VIDEO: The Passion of the Christ: Do I need to watch it?

by Jimmy Akin

in +Religion, Video

Some Christians watch The Passion of the Christ as a Good Friday spiritual exercise. Others wonder if they should but are hesitant to do so because of the intense nature of the film’s depiction of Christ’s sufferings. Some have even been told that they have an obligation to watch the film. Do they?

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Joanne For-Life April 6, 2012 at 10:18 am

I have not personally watched it yet, perhaps I will one day. I agree with your answer to that woman Jimmy, I think you handled it well..

Bender April 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm

From a purely practical standpoint, anytime someone says that “you MUST watch this film,” after having one’s expectations built up that high, the viewer is almost certain to be disappointed.
Look — The Passion of the Christ is an excellent work of religious art.  And, given the nature of film, it has the potential to leave a strong emotional impression on the viewer, as well as provide some interesting theological insights.  But it is ultimately just a work of art.
If you are looking for something that you MUST do, that you have an OBLIGATION to do, then do the best thing you can do for yourself – go to Confession.

Bender April 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I suppose I should have asked — Do I have to watch the video before I post an answer?  (I didn’t)

Mandy P. April 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Great answer. And Jimmy, that is one EPIC beard, man!

James McLaughlin April 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I watch bits and pieces of it, from time to time, to keep the intellect stirred. The Marian aspects of the film I have found particularly beneficial. The most beautiful movie and also the most ugly.

russ rentler April 7, 2012 at 5:07 am

 I fall on the side of those who would encourage others to watch it. Let
me share my story about the Passion. In 2004 I was just minding my own
business being a devout evangelical protestant(having left Catholicism
31 years earlier to become a “born-again” Christian.) Our pastor bought a
full theater full of tickets to the Passion so we could take others to
“lead them to Christ.”  Well, I just took my family. Mid-way through the
scenes on the Via Crucis, I knew I had to surrender to Jesus. Yeah, I
had “been saved” in 1973 when I asked Jesus into my heart, but when I
saw his suffering so graphically displayed, I knew I had to surrender
myself for real.  I said “God, since you did this for me, I will do
anything for you.” well, the very next thought I had was “You will even
become Catholic.”  The was the last thing I wanted to do, but I left the
theater knowing I had to convert. I started reading Crossing the Tiber
by Steve Ray and when I read about the early Church Fathers describing
the Eucharist as the way the Catholics do even now, that was it. I was
convinced, I had to come back. That was 8 years ago. 1600 blog posts
later, an appearance on EWTN’s Journey Home, a Catholic themed music CD,
I still have the burning desire to share with everyone, the beautiful
treasures of grace that await anyone who would surrender to Christ and
His Church. My life has been changed in ways I never could have
imagined, even as a former “devout” evangelical Christian all as a
result of God’s grace reaching me through a Hollywood movie. Who
would’ve known?  http://www.crossedthetiber.comRead more:

Clementius April 7, 2012 at 7:10 am

 Crudelissimum eterrimunque suplicum (the most cruel and atrocious of punishments), thus wrote Cicero [d. 43 B.C.].

Most people who saw the movie stated that Mel Gibson went over board with cinematic license, exaggerated, over-emphasized and over-dramatrized the events..  Actually, Gibson put a little restraint especially in the scourging at the pillar.  What Our Lord went through in His Passion cannot be put into words.  The Passion of the Christ is a must watch movie every Holy Week as a reminder to all of us that to pay for the enormity of our sins Christ had to undergo the most cruel and atrocious of punishments all in obedience to His Father who desired above all to reconcile with us.  My youngest daughter watched it for the first time when she was five or 6 years old  and felt the agony of Christ and at that age instantly knew why  He went through it and why he did it.  Was I a monster of a parent to let a young child watch something that has been rated “R”?    To meditate on the Passion and death of Christ and to love the Cross and embrace it as the instrument chosen by Jesus for our salvation rates an “R” for violence?  What about our transgressions, the enormity of our sins no matter how small that offends God, aren’t these rated “R” before Him?

To each Catholic to his own decision.  If this film in your opinion does not contribute to the formation of an informed conscience, which every good and practicing Catholic possesses to gain eternal life, that’s your prerogative. 

(the most cruel and atrocious of punishments)
        — Cicero [d. 43 B.C.]

RJO April 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

 I insisted that both of my sons (ages 15 & 18) watch it on Good Friday at noon..  I hope it left a positive impression on them.  They were “quiet” (a miracle itself), for the rest of the day. 
While he based it on private revelation (Bl. Sister Emmerich)  The story written by the German nun is far longer-and superior-where she was apparently given the gift of spending several days, from the Last Supper to the Resurrection, the Ascension and even the Assumption of Mary in a non-physical form where she saw, heard, smelt EVERYTHING and made copious notes as ordered by her Spiritual Director.  He notes are at:

Jeff D April 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

I can’t really take the movie. Not because of the graphic nature of it, but because, from beginning to end, Gibson uses every trick in the Hollywood playbook to try to manipulate my emotions, and they are all cranked up to 11. It is truly non-stop. Even when Jesus is… building a table. It is too much.

Deacon Joe D April 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

It is a religious work of art. 

bzelbub April 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

If I need to watch a movie I would watch Jesus Christ Superstar before Mel Gibsons, flick. They both try in their own way to live the bible story, but both are Hollywood hokum. Go to mass, read scripture,take a class, go on a retreat(s), do a pilgrimage,visit a shrine. Don’t spend money on Hollywood.

Common-sense-man April 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I am a traditional Catholic and I like Mel Gibson yet there is something about “The Passion” that rubs me the wrong way. I tried to watch it five or six times and I could never finish the whole thing. It’s not the violence (only to be expected), it’s not any theological disagreement but… je ne sais quois. It just leaves me cold, period. I’d rather contemplate Matthias Gruenewald’s Isenheim Altar which is a true Christian spiritual masterpiece.

socaljoan April 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

 The Passion Of The Christ is a masterpiece! It is a brilliant visual and tangible expression of Our Lord’s Passion. The, directing, acting, music, cinematography, etc are all glorious.  I believe Mel Gibson, and the entire project, was divinely inspired. For me it was an experience watching this movie. I saw it several times in the theater and have the DVD. Yes, it is difficult to watch, but it brought a deeper and more personal meaning to my faith, that is hard to articulate. This movie moved people to confess to murder! In two hours this movie changed millions of people’s lives for the better. By not watching it you are missing out on a great experience. It is mesmerizing and the use of Latin and Aramaic really transcends the experience. I would encourage everyone to see is at least once.

Matt Landry April 11, 2012 at 8:04 am

I’m guessing anyone who said “you have to watch this” didn’t mean to imply it was an actual _obligation_, the way, say, going to Mass is an obligation. Just speaking hyperbolically (as folks do) about how moving it is, how much spiritual benefit can be had from watching it, etc. Which are points on which there is plenty of room for perfectly legitimate disagreement among individuals.

I tend to fall on the “you (hyperbolically) MUST watch this!” side of the equation, myself. But as someone sharing a household with an extremely scrupulous conscience (and social circles with two others), I know better than to actually say it in those terms.

The movie is brutal. So was the actual Passion. It will disturb you. The torture and execution of God’s personal incarnation in human flesh _should_ disturb you. But if you know going in that it’ll provoke a disordered emotional response, then you shouldn’t go in.

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