Religious Groups Offer Members ‘Passion’ Tickets

Posted February 23, 2004 at 6:14pm

With Mel Gibson’s controversial new film “The Passion of the Christ” arriving in theaters Wednesday, leaders of national Christian outreach organizations began visiting Congressional offices Monday to give away free tickets in an attempt to get all 535 Members to see the movie.

Having collected individual online donations from their affiliated churches, the Christian Defense Coalition and the National Clergy Council have purchased enough movie vouchers to give every Member two free tickets to see Gibson’s film at any AMC theater in the country.

All told, the two organizations have set aside some $13,000 to send Members to the movie and follow-up activity. Organizers said that eight Members — whom they chose not to name but did acknowledge came from both sides of the aisle — responded almost immediately to accept the offer for tickets Monday afternoon. They said the number continues to grow by the hour.

“Something historic is going on with ‘The Passion of the Christ,’” the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said at a press conference Monday. “We have no problem going to any Member’s office, even if they are not of the Christian faith, to invite them to see this film, to be part of the national dialogue that is going on.”

The groups have also been in contact with Gibson’s ICON production company in hopes of bringing the actor-turned-director to Capitol Hill to discuss his movie with Members. As a follow-up to the ticket offer, next month the CDC and NCC have planned a closed forum where Members will be invited to discuss with various Christian and Jewish religious leaders the question of “who really killed Jesus Christ.”

Along with the tickets, Members will receive a survey, which the groups encourage them to fill out after viewing the movie. The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, hopes the survey will help gauge “the spiritual temperature of Capitol Hill.” It asks, among other questions, “Were you spiritually inspired by Jesus Christ in any way from the movie?”

“We want to remind them that there are some things in life that are more important than the next election. … I’d rather discuss an issue about God than over somebody’s service record in the National Guard or what somebody did with their war medals,” said Mahoney, who plans to have all the office visit complete before the film is released this week.

Schenck, whose group screened the film, played down concerns that have arisen in the past several weeks that the movie might have anti-Semitic overtones.

“The heroes in this story are all Jewish men. … This is a Jewish story as much as it is a Christian story, and I don’t think any Member should be concerned about that.”