Brutally Real

Why 'The Passion' appeals to young people

When I was leaving the Jesuit novitiate and assigned to teach high school, my novice master told me: “Remember St. Ignatius’s dictum: always go in their door and bring them out yours.” Although I am now a university professor, the phrase has been with me during a Lenten and Easter season in which the main topic of conversation has been Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Whether with friends, family, or colleagues, it seems that all of us must go through a ritual conversation on the film. There have been hundreds of articles on The Passion in the secular and religious press, each with a bit of new information or an interesting critical perspective. Many have been helpful in articulating the theological and aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of the film.

Loyola University Chicago recently held an excellent panel discussion on The Passion. A Bible scholar critiqued the film’s historical and scriptural accuracy; a Jewish professor responded to the film’s alleged anti-Semitism; and two doctoral students in theology-an Evangelical Christian minister and a Catholic laywoman-offered their own thoughts. (He praised it, albeit with reservations, while she was very disturbed by it.) The panel was well attended by undergraduates and some neighbors from around the university. During the question period, most of the student audience voiced strong, positive reactions to the film that often seemed at odds with the...

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About the Author

Mark Bosco, SJ, is an assistant professor in the departments of English and theology at Loyola University Chicago. His book on Graham Greene will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.