Christian conservatives to do battle against crusader film - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
April 25, 2005

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Christian conservatives to do battle against crusader film


Christian conservatives in America are marshalling their forces against Sir Ridley Scottís forthcoming crusader epic, The Kingdom of Heaven, claiming the film is insulting and unfair.

A spate of hostile reviews that are due to appear in the increasingly influential religious press this week will urge American Christians to avoid the £100m film, reports the Sunday Times.

But the groups set to oppose the film, may find themselves facing further charges of hypocrisy.

Christian support for Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ', which contained graphic violence, was supported by many religious figures who had previously condemned other films for their violent content.

The Kingdom of Heaven features violence perpetrated by Christians during the crusades, which many churches may rather ignore and forget.

Scott said he has tried hard to be fair to both sides in his film, which depicts the 12th-century battle between Muslims and Christians for Jerusalem. He even employed Grace Hill Media, a Los Angeles public relations agency that markets potentially ìtroublesomeî films to increasingly influential Christian opinion-formers. It organised a private screening earlier this month for Christian journalists at which Scott spoke.

Many of the resulting reviews have been poor. Bob Waliszewski, director of Plugged In Film Review, a programme heard on 300 US radio stations, said the film depicted Christians as ìmean-spiritedî, while Saladin, the Muslim leader, was shown as a chivalrous knight.

ìThe Bishop of Jerusalem is a coward who deserts his flock, and most of the crusaders are driven by greed rather than piety,î he said. ìThis is not how Christians I know see each other, nor will we want to see this film.î

Christian leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan are waiting to see the film before commenting. But a spokesman for Buchanan, a former presidential candidate, said early reports about the film were ìtruly disturbingî.

The box-office clout of born-again opinion is formidable: the fringe group that vainly protested against Martin Scorseseís The Last Temptation of Christ has become a movement that turned Mel Gibsonís 'Passion' into a blockbuster.

The conservatives are looking forward to the Christmas release of CS Lewisís The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, co-funded by Disney and Philip Anschutz, the American billionaire who is an evangelical Presbyterian.

ìThe film makers met with us recently to assure us they are maintaining the original Christian allegory of the books,î said Waliszewski.

ìNow that would not have happened in Hollywood 10 years ago.î

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