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Should plugs for faith-friendly films end short of pulpit?
By TERRY MATTINGLY Scripps Howard News Service 15-MAR-06 People are supposed to meditate in church, but the epiphany that rocked filmmaker Rik Swartzwelder (The Least Of These) two years ago was different. It started when he attended 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 Tinseltown's love affair with born-again marketing was growing instead of fading. The results have been posted at, a four-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 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.
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