If it’s Lent, it’s time for me to post my annual defense of The Passion of the Christ.

I love this movie with a sort of strange love. Maybe it’s because I’m a Good Friday baby–born at 2:47 pm, to be precise–and so I just love things associated with the Passion and the Triduum. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching a lot of Jesus of Nazareth.  I dunno.

I saw this movie four times in the movie theater (my personal record). First, with my dad. Then with friends who could get extra credit in their religion classes at our Lutheran university if they saw it and wrote about it, and then again on Good Friday. (Note about that Lutheran University: at the time I was there, the student population was majority Catholic. Quite amusing.)

I will not deny that there is blood. There is violence. There is pain.

But that is what the passion was.

Did you think the pain was artistic? That the blood was in nice little spots at His hands and feet? That the crown of thorns was lovingly placed on His head? That the scourging didn’t really hurt and rend His skin like that? That it was just a couple swipes?

I have little patience with people who say the violence in it is “gratuitous.” It is real. This isn’t violence to be fun, “shoot-em-up/ Die Hard” violence. This is what happened to Our Lord. If He endured it, we can certainly watch it.

Now, that being said, I can’t watch the nailing sequences. That just makes me squirmy. So I sort of squint. I’ve never watched it full on–maybe this year will be the year I do. I seriously think this should be required viewing for people that are old enough to watch it (as in, I’m not putting a 10 year old in front of this. Start ’em with Jesus of Nazareth.). But for adults to be “oh, I don’t like violence, so that’s my get-out-of-jail-free card.” Well, I don’t think Jesus did either. “We preach Christ crucified,” St. Paul tells us. This is part of our message. As Catholics, we don’t look past Good Friday in the rush to Easter. We have crucifixes in our homes and in our churches–not empty crosses. We remember His passion on a daily basis.

I think you have to see it at least once, if you are an adult Christian. It’s a beautifully made film. If we want Catholic/Christian films in the mainstream, then we have to be willing to watch the ones with great artistic merit, which this has. The acting is superb. I love the soundtrack, especially the music when Mary goes to Jesus.

And also, I think it helps us understand His great, incredible love for all of us. To endure all that–for me. For you. For every single person on the planet, that ever was and ever will be. In spite of all the ways we continually screw up, He loved us that much. This movie really drives that home. That’s how I felt when it was over–full of love for every single person in that theater.

Now, if you have kids, then watching it at home can be tricky. We don’t want to terrify them and give them nightmares. But if you have teenagers, it’s something worth talking about, even if you don’t watch the film. That love. And if you’re an adult, like I said, I highly recommend a watch before Easter.