After the Passion - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/26/04

After the Passion

The Passion of the Christ is being called one of the most successful movies of all time. Three months after it first opened in theaters, the film has brought in more than $369 million at the box office in the United States alone.

For many people, the experience is lasting long after the credits have run.

"I can't believe this man went through this for me," said Jennifer Nagy of seeing the film.

The Passion of the Christ graphically portrays the last hours of Jesus' life, leading up to his crucifixion. In the 13 weeks since it's release, millions have headed for the theater to see the movie. "It stirred my curiosity," said Nagy.

Nagy says she had gotten away from her faith and had only recently started reading her Bible again. "It made me curious," she said. "It made me want to know the difference between the artistic expression that Mel Gibson was doing, his interpretation from Catholicism--the references that aren't in the Bible--and then what's actually in the Bible."

Nagy's reaction is not unusual. In fact, The Passion of the Christ may be driving people to find out more about Christianity. Although there are no studies to show how many moviegoers are going back to church, local congregations, like Temple of Glory, are seeing a difference.

"The atmosphere around church from seeing that movie, I think, has been a positive one," said Pastor Matthew Odum, Sr. "And yes, I have seen more enthusiasm and believe it or not, I've seen greater attendance."

At Savannah Christian Church, attendance is up 40 percent over last year. "I think people are being confronted with the fact that this is real," said Pastor Cam Huxford. "This story is real. That this is a historical account of someone who changed the world."

Father Michael Kavanaugh, from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Port Wentworth, calls it an opportunity for people to examine their faith. "Any presentation of the life of Christ, whether it's the written word, whether it's a movie, whether somebody sees a skit that's performed in church or participates in a wedding or funeral, there's always the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to use that means to reach somebody's heart," he said.

And pastors, like Huxford from Savannah Christian Church, say that's exactly what this movie is doing. "I've had people come up to me who have had no interest in the church at all, who have come up to me to talk about the church and Christianity and that movie because they've seen the movie and it's just got them asking questions," he told us.

People like Jennifer Nagey are determined to find answers. "When the movie came out, I said, 'I have to read the Gospels. I don't know enough about them. I don't know what's happening here.'"

And churches are providing answers. Tonight on THE News at 11, we'll show you what one local church is doing fuel the fire that's been ignited by The Passion.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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