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The Passion prompts discussion

by Shannon Stollenmaier, News editor

Since its release, Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, has fueled discussion in many circles—religion, media, and education, to name a few. HPU enlarged the classroom dialog between professors and students via a “teach-in” on “The Passion of the Christ: Faith or Dogma?”

Five professors and about 45 students gathered at the Sea Warrior Center on April 2 for a two-hour discussion of The Passion in which professors from HPU’s humanities, anthropology, and history disciplines gave their views on the controversial film.


After the presentations, students were given the opportunity to make comments and to ask the panelists questions.

The panelists included Dr. Linda Lierheimer, associate professor of humanities; Dr. Saundra Schwartz, associate professor of history and classical studies; Dr. Grace Cheng, assistant professor of political science; Dr. Christopher Fung, assistant professor of anthropology, and Reverend Gregory Johnson, assistant professor of religious studies.

Their presentations covered a variety of perspectives, including the movie’s relationship with medieval tradition; the historical accuracy of the film; the mass media as a new method to advance religion, values and ideals; the clear distinction The Passion draws between good and evil; and Hollywood’s fascination with violence and gore.

Senior Emily Chow said, “I really liked Reverend Johnson’s presentation. It was well thoughtout and passionate.”

While the presentations were diverse in approach, panelists generally maintained similarly negative positions on the movie, a fact that upset some students.

Senior Lauren Allen said, “I disliked the fact that the whole panel held a position against the movie. It would have been better if there had been an opinion from the other side of the spectrum.”
Chow agreed: “[The panel] lacked the other perspective.”

Allen thought the event served its purpose in facilitating discussion between students and professors. “Allowing the teachers to speak first and leaving the questions open for students, encouraged students to go up,” said Allen. “A lot of times, students don’t open their mouths in class because they don’t want to extend class time. With this method, students were willing to come, take the time out of their schedules, and actively participate,” she said.

Chow thought the event, as a whole, was “fun and interesting.” She is planning to attend future discussions.

Dr. John Kearns, assistant dean of Academic Administration and General Education, said that The Passion sparked an online conversation between professors that went on for weeks. The movie has created a “cultural phenomenon” that merits discussion.

Spring series of events planned

“The Passion of the Christ: Faith or Dogma?” was the first of a series of spring events at HPU being held to promote interesting and informative discussions between students and faculty outside of the classroom. Future events include:

“ Global Citizenship Symposium,” April 17, 9 a.m.-noon, Hawai‘i Loa Campus. Breakfast at 8:30. Lunch at noon.

“ Global Citizenship: Reports from the Field,” April 28, 3:30 p.m. Location: TBA.


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