Playing William Wallace in his film Braveheart, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1996, Mel Gibson said, "Every man dies; not every man really lives." With his film The Passion of the Christ, Gibson has put himself in the "few men" category. In Braveheart, Wallace also said, "Men don't follow titles; they follow courage." As one of the many people of faith who acknowledge that American filmmakersregardless of how we feel about the messages they portrayProduce the best movies on the planet, I cannot imagine a more courageous insider than Gibson. He is the courage we need to follow.
The Passion of the Christ, which has so far been seen by tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone, proves again what we have long known about movies: artists should write about and direct what they know. They should produce from their passion. But too often pictures made by Christians have been thinly veiled propaganda vehicles. They have not been the sort of art that comes from the gut. Some evangelical consultants urged Gibson to add explanatory verses of Scripture at the end of The Passion. To his credit, Gibson insisted that he wanted to retain some mystery, some impetus for viewers to return to their churches and their Bibles to ferret out the truths represented in the art.
Gibson succeeded because he produced a film from that place within the fiber of his being where his own passions lie. The public responded, providing a lesson for other people of faith. From Gibson we have learned that we should not be afraid, should not run from controversy and should be willing to employ a work ethic and invest the dollars necessary to compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Jenkins is the co-author of the Left Behind novels
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