Christians Prepare for Easter Reflecting Upon Suffering of Christ

( [email protected] ) Apr 03, 2004 02:56 PM EST

Many Christians across the nation are preparing their hearts for Easter rather with different perspectives. This year’s Holy Week will be more somber than usual because of Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which has led the viewers to meditate deeply on the suffering of Christ and to reflect upon the true meaning of Easter.

"It's given me a whole other perspective on the season," said Jill Burns, a 46-year-old dentist from Indianapolis.

"I'm taking this much more personally," said Burns, who saw the Gibson film with her two teenage sons. "I am preparing myself for the agony of Good Friday."

Although some theologians criticize the film calling it anti-Semitic and overly blood driven, the film has been a blockbuster, earning more than $300 million and has been considered as a great evangelistic tool of this era to reach out to nonbelievers to introduce Jesus and to general Christians to remind them of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

"The one thing Mel has done for us is he's reminded us of what he (Jesus) did for us on the cross," said the Rev Elmer Goodeill, an evangelical minister in Centralia, Washington. "He has reminded us of the passion and love that Jesus Christ had for us, to go through the humiliation, the whipping."

It’s been also reported that the movie has inspired churches to help people to grow in faith by expanding teaching methods such as Bible studies and sermons, focusing more on the movie.

One of the biggest churches in Chicago, Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, drew 22,000 people the weekend after the movie with its pitch that it would be focusing on "The Man Behind the Movie" (Jesus, not Gibson), spokeswoman Cally Parkinson said.

Robert Miclean, an Eastern Orthodox sub-deacon in the Baltimore suburb of Linthicum, raised question surrounding the movie, reinforcing that Christ was not the victim in the Crucifixion, but the victor.

"They're eager to talk about it. It's evocative. It has moved them. It is so bloody - that is disturbing to some of them, and that's not where our focus is as Orthodox. Victory over sin and death that results in Resurrection, being able to talk about it has aided the youth," Miclean said.

Susan Tullington of rural Warrenton, Virginia, said that her Catholic church is using the study guide to the movie to deepen their understanding of their faith.

Tullington said the movie inspired her to put her "faith in action".

"I had a feeling, a gut feeling - no other good reason - that this movie was meant to draw people back to church," she said, "Sometimes you have to hook them with things that are trendy."