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During the filming of “The Passion”, he was faithful to his style of worship by having a priest on the set who offered a Latin Mass and confession. ”When I was growing up, the whole story of the Passion was very sanitized and distant; it seemed to me very much like a fairy tale. Then from about the age of 15 to age 35, I kind of did my own thing as it were, not that I didn’t believe in God, I just didn’t practice faith or give it much consideration. I went through that period in my life where you put a lot of other things first. So coming back 20 years later it seemed so distant, you know? I had to reconsider and say to myself, ‘now hang on a minute, this isn’t a fairy tale and this actually happened. This is real.’ And that started me thinking about what it must have been like, what Christ went through and I started seeing it in film terms.”

It’s been said that Gibson pondered the making of this movie for 12 years before he decided to actually do it. ”I was spiritually bankrupt, and when that happens, it’s like a spiritual cancer afflicts you,” he said of the period when he first began delving into the film’s subject matter. More than a decade ago, ”I just didn’t want to go on,” he told Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Primetime. ”Everyone’s got something,” he added. ”I would get addicted to anything, anything at all. Okay? Doesn’t matter what it is … drugs, booze, anything. You name it — coffee, cigarettes, anything. Alright? I’m just one of these guys who is like that. That’s my flaw.” At his lowest, Gibson said he considered jumping out a window. ”I was looking down thinking, ‘Man, this is just easier this way,’ ” he said. ”You have to be mad, you have to be insane, to despair in that way. But that is the height of spiritual bankruptcy. There’s nothing left.” But instead, he turned to the Bible, which ultimately inspired him to direct his new movie, “The Passion of the Christ”.

So why is making a movie about Jesus more risky or provocative than movies about other religious leaders like Gandhi or Buddha? Gibson answers thoughtfully, ”Because it’s very personal for everyone. I mean there isn’t one person who hasn’t been influenced in some way. Seriously, I mean everybody. Every nation and every creed has been influence by Christ in some way or another and everyone has differing opinions about who he is, what he is and why, or whether they even believe him or not. And that’s the point of my film really, to show all that turmoil around him politically and with religious leaders and the people, all because he is who he is.” Lynn Ramsey, a member of Chelsea Community Church, a non-denominational lay-led congregation in NYC’s Chelsea agrees. “I’m a person who defines herself as spiritual and seeking, a person who is on a spiritual journey. I feel my life is a spiritual journey, I don’t have the answers. Jesus was probably the most significant historical figure in the lives of a vast majority of the people on earth and whether you believe in him or not, he is the Son of God or a very enlightened human being.”

If you can believe this concept-that movies have become our storytellers and movie theaters the pulpits of America, it’s a little mind boggling to consider how potentially influential and important Gibson’s movie could possibly be. Whether Hollywood likes it or not, ”The Passion” has all of the makings of a career milestone for Gibson and a religious phenomenon for the rest of the world. Says Ramsey, “I revere the teachings of Jesus as an enlightened man. Maybe Jesus the messiah has returned in the form of a movie. The bible says Jesus will return, perhaps this is how he has returned, but it’s in a different form.”

”My hope is that this movie has a tremendous message of faith, hope, love, forgiveness and a message of tremendous courage and sacrifice,” says Gibson. My hope is that it will effect people on a very profound level and somehow change them, and that message is a pretty good message to be pushing right now. There’s so much turmoil in the world today, on the brink of everybody at each other’s throats. I think usually when the world is tried in this way people usually start going back to something higher to fill a void in their souls, particularly if the earth is crying out in pain from all the suffering and fear that’s inflicted by war and hatred. For me, I don’t think there’s a better message you could put out there, than what’s in this movie.” Ramsey agrees again, “After 911, people are feeling more in a searching mood, looking for answers at a time when the world is at war. We are at war.” / Issue 37 - September 9097
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