Kim Davis apparently has become a Christian martyr to some Evangelicals, including former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and United States Senator Ted Cruz. Both men are Southern Baptists seeking the office of President of the United States.

However, what Huckabee and Cruz don’t know about the Kentucky county clerk recently jailed for her stand against gay marriage is that she believes that all Christians that don’t subscribe to her sect’s specific beliefs will be denied salvation and apparently spend eternity in hell.

Davis belongs to the Solid Rock Apostolic Church in Morehead, Kentucky. Solid Rock is a member of Apostolic Pentecostal Churches and Ministries and is listed at its directory for Kentucky.

The Apostolic Church website lists “60 questions on the Godhead,” which specifically deny the existence of the trinity as believed by the overwhelming majority of Christians, including Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz.

The Apostolic Church website also explains “Why We Baptize in Jesus’ Name,” which excludes the efficacy of any other baptism formula, such as those done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit., which represents what Apostolic Churches consider the false doctrine of the trinity. This “formula of baptism” is essential for salvation. As the Apostolic Churches website states, “Out basic and fundamental doctrine shall be the Bible standard of full salvation, which is the absolute essentiality of repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.”

Kim-Davis

Kim Davis, county clerk

The Apostolic Church further concludes, “We believe the Bible teaches that the above statement to be essential and not subsequent to salvation.”

What this means is that anyone, including Evangelicals like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, are required to meet these requirements or they have no salvation and will apparently be condemned to hell. According to Kim Davis’ beliefs the pastor and former governor of Arkansas and the United States senator must renounce their false beliefs about the no deposit online casino trinity and be re-baptized only in the name of Jesus and thus become true believers. Anything less is unacceptable to God according to Davis and her church.

U.S. Senator Cruz, flanked by Senator Lee and Senator Vitter, speaks against pending immigration legislation during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

United States Senator Ted Cruz

The formula Huckabee and Cruz must follow for their redemption according to Ms. Davis’ beliefs is reiterated as “The Apostles’ Doctrine at the official church association website. It states, “Water baptism is an essential part of New Testament salvation and not merely a symbolic ritual.” And nothing less than the strict formula as proscribed by Kim Davis’ church will fulfill this requirement. The Apostolic Church website says, “The name in which baptism is administered is vitally important, and this name is Jesus.” This formula for baptism has often been called the “Jesus Name Only Baptism,” by members of the United Pentecostal Church International, which is the most prominent denomination of Pentecostals that subscribe to this doctrine. The Assemblies of God, which is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world today, believes in the trinity and has no such baptismal requirements.

The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) and some other Pentecostal splinter groups, which seems to include the Apostolic Pentecostal Churches and Ministries that lists Kim Davis’ Solid Rock Apostolic Church, also subscribe to what is often called the “Holiness Standards.” That is, a strict code of dress and grooming. The holiness standards includes rules about such things as the length of woman’s dress, wearing makeup, certain jewelry and hair length. Kim Davis’ appearance seems to suggest that her church encourages its members to follow such holiness standards, similar to those mandated for women by the UPCI.

So what do Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and the other Evangelicals supporting Kim Davis know about all of this? Does the newly anointed martyr for religious freedom really believe in religious freedom? Or is Kim Davis only posing as a mainstream Evangelical when she is really from a fringe Pentecostal group that condemns Christians who disagree with its doctrine?

huckabee

Pastor Mike Huckabee

Will Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and other Evangelical supporters of Ms. Davis follow her example and go to an Apostolic Church to be re-baptized to insure their salvation?

Probably not.

Would Ms. Davis recognize Pastor Huckabee and Senator Cruz’ existing baptisms as valid, despite the fact that they did not follow the Apostolic Church formula?

Probably not.

Does Ms. Davis and her church really believe in freedom of faith for Evangelicals? Or is the country clerk caught up in a form of religious legalism that doesn’t recognize the salvation of her fellow Christians?

It seems that despite receiving their support Kim Davis believes that Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, along with the vast majority of Evangelicals, are condemned to hell unless they repent and are baptized according to the “formula” Ms. Davis accepts.

Update: It seems that Pope Francis now also endorses Kim Davis. But does Pope Francis know that she believes he is damned to hell? According to Kim Davis and her church Pope Francis must repent concerning his false belief in the trinity and be re-baptized in Jesus name only to receive salvation. Reportedly, Pope Francis is praying for Kim Davis.

