the mcpassion meal
Tuesday March 21st 2006, 10:16 am
Filed under: faith, church, tv/movies

don’t know how i missed this, but — wow — talk about scathing commentary on us evangelicals. oof.

read this first, from terry mattingly’s email newsletter:

People are supposed to meditate in church, but the epiphany that rocked filmmaker Rik Swartzwelder two years ago was different.

It started when he visited several churches in Charlotte, N.C., while visiting family. In service after service he heard preachers telling people it was their “Christian duty” to rush out and buy a ticket for “The Passion of the Christ.” There were brochures for Mel Gibson’s bloody epic
in the bulletins, posters in sanctuary lobbies and preview clips for the faithful.

Swartzwelder began thinking about the biblical drama in which, as St. Mark said, “Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.”

So he pounded out a sarcastic — some would say bitter or blasphemous — script entitled “The McPassion,” a feverish vision of what would happen if Hollywood and the fast-food industry teamed up to sell Holy Week. The script sat on a shelf until Swartzwelder decided that Tinseltown’s love affair with born-again marketing was growing instead of fading.

The results have been posted at, a 4-minute blast that opens with chipper children scarfing down their McPassion meals, complete with a crown of thorns and round fries that the announcer notes are “shaped just like the Eucharist.” Then there’s the McLast Supper from Burger King of Kings or the McLoaves and Fish Sticks dinner (all you can eat, while supplies last). The meals come with toys, like the pretend stigmata tattoos, a simulated leather cat of nine tails, Shroud of Turin towelettes, a kid-sized crucifix and the “cool McPassion hammer.”

The pitch ends with this call to commerce: “Buy one today! Make Jesus happy! … Alleluia, God’s lovin’ it!”

None of this is terribly subtle.

“I want people to wince,” said Swartzwelder. “I wince when the girl says that dipping the body of Christ in ketchup is fun. I wince when the boy
hits the girl’s palm with the toy hammer and you hear that clink, clink sound.”

The goal was to inspire heated discussions and Swartzwelder and director Benjamin Hershleder were more than willing to infuriate many Christian viewers in order to get their point across. The result was an online firestorm that has been both painful and gratifying.

“I keep reminding people that I am a Christian and that, if they really want to know, I am a big fan of what I thought was a courageous movie by
Mel Gibson,” said Swartzwelder, a freelance filmmaker in Burbank, Calif. He is best known as the creator of “The Least of These,” a short film
released in 2002 that won 27 awards and played at mainstream and religious film festivals around the world.

The Emmy Award-winner stressed that he is glad that “The Passion” rang up $370 million at the U.S. box office, opening doors for more artists to make more films — From “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” to “The End of the Spear” — that can tap into a faith-friendly marketplace out in Middle America. As an admirer of Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, he is glad that the “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is rising toward $290 million in U.S. ticket sales.

Swartzwelder is even pleased that many evangelicals, after decades of merely throwing stones at Hollywood, are now seeking positive ways to
engage the world of entertainment.

The problem, he said, is that some religious leaders have allowed movie publicity campaigns to bleed out of the marketplace and into the church sanctuaries that are supposed to be safe havens for vulnerable souls.

“At some point we have to ask: What is the purpose of worship? What is the purpose of the pulpit?”, asked Swartzwelder, who also has led filmmaking workshops at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Even with the best of intentions, using the pulpit to push movies — even good ones — is dangerous. And what happens when we start seeing more people making more movies for this audience? How do we decide which movies to plug? There could be, no there will be, abuses and that’s going to lead us into murky waters.”

then, watch the 4-minute movie here.

4 Comments so far
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hmm… i’m not sure how i feel about this. it seems as if he’s making drama in anticipation of potential drama in the future. Like, “this might happen in the future, so i’ll address it now.” i agree in the sense that the Passion became a huge marketing tool for Christianity… it could have been more evangelistic, but could have/would have/should have… the whole idea of marketing coming into the church seems a little stretched. as Christians, with stuff like the Passion or Narnia coming out and being amplified as “Christian”, I think it’s our job to know what it’s about, what’s being said, etc. so that we’ll be able to talk to others about it, whether they’re believers or not. The same is true with the DaVinci Code… it’s like Mars Hill all over again. We have to know what’s going on in the world in order to be able to speak to the world and use what they know to reach them. I’m not sure that what Swartzwelder did is very biblical, but it certainly is interesting.

Comment by kara 03.21.06 @ 1:26 pm

Interesting is a good word. But I think I side on the one of caution.

Comment by Gman 03.21.06 @ 3:13 pm

Wow, I’m not even sure where to start because I’ve only just finished watching it. I think this is a reasonable response to parts of the Christian culture who do want to see our faith at the forefront of everything. You use the extreme example as the method of commenting on the real. I’ve been deeply disturbed by the intrusion of marketing into the places of worship. We have churches that have deals with coffee shop chains to serve the coffee at the church! Some even have mini-stores set up in the entry hall or fellowship hall. We may not be as far from this as we’d like to believe.

Comment by Jay P 03.22.06 @ 12:28 pm

I’m not sure if I’m not more dumber from having watched this.

Comment by Gman 03.22.06 @ 3:30 pm

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