Revisiting the Passion of the Christ

Tonight at KUPC Large Group, we watched the Passion of the Christ. I hadn’t watched this movie since my first time seeing it in college. What I remembered about it more than anything was the graphic, and at times gratuitous, violence. Seeing it this time around, though, was a different experience. Maybe it was just because we skipped the really gross (though probably accurate) scene where Jesus is beaten by the Romans, but this time around I wasn’t as bothered by the violence and noticed a couple of other things about Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the passion.

 Firstly, Peter’s denial of Christ is portrayed in a very poignant, realistic way; a way in which I hadn’t thought of. In my imagine, I’ve always pictured Peter’s setting to be a somewhat quiet circle of people standing at a safe distance from what is going on. I imagine the conversation to be somewhat slow, and Peter’s denial to be quite deliberate. Gibson, though, puts Peter right next to the action, in the middle of a crowded, hostile mob. Peter’s trying to find safety, just like any other reasonable human being. The scene is chaotic, and the three accusations and subsequent denials go by so quickly that if you blink you miss them. In this portrayal, Peter’s denial comes across less deliberate and more instinctive. I found it almost difficult to watch, because the film made denying Christ a sin much easier to commit.

 Secondly, Gibson does a beautiful job portraying the relationship between Jesus and his mother. He does this especially well through the use of flashbacks. One of the more poignant flashbacks comes when Jesus is carrying his cross past Mary. He stumbles, and the movie immediately cuts to a scene from Jesus’ childhood where he falls and Mary comes running to the aid of her child. The movie then cuts back to Mary following her motherly instincts, coming to the aid of her bloodied son. This scene, and several others in the movie, give a thoughtful and beautiful depiction of what Mary endured witnessing her son be crucified.

 I think it’s unfortunate that it took a second viewing of this movie to recall some of these poignant details which were overshadowed in my first viewing by the violence which is portrayed. I think the violence was pretty accurate to history, but was it necessary to be shown so graphically? Did Gibson provide any insights like the ones I mention above through the portrayal of violence? Does the violence provide anything more than shock value? Would the movie be less profound if it were less violent?

Learning to Worship from the Majority World

A few weeks ago, I found a great set of videos on YouTube, from a ministry called Heart Sounds. The organization records indigenous worship around the world. There is a lot we can learn about worship from our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Here are some of my favorite videos, as well as some things that I’ve learned from them.

This video is from South Africa. The first thing I noticed is the richness of unaccompanied voices. I can’t help but wonder how some congregations in America would react if they had to worship without instruments. Too often, we depend on organs, pianos, guitars, or some other combination of instruments to lead our singing. Yet, the Christians in this video are more than content praising God just with their voices. The second thing I noticed was that the worship leader is actually leading. Her singing prompts the singing of the congregation. The worship is a dialogue between leader and congregation.

This one’s from Mongolia, and I think it’s the most interesting. It’s a blending of American style instrumental worship with Mongolian throat chanting which is typically practiced by Buddhist monks. What a great example of contextualization!

Next is a video from the Congo. I love the percussion in this song. It’s actually reminded me a lot of the importance of community in worship. Most of the percussion instruments being used are pretty insignificant by themselves, and alone won’t sound very impressive. (Anybody remember playing with percussion instruments in elementary school and being disappointed when you were the one stuck with the two sticks?) But, when the percussionists work together, they can create intricate, beautiful sounds and rhythms. In America, we tend to get too caught up with ourselves in worship. We’ll often close our eyes when we sing, completely ignoring those around us. Yet, the richest, most beautiful sounds of praise come when God’s people join together in harmony and intricate rhythm.

This last one is from a Himalayan orphanage. The children worship so loudly that their praise is actually heard in the villages below the orphanage. These young ones are proclaiming Christ to the world in their worship. How often is our worship heard by the world? Sadly, we often sing songs of praise in places where no one else can hear us.


Be sure to check out the rest of these videos here: