, much more brutal than
any 'Lethal Weapon'....[The movie] "feels like a propaganda tool rather than
entertainment for a general audience....Jews are vilified, in ways both
little and big, pretty much nonstop for two hours, seven minutes. Gibson
cuts from the hook nose of one bad Jewish character to the hook nose of
another in the ensuing scene." 3|
Ray Richmond, Hollywood Reporter for MSNBC News wrote: "It concerns me that parents may be taking young (or even semi-young) children to see a film that is such a full-on visual
assault simply because the graphic, unsparing viciousness can be justified as holy and pious. Talk about inducing nightmares.
Yet I have heard little about any damage that being subjected to such epic brutality might induce. Call me a member of the
elite media if you please, but it befuddles me that a flash of a bare breast or a few misplaced naughty words can so polarize us
politically while a film so wantonly sadistic, ferocious and nasty can be hailed for its accuracy, its reverence, its power."
- Bo Emerson, "Film's gore may be too much for kids," Cox News
Service, 2004-FEB, at:
- Stephanie Dunnewind, "Should kids see violent 'Passion'?,"
Seattle Times, 2004-FEB-2004, at:
- "Critic calls Gibson movie anti-Semitic. Also says 'No child should
see this movie'," MSNBC Entertainment, 2004-FEB-24, at:
- Ray Richmond, " 'Passion' -- pornography for the whole family? Strip away spiritual veneer and Gibson film just plain nasty,"
MSNBC Entertainment, 2004-MAR-2, at:
- "Hard to Watch. Is The Passion too Violent for Children?," ABC
News, 2004-FEB-19, at:
Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2004-FEB-28
Latest update: 2004-MAY-21
Author: B.A. Robinson