Christians go wild about Gibson film
Christians are already buying tickets for Mel Gibson's new film, "The Passion of the Christ," in huge numbers according to sources in the USA.
The film doesn't open until 25th February ñ Ash Wednesday ñ but across the country some church groups are even renting out whole theatres for viewings.
Bayside Church in Granite Bay, which sees more than 3,000 worshipers on a typical Sunday, purchased more than 1,200 tickets and probably will buy more reports one newspaper.
"The reaction we have gotten from our members has been phenomenal," said Shelby Renfeld, special-event coordinator for the church. "People really want to see it."
The R-rated film - the rating is for the violence - depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus.
Gibson directed the film but does not have an acting role. He reportedly spent million of his own money on the film, which is in Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
The film has however come under fire for the message that it communicates. "The film shows Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a recent interview.
But many evangelicals who have seen the movie say it does not promote anti-Semitism, and are using the film as an opportunity to evangelise.
"I've never seen anything like it, and I guarantee anyone who sees it will walk away impacted," Greg Fairrington, senior pastor at Sunset Christian Church in Rocklin said. The church has purchased 600 tickets at the Century Roseville and probably will purchase more.
Churches are also promoting the film in other ways using banners, posters and fliers with church members being urged to buy tickets for non-churchgoers.
At some screenings church leaders are also planning question-and-answer sessions.