Local Pastor Views Gibson's "Passion" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/25/04

Local Pastor Views Gibson's "Passion"

Mel Gibson's controversial new film, "The Passion of Christ," which at first had a hard time finding a distributor, will be independently released on about 2,000 screens next month. The film focuses on the final 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ and has come under fire from some Jewish groups who claim its story could fuel anti-Semitism by tying Christ's death to Jewish authorities.

"I came away from this movie emotionally shaken," Rev. Ray Stokes said.

Trinity United Methodist Pastor, Ray Stokes just returned to South Mississippi from a global pastors conference near Orlando. Part of the itinerary involved a special screening of the film.

"I had tears streaming down my face. I still get a lump in my throat. The movie brought all sorts of emotions. There were times that I hid my face in my hands because I didn't want to watch it," Stokes said.

When stokes emerged from screening, he looked in different directions and saw quite a sight.

"We saw grown men laying prostrate on the floor with their faces buried in the carpet, wailing and mourning over the agony that Jesus must have suffered," Stokes said.

At the screening, two Jewish leaders sneaked into the show and later told news agencies that the movie was anti-Semetic.

"I have to say to you, personally, that it's not about the Jews and it's not about the Romans--it's about Ray; it's about me, and I think about how could I have done this to him. So it's a strong movie," Stokes said.

This weekend Mel Gibson appeared on EWTN's 'World Over' and talked about anti-Semitism.

"No, this is rubbish, this is absolute rubbish. This film is about faith hope love and forgiveness, that's what it's about," Gibson said.

A reporter asked him, "Does this film attempt to collectively blame the death of Jesus on the Jewish people?"

"This film collectively blames humanity on the death of Jesus. Now there are no exemptions there, Christ died for all men for all times," Gibson said.

Although restrained from talking about the movie's specifics until it opens on Ash Wednesday, Stokes does say specifically what Gibson's movie did to him.

"I came away with a desire in my own heart to be more faithful. I want to be a better pastor, a better servant, a better witness. My wife and I are still very much emotionally tied to that moment when we saw that," Stokes said.

"I think Christians are going to renew their faith. When they see what Jesus suffered for, me or you individually. I think we're going to renew our faith," Stokes said.

The movie, with dialogue in Latin and Aramaic and English subtitles, will hit theaters on February 25th, which is Ash Wednesday.

By Nathan Mihelich

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