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Monday, July 19, 2004

The Picayune Passion?

Well, the impact of Gibson’s Passion movie is already being minimized. According to the wire services, “while a solid majority liked the film, seeing the movie brought about few changes in individual’s faith or beliefs” (CNS). According to the survey, as a result of seeing the movie:
  • 18 percent of moviegoers changed their religious behaviour,
  • 16 percent changed their religious beliefs,
  • 10 percent had done both,
  • Less than one-tenth of one percent made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus as their saviour in reaction to the film.
When Paul want to the Areopagus, he preached to the whole city, but it is doubtful that he attained more converts than this film seems to have managed. How many revivals have you been to which saw 20% of the attendees respond to the altar call? Even if anyone had seen such a tremendous response, it is a fact little noted that such altar calls do not typically produce permanent changes in behaviour. It is not uncommon for an evangelical church to “bring thousands to Christ” with a summer-long revival only to find their permanent membership has not changed a bit. All the altar call respondents faded away with the morning sun.

Yet this poll, taken over ten weeks after the movie had ended, produced a larger viewer response than any summer revival. And the movie was only a couple of hours long. In our discussion of this, a friend of mine, Dennis Embo, pointed out:

“To the CNS wire service people it was a ‘mere’ 18%. But when compared to, as you say, these big evangelistic crusades, they would love to see double-digit figures of people whose report a life-changing experience after attending such an event. And the difference between the two is that Gibson's evangelism was not a 'participatory' event. Noboby made an altar call at the end of the movie. No 800-number was flashed on the screen so folks could get in touch with some local evangelical group for follow-up. Nobody sang and prayed and carried on during the film. No Benny Hinn lunacy. Just the Gospel portrayed in its true colors. When the Gospel is acclaimed that way one would almost expect some very positive and long-lasting results.”

And that’s exactly what we see. If Michael Moore's "Farenheit 9/11" caused 10% of its viewers to call the phone numbers he flashed on the screen during the movie, don't you think this would be reported as a news event? If this were a safe-sex campaign, CNS would trumpet an 18% change in condom-using behaviour from the rooftops. But since the viewers are putting on Christ instead of a sheath of latex, it becomes a “mere” 18% change.

Is it any wonder that most people find prostitutes more reliable than journalists? We know Jesus ate and drank with the former, but there's nothing to indicate He associated with the latter.

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