One more week to go before “The Passion of the Christ” hits its one month anniversary since its release last month but college youth groups are still going to see it and talk about it. College students from John Brown University gathered last Thursday at the chapel to hear a discussion from a panel of Christian leaders who discussed the movie’s spiritual message as well as cultural impact.
"(The movie) is a very significant cultural event, and it could be a very significant spiritual event," said Tracy Balzer, director of Christian Formation, who was a panelist during event.
The panel was also joined by Jim Blankenship, assistant professor of Biblical studies; Robbie Castleman, assistant professor of Biblical studies; and Dan Lambert, associate professor of youth ministries.
Balzer said the movie is the “most incredible outreach opportunity in 2000 years," Balzer said.
Lambert confirmed Balzer’s statement by telling the student audience he through the movie he has had a chance to discuss Christianity with his mother and sister, who are non-Christians.
"The most powerful evangelical tool we have is our lives, but the movie might open doors," he said.
According to Blankenship, the movie has been able to promote conversation and if the movie can keep a conversation going, it can be an opportunity for Christians to share the rest of the Bible with non-believers.
Evangelistic efforts after the movie have been a intimidating for some moviegoers who meet eager evangelists once the movie finishes.
Blankenship said, “Anything that gets other people talking about my Savior isn't a bad thing.”
A sophomore, named Todd Hengemuhle, who attended the panelist discussion on the movie said movie can jumpstart any conversation he may have with others about Christ during his spring break.
"(The movie) has opened the lines of communication, and it makes it easier to talk about Christ (with non-Christians)," he said.
Not all students who attended the discussion have seen the movie. Junior Ann Clipperton said there is so much hype that she didn’t want to see the movie. She came to hear the panelists because she was “skeptical”.
"I wondered if it was just going to be a popular film or if there would be more to it," she said.
However, after hearing the panelists explain the spiritual meanings, she decided to watch the film.
There was a word of caution the panelists gave to the students regarding the point of the movie. The movie is not just about anti-Semitism or gratuitous violence, according to Balzer who said, “The Passion of the Christ is about Christ's passion, about having eternal relationships with him and not about the gore and violence of the movie or how the Jews put Jesus to death.”
Castleman commented the movie was "profoundly" accurate and redirected students who were concerned about the Biblical accuracy of the film to see a bigger picture.
"There are a few things that aren't in scripture per se, but that certainly reflect scripture," she said. Going with “all her antennas up”, Castleman said she found that the spiritual insight of the movie is thoroughly Biblical.