"More religious films tend to pop up in times of fear and uncertainty," Richard Lee, professor emeritus of humanities at Valparaiso University in Indiana, said in USA Today Aug. 18. "Such as a time of terrorism at home, militant Islam abroad, job losses, a swelling national debt."

Steve Smith, media pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., has screened both "The Passion" and "The Gospel of John." He highly recommended both and suggested that his church members support them when they open in Orlando.

"Unlike Gibson's 'The Passion', 'The Gospel of John' takes no screenwriting liberties whatsoever as it is narrated and acted out word-for-word," Smith wrote in a commentary for his church, which he shared with Baptist Press. "Further, this film eliminates the 'cheese factor,' a malady of numerous low-budget Christian films, by making the necessary investment in quality producers, director, actors, sets, costumes and technical artistry to rival any Hollywood produced movie."

Smith said the majority of the discussion among 30 individuals from various churches and Christian media organizations at the screening he attended in Toronto focused on the producers' intentions for "The Gospel of John." He reported that an advisory board of theologians was assembled to follow the film from start to finish. Though some of the evangelicals at the screening suggested adding some sort of challenge to the audience at the end of the film, the producers opted to maintain the exclusive use of words from Scripture.

"While it was difficult to refrain from comparing ["The Passion" and "The Gospel of John"], it is safe to say that, while they both depict Christ's life on earth, they are two completely different vehicles for telling their respective stories," Smith wrote. "As a result, they must stand separately on their own merits. As far as I'm concerned, they both have tremendous value for telling very important parts of the greatest story ever written. Our prayer should be that the mainstream release of both of these films will result in attention and awareness of the reality of Christ that might otherwise be ignored by our secular society."


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