Friday, February 27, 2004

A Mini Review of The Passion

I've just seen The Passion of the Christ and it is a powerful retelling of the Gospel account of Jesus' death. No surprise endings; no car chases; no nonsense. Its affect on me is to make me think of how much Jesus gave for me and this makes me so grateful.

Also, I have to warn any anti-semites out there that they're going to be deeply disappointed if they go to this movie expecting it to be some sort of slam against Jews. It ain't. And as for violence, I kind of wonder what people who go to a movie about the scourging and crucifiction of Jesus expect to see. Shirley Temple doing a little dance number? I mean, duh. Having said that, though, the violence is not over the top. It is appropriate for the topic and probably a lot more moderate than the violence in other films that critics have just yawned at.

Go see it if you haven't.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Exit Polling

I had a few minutes free today and spent those minutes at Google News repeatedly refreshing the page and looking at new stories about the Passion movie appear almost every minute. There were apparently some early screenings and I was interested to read what people had to say as they came out of the theaters. They didn't say, "It was the Jews fault." Instead, they were all saying things like, It was my fault, or it was our fault, or it was all of our fault. And if that's what people are coming away with, I think the movie is hitting the nail on the head. My sin put Jesus on the cross. He died for me, to take the penalty of my sin upon himself, and I can never repay it. I can only say, Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Pray for Denmark, Etc.

A friend approached me the other day with an idea he believes God laid upon his heart - to create a Web site to encourage people of Danish ancestry to pray for Denmark. He's of Danish descent, as am I, so I agreed to help out. There's really nothing at the Web site yet, but it'll be at when its ready.

The reason I'm talking about this is not to promote the site - which is, as I said, pretty much blank - but because it occurred to me that this could be a model for similar Web sites.

Why shouldn't all ethnic groups (particularly in the United States, which is almost entirely made up of immigrants or immigrants' descendents) have Web sites to promote prayer and missions work for their ancestral homes? Why not have a PrayForGermany site, or a PrayForItaly or PrayForJapan web site? Why shouldn't Danes take it upon themselves to pray for Denmark, Chinese to pray for China, Mexicans to pray for Mexico, and so forth?

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Protestant Catholics?

I was chatting with a Catholic friend about the movie The Passion. I mentioned that it strikes me as odd that the main base of support for the movie appears to be evangelical churches. What's odd about this is that I haven't heard of similar support by Roman Catholic churches. I mean, Mel Gibson is a Catholic, so why isn't the Catholic church behind him to the hilt?

My Catholic friend replied that the reason the Protestants are providing a better support base is that they are better organized than the Catholics. This struck me as a pretty weird since Protestants have no central leadership and the Catholic church does. Why, I asked, doesn't some bishop pound his desk and just say, "Get cracking on this!"?

Well, he thinks the bishops aren't very interested in promoting what Gibson is doing. I wondered if that might be because Gibson belongs to a traditionalist Catholic congregation which practices the Latin mass, which is really not what the Catholic church officially does any more. Perhaps that is why the church hierarchy feels uncomfortable with Gibson. He agreed.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about the traditionalist Catholic churches. Though I'm sure they wouldn't see it in this light, it seems they are almost Protestant in their refusal to go along with the modern mass, which, to my understanding, is the direction set by the church hierarchy and the Pope. Since one of the main facets of the Reformation was the rejection of the Pope as the final authority, the traditionalists (oddly) appear to be doing precisely this -- denying the authority of the Catholic church, and ultimately of the Pope,

But take this with a grain of salt. What I know of the Catholic Church is pretty limited, so I may just be talking through my hat.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Which Is Most Effective?

On most pages of my Web site I have links to a Web site that tells how to become a Christian. (You can see one here.) For a long time I've had these links pointing to this Four Spiritual Laws site. What I like about this site is its simplicity. It's light on graphics, so it loads quickly; it's clear and comes to the point. And besides, it is the online version of the pamphlet that led me to Christ, so I have a sentimental feeling about it.

But as I look around, I find other sites designed to let people know how to become a Christian, and some of these are beautifully done. I just noticed this one, Who Is I Am? And this one, Who is Jesus? These are beautifully designed, and I'm sure they do a lot of good, probably answering a lot of people's questions about Jesus and hopefully moving them toward accepting Christ. But on the other hand, they're a bit heavy on graphics and rather complex. If I was interested in how to become a Christian, it's not entirely clear from a glance how I might do that.

I wonder what you all think. Which of these types of online tract is most effective?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Public Baptism

Baptism, as I understand it, is a public identification with Christ's death and resurrection, and is a symbol of his cleansing of our sins. But I think that the public part of baptism seems to be a bit overlooked, and what public-ness there is in most baptisms is almost accidental.

I was baptized in a canal in Germany, to the amusement or confusion, I imagine, of those on the tour boat nearby. But because it was public, I think that in some small way it was a testimony to the world. But I suspect that was accidental. I think we went to the canal because the church didn't have the facilities. I imagine that is frequently the case.

But is the public part of baptism just supposed to be public before the church, or public before the world?

I think that generally baptisms should be public before the world, as when John and Jesus baptized in the Jordan River. The exception might be in countries where a public identification with Christ could endanger believer's lives.

I think there are several reasons public baptism is valuable. First, as I said earlier, because it is a testimony to the unbelieving world. Just the sight of a baptism says to the world, Over there is a man or woman who believes following Christ is important.

Second, the person being baptized often has (at least at my church) the opportunity to say a few words about how he or she became a Christian. Again, this is a testimony to the world.

Third, this public act of faith is a milestone that the Christian can look back upon during hard times and remember. There, on that day, I stood before all those people and obeyed Christ in baptism. I'm committed. I can't turn back now.

I'm not sure, but I wonder if the public-ness of baptism couldn't be much greater. What if baptisms were held at public pools, lakes, or at the seashore, by design, not by necessity? Or what if churches took out ads in the local paper with the picture, name and testimony of each person who was baptized?

Just a thought...

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Passion of Christ

I'm a little bit of two minds about going to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ. On the one hand I'm impressed by the reviews and the assurance I'm hearing that it follows the biblical narrative closely. On the other hand, I am uncomfortable seeing the suffering of our Lord portrayed so forcefully, as I've heard Gibson does. I know Jesus' suffering intellectually, but I suspect seeing it portrayed with no holds barred will hit me a lot harder. But then again, being hit a lot harder would probably be a good thing for me.

One thing that doesn't trouble me at all is the charge that the movie is anti-semitic. From everything I've heard, this charge is just nonsense. I think it was Michael Medved (a Jew) who said that some of the Jews in the movie are good guys, including Jesus himself, and some are bad guys, but all the Romans are bad guys. I guess from that you could argue that the movie is anti-gentile, or you could conclude - as Medved does - that the whole discussion is silly.

Here are some Passion related links:
The official movie site
Using the movie as an outreach
A fan site