By Darrell Todd Maurina
Thanks to a group of anonymous donors, Mel Gibson’s new film, “The Passion of the Christ,” will be coming to Clovis on the film’s Feb. 25 opening day, which is Ash Wednesday on the church calendar.
According to the movie’s promotional material, the film is a graphic presentation of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus, including bloody scenes of his trial and crucifixion.
“The way that I understand it, it costs more to have a movie at its release date,” said Michael Covington, general manager of the Master’s Christian Bookstore which coordinated purchasing and giving away free tickets to the film.
“(The theater staff) were worried how the movie would do,” Covington said. “I contacted them and said, ‘What will it take to get it here on Feb. 25?’ Once we got a number from the theater, a group of organizations around town footed the bill to make sure the movie would be here.”
While Covington coordinated the free ticket giveaway, he said the ticket purchasers wanted to remain anonymous. Between their purchases and other sales, 27 showings of the film have already been sold out and the film will now be in Clovis for a total of four weeks beginning with the nationwide Feb. 25 opening date.
Covington said he saw the film at a meeting of the Christian Booksellers’ Association and said it was given an “R” rating for good reason. According to standards of the film rating board, children under 17 are not admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian because of sequences of graphic violence.
“It’s emotionally traumatizing,” Covington said. “If children go, I would encourage children to go with their parents and for parents to be there with them to answer questions. There’s no gratuitous violence; this is what really happened.”
Recommending an R-rated film is unusual for a Christian bookstore, and Covington said some in the Christian community won’t like the film due to its violence.
“There are a significant number of evangelical Christians who will never watch an R-rated movie because it is an R-rated movie,” Covington said. “We understand that, but we wish we could just give away all the tickets for free so everyone could see it. This movie cost Mel Gibson $25 million of his own money to make and he will have to make his investment back.”
“It speaks loads that people want to have an artistic movie like this, considering all the filth that is out there,” Covington said.
The movie’s violence wasn’t a major concern for Manuela Martinez, a store patron who received one of the free tickets and plans to attend.
“I expect to see the story from the Bible,” Martinez said. “I think it won’t be anything worse for children than anything they’re exposed to in their schools or in life.
“I know I wanted to watch it, it looks good, and I don’t see why it is so controversial to put in a movie what is in the Bible,” Martinez said.
Martinez, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, said she is glad to see a practicing Catholic like Mel Gibson producing a Christian film she can support.
“I think it’s neat that he’s Catholic and making a movie like this,” Martinez said. “He was ridiculed, and even though he was ridiculed, he still went through and did this.”
Covington said promoting Gibson’s film is a good example of cooperation between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics.
“We all believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, but when you get to the secondary points about the order of worship and the sacraments, that’s where we disagree,” Covington said. “Without the cross, nothing else would matter, and that’s the central focus for Protestants and Roman Catholics alike.”