Churches offer Easter look at #039;Passion#039;

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mel Gibson's re-release of "Passion of the Christ" came just in time for Easter.

However, this version, which opened on March 11 in theatres, has been re-cut by the director to exclude some of the violent imagery associated with the picture when it was first released in 2004.

According to Gibson, his purpose for the re-cut was to make the film available to a broader audience, namely families frightened off by the R rating and brutality of the first.

To celebrate Easter, a number of area churches are offering free showings of the "Passion" to the public, albeit in its original form. South Luverne Baptist held a viewing last Sunday, while the Fountain of Life Worship Center will show the film this Saturday night.

It was the third such viewing of the film for South Luverne Pastor Mike Green. He had seen it twice previously, including when it opened last year. The church was able to purchase tickets for its congregation at the Continental Cinema 5 in Troy with over 200 people attending the screening.

Green said the film loses none of its impact with repeat viewings.

In fact, for him, Saturday night's showing held deeper meaning he said.

"When I saw it last year I had not been to Israel," he said. "Now I've been there. Even though I understand that a majority of the film was filmed in Spain, I've walked some of the places represented on that screen."

Green said the audience's reaction last weekend was much the same as last year in Troy. Complete silence when the film was over and tears during the torture and crucifixion scenes.

"They were in awe," he said. "There were some teenagers in the audience and I remember seeing them lower their heads as Christ was being flogged."

In the South particularly, Christ is such a 'personal' subject, said Green.

"This is the Bible Belt," said Green. "We grew up in church and have known Jesus all our lives. I think what sets this film apart from other films that have been made about Christ's life, is definitely the violence and we're able to see the crucifixion to the extreme. And to tell you the truth I think Mr. Gibson just scratched the surface of what really happened. In reality, it was probably much worse."

Green said he doesn't blame the director for re-cutting the movie and said that his church will also offer that version to the public when it is released on DVD.

"Do I think he did it for more money? No," said Green. "I saw on an interview he did that this movie was in his heart to make and he wanted to use it as tool for evangelism. I think his heart is sincere."

The Fountain of Life Worship Center's showing of the "Passion of the Christ" will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday.