The Baptist General Convention of Texas is hoping Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, to be released in theaters Ash Wednesday, will be a good opportunity for outreach and evangelization.
In preparation for the film’s release, the 2-million member Baptist convention has launched an ad campaign in theaters, which is designed to spark interest and questions on the part of younger viewers about Christianity, reported the Associated Press.
Many evangelical Christian groups throughout North America have launched similar campaigns. Catholic journalist John Allen also expressed his hope in a column last week that the Catholic Church will take advantage of the momentum created by the film and be at the ready to minister to those who have a spiritual awakening or come seeking answers to questions of faith.
However, AMC Theatres has refused to accept the Baptists’ 30-second ad, describing it as "too dark" and "too Christian," reported the AP.
Becky Bridges, communications director for the association of 5,700 Texas Baptist churches, said the black-and-white ad follows the theater’s ad regulations and does not use religious symbols, icons or the words “Jesus”, “Bible” or other “God talk.”
The ad opens with a young man asking: "You want to see the most scandalous story ever?"
Words then flash on and off the screen: "Betrayal. Sin. Adultery. Greed. Envy. Weakness. Poverty. Torture. Murder."
"Redemption," the actor says.
The ad ends with the message "Now playing at a Baptist church near you" above a Baptist General Convention of Texas logo.
Baptists plan to run the ad on about 200 Regal theater screens across Texas. At a cost of about $40,000, the ad will run for four weeks, starting the Friday before the opening of Gibson's movie.
AP reported that the Baptist convention offered to soften its ad, including taking out references to "murder" and "torture," but that did not change AMC’s mind.