Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Passion Rotterdam

No, not about Mel Gibson's movie. It's about a local production, The Passion, provided by the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting Community with some support from the Roman Catholic Church and the Dutch Protestant Church. It was huge and spectacular. 1.7 million people watched it on television, more than 10% of the total Dutch population. I read nothing but praise about the technical aspect and the delivery. The artists were all local celebrities. Personally, this is an instance where two loves meet for not only am I fascinated by popular expressions of religious sentiment, I do have a weak spot for Dutch local artists too. There is something pathetic and familiar about it that strangely warms my heart just as much as Christian sentiment is able to. If Christ doesn't feel strangely familiar to me then at least the Dutch artists certainly do. And here they are, celebrating the story of my buddy Jesus!

But what do I see? In 2012? Nothing but criticism from both the secular and the religious sides it seems. Most striking is that the secular side is complaining about this story being portrayed irreverently. What! If anyone the secular side should be able to recognize that the idea of religious integrity is suspect at the very least. Either the non-religious have not yet completely emancipated themselves from religious sentiment or they abuse an idea of religious integrity to bash a type of popular entertainment that they can't stand, for of course it is the intellectuals that complain about this. Most likely a combination of both.

But even from the theological side I hear complaints. Really? Well go ahead and dig your own grave with complaints for shovels then! If popular culture is seen as something that can only corrupt religion then pretty soon that religion will be over and done with. I would like to see how someone from the United States would react to this European type of criticism. "Are they crazy?" My fictional evangelical American friend might ask. "The Gospel should be told and made heard, whatever it takes," he would argue. I guess the US has more of a tradition of catering to popular sentiment, making use of popular entertainment and modern media. Also in the US the religious emphasis seems to be more on experiencing religion than subscribing to a set of beliefs. The reasons for things growing differently in the US and in Europe are many but the bottom line is, if the EU clergy isn't going to wise up they might keep an eye on the classifieds ads printed next to their angry letters in the newspapers.

Trailer of the show.

The whole thing can be seen on the website:

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