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Central Middle School fifth-graders Emily Middleton, right, Martia Lewis and Blake Ozbun made bagel pizzas with other students in the after-school kitchen cooking class on Tuesday.By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian
Graphic scenes of crucifixion and dialogue spoken in Aramaic and Latin will likely be foreign to the crowds who see "The Passion of the Christ," but area churches are hoping that moviegoers will want to discuss the film.
About 20 people gathered Saturday at Fruitland Community Church for a training seminar on how to address questions from the audience and use the film as a guide for discussions. The seminar was part of a nationwide training effort led via satellite by Church Communication Network.
The Mel Gibson film has been talked about as both an inspiration and an abomination, although it won't hit the big screen until Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. The controversy exists over how the film depicts Jews and Jesus' torture and crucifixion.
Using the account of the four gospels, the movie tells the story of the last 12 hours of Christ's life. Gibson said it is a story of hope, forgiveness and love.
The satellite program broadcast a live 25-minute interview of Gibson by author Lee Strobel.
Gibson discounted that the film is anti-Semitic. "It's not about the blame game. The whole message is that he forgave and that we're all responsible. No matter who you are, we're all brothers in culpability."
Gibson did admit that the film is graphic in its portrayal of Christ's crucifixion, but he wanted to push people to the edge. The film has an R rating for its violence.
No one who has seen the film so far has left the theater, he said. More commonly, people stay after the conclusion and turn to the person next to them to talk about it.
It's that sort of discussion that area churches are hoping for when they reserve screenings of the film at Town Plaza Cinemas. At least four congregations are planning to reserve the theater for shows.
Church members would be able to invite a guest to the show and then talk about the movie, said Jim Cogdill, director of missions for the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association.
Ideally, anyone inviting friends would want to see the film first because "it will be emotional for Christians," Cogdill said. But the story is at the core of Christianity and nothing on the screen will be foreign to Christians.
Jon Sedgwick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, saw the film during a screening in Chicago. "I don't see how anyone could see it without being deeply moved," he said.
Now he can't sing a song about the cross or think of it without images from the movie coming to his mind. "I'm anxious to see what it will do to bring the lost to ask questions, but also what it will do for Christians."
The film opens Feb. 25 at Town Plaza Cinemas.
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