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Rev. Ted Haggard has stepped down as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, which includes 30 million American members amidst a growing scandal about his personal life.

Ted Haggard at churchHaggard has admitted that he bought illegal drugs from a gay prostitute reports ABC News.

Mike Jones, a “male escort,” says that Rev. Haggard paid him for sex regularly over a period of three years and that the minister liked snorting methamphetamine “to heighten the experience” reported Times Online.

The disgraced minister has ”confessed to the overseers” of the 14,000-member New Life Church he led in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And Haggard has “temporarily stepped aside” pending the results of an internal church investigation concerning the allegations.

Haggard, married and the father of five was named by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 most powerful evangelical leaders in the United States.  

The 50-year-old minister told the press, “I bought [methamphetamine] for myself but never used it. I was tempted, but I never used it,” he repeatedly insisted. 

However, Haggard’s claims sounds eerily like the much-ridiculed remarks of Bill Clinton who once told the press that he “experimented with marijuana a time or two,” but “didn’t inhale.”

Carefully parsing his words Haggard says he received a “massage,” but that he never had sexual relations with the prostitute.

Maybe that depends upon what your definition of a massage is? 

Rev. Haggard prayingMany Christian fundamentalists are embarrassed by the recent disclosures about the minister including Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, another powerful evangelical leader and close associate of Haggard.

Ted Haggard was an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, but he may have favored gay prostitution.

“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” said Mike Jones the “male escort” that exposed Haggard.

“I just want people to step back and take a look and say, ’Look, we’re all sinners, we all have faults,” Jones added.

Amen?

No doubt that’s a sentiment that Rev. Haggard will be counting on.

Note: Paul Crouch, the president and founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network paid an employee a $425,000 settlement, who alleged that he had sex with the televangelist to keep his job reported the Los Angeles Times.

It is commonly known that Baptists and other evangelical Christians are eager to convert others to their faith, but do they have to target Jews?

Sibley says brethren have 'sinned'For many years the organized Jewish community has repeatedly told Christian fundamentalists to cease targeting Jews in proselytizing efforts, urging them instead towards a more meaningful dialog.

Hopefully, a two-day evangelism conference sponsored by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri doesn’t represent a growing consensus amongst evangelicals about pursuing Jews.

One speaker thinks that his fellow evangelicals have expressed less than sufficient interest lately in a crusade for Jewish souls reported Baptist Press.

Jim Sibley, director of the Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies at Criswell College claimed his brethren have “sinned” by not doing more to get the Jews.

Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts agreed with Sibley and called for effort to educate pastors ”on the strategic issues of Jewish evangelism.”

It almost sounds like Roberts is preparing for war and proposing the formulation of a battle plan.

“When our pastors and leaders teach God’s special plan for Jewish people…this becomes our best way to respect Jewish people and to guard against anti-Semitism,” he said.

So the “best way to respect Jewish people” is to try and convert them?

45 conference attendees dropped in at Friday evening services at five local synagogues in Kansas City, two Reformed, two Orthodox and one Conservative.

Not exactly a friendly visit, considering that their ultimate goal seems to be the conversion of Jews until there are none left to attend such places of worship.

Were these men doing a little “strategic” reconnoitering or “guarding against anti-Semitism”?

And did the host synagogues know the nature of their interest and their conference goals regarding “Jewish evangelism”?

Anton Hein, a former US resident and registered sex offender with an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest runs a counter-cult Web site called “Apologetics Index” from Amsterdam.

Hein also runs the affiliated Web sites Cult FAQ and Religion News Blog.

Hein plead to the charge of a “lewd act upon a child” in 1994, served jail time and was given probation, but then violated the terms of his release.

A felony warrant (see Anton Willem Hein) was issued in 1996 and remains outstanding for his arrest without bail. Hein admits the likelihood that he will “never again be able to enter the USA.”

Anton Hein, California sex offender file photoMr. Hein is a registered sex offender in the State of California. His offense is described at that state’s official Web site as “lewd or lascivious acts with child under 14 years.”

Hein admits that the penal code states the offender must have the ”intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child” and he says “that is what the plea bargain form reflects,” which he signed.

The minor child involved was Hein’s 13-year-old niece.

Hein, who is Dutch, married an American citizen and moved to California in 1979.

But the marriage ended in divorce shortly after he was charged as a sex offender.

Hein then returned to the Netherlands