Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Research Shows "Passion" Film's "Spiritual" Impact Falls Short

Rev. Angus Stewart


Roman Catholics and many "evangelical" Protestants predicted that Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of The Christ," would be a massive boost to evangelism (see, for example, 'Revealing Quotes from Advocates of Mel Gibson's "The Passion"'). Of course, the most basic question is, What evangel is being presented? Other articles on the CPRF website demonstrate that "The Passion" movie is not the gospel of Christ but the idolatrous Roman "gospel" of Christ and Mary. However, it is also worthwhile to ask another (though less important) question: Did the film have much impact? Did it win many people to a (false) religious view or greatly deepen their commitment to it?

Jenni Parker's article "Research Shows 'Passion' Film's Spiritual Impact Falls Short" in the Agape Press (15 July, 2004) raises many doubts. She writes, "One of the most disappointing things the research revealed was the apparent lack of a direct evangelistic impact by the film." 

She begins her piece, "Although many fans predicted Mel Gibson's blockbuster, 'The Passion of The Christ,' would have an intense and long-lasting spiritual impact, a Christian researcher's survey has revealed that the movie-going public has a short memory and an easily re-directed attention span. Gibson's controversial picture astonished the filmmaking industry by becoming the eighth highest-grossing domestic film of all time. However, the results of a recent national survey conducted by The Barna Research Group (BRG) suggest that what some thought would be a life-transforming and culture-changing influence may have been, after all, just a really popular movie." 

Parker cites George Barna, founder of BRG and director of the research. Barna "anticipates that many people will be surprised to learn that 'The Passion of The Christ' has not had a more lasting and intense effect on those who saw it. 'Immediate reaction to the movie seemed quite intense,' he says, 'but people's memories are short and are easily redirected in a media saturated, fast-paced culture like ours. The typical adult had already watched another six movies at the time of the survey interview, not including dozens of hours of television programs they had also watched.' One of the lessons to be learned here, Barna says, is that major transformation is unlikely to come about from a single exposure to a specific media product. In a cultural environment in which people spend upwards of 40 hours a week absorbing a wide range of messages from a variety of media, the researcher says, 'it is rare that a single media experience will radically re-orient someone's life.'"

The Christian knows that God is not mocked. When men depart from His chief means of grace (the preaching of the true gospel of Christ) and put their trust in human means, then God's blessing is not there, no matter how much hype there is.