The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The Passion of the Christ discussed at UTC

Hurby Franks of Collegiate Christian Fellowship at UTC compares The Passion of the Christ with watching an action movie featuring a series of explosive car wrecks, but not understanding who is chasing whom.

“Without the proper context of the life of Jesus with all the stories in the New Testament, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the Passion,” Franks said.

Franks participated in a panel discussion of The Passion of the Christ before a crowd at the University Center. Other participants included: Rabbi Joshua Levi of the Mitzpah Congregation; Reverend Michael Creson, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Soddy Daisy; Dr. Charles Lippy, Martin Professor of Philosophy and Religion. Reverend Matilda Dunn of the Episcopal University Ministry and Student Center on campus introduced the panelists.

Lippy was in agreement with Franks’ perspective, saying, “There was very little of the teachings of Jesus. There almost has to be that context for any of the movie to make sense. The film was an exercise in the pornography of pain,” Lippy said.

Creson reasoned that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a difficult concept to grasp, and “the Passion appeals to us because we all understand suffering.”

Levi saw the movie twice, once before it opened to the general public and then after the movie opened in theatres. “I was disappointed as a historian. I was so excited that someone spent $25 million to cover the Classical Period. But the movie was historically implausible and impossible, with a number of historical and theological inaccuracies,” Levi said.

Referencing what some have called “the gospel according to Mel,” Creson urged an examination of why Gibson made the movie. “His inspiration comes from his own experience, a turning away from the faith,” Creson said. Creson questioned Gibson’s claim to be a Roman Catholic, saying he “belongs to a breakaway group from the Catholic Church.” Creson also acknowledged the historical inaccuracies in the movie, but it was not the reason he will not view the movie a second time. “It was way over the top for me. Where do we end the idea of realism? From what I have learned, for some it was a deeply spiritual experience. But for most, what you bring in to the movie is what you take out,” Creson said.