Release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in video and DVD has kept the momentum going in this cinema wonder. By noon on the day it hit the shelves of stores and video rental centers, 2.5 million copies had been sold.
So skillfully was it promoted in the weeks leading up to its screening in theaters that even evangelical pastors were buying blocks of theater tickets and recommending it wholeheartedly.
But a look at the fruit is less than satisfying. In fact, the deception of his hyping the movie to the evangelical church is increasingly apparent. Billed as a strong evangelism tool, it turned out that it contained a Roman Catholic gospel, not a biblical one.
Roman rituals and symbolism such as the stations of the cross, brown scapular, mysteries of the rosary and veneration of Mary were laced into the story line which was based on bloody visions of a medieval Catholic saint in addition to bits and pieces of the gospel accounts.
Now, a survey released by Christian researcher, George Barna, concludes that the hope that it would be a strong evangelism tool was false. Only one tenth of one percent of those surveyed indicated that they had made a profession of faith in Jesus as a result of seeing the film
In addition, Barna found that the initial emotional reaction to the film was quite intense, but the impact was brief because "people's memories are short and easily redirected in a media-saturated, fast-paced culture such as ours."
It now appears that, for the thousands of evangelical pastors who bought blocks of tickets and used their pulpits to promote the movie, it was largely a waste of time. They found themselves unequally yoked with a believer in a false gospel, a member of a counterfeit church.
Gibson's "church" does not believe that the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient for all our sins. He must be re-sacrificed in the performance of the Mass, millions of times a day. Even then the poor Catholic cannot look to heaven after death. He must first suffer in purgatory for some of his sins not fully covered by the bloody torture of Christ.
Jesus said that the children of this world are wiser than the children of the kingdom. Gibson got help from kingdom people to hype his movie all over the country. But it focused more on the slaughter of Jesus than on how to make Jesus your Savior and Lord. He portrayed Him only as a weak victim, not as a victorious king. All it shows is that Jesus got beat up, not what for.
In contrast, the new Chick Publications video, The Light of the World, is steadily winning souls. One soul winner wrote: "I just bought The Light of the World movie and showed it to the kids in my youth group. At the time, I didn't know there was an appeal at the end. I was surprised to hear most, if not all, of the kids repeating the sinner's prayer with the narration."
An Arizona state prison chaplain showed it twice in different parts of the prison. Each time it was the same: "It was dead quiet all through the movie. When it came to the crucifixion scene every eye was on the cross and Christ. One man burst into tears. Many men prayed for forgiveness and salvation at the invitation scene."
Many other testimonies have come to the Chick offices proving that The Light of the World effectively communicates WHY Christ died, not just how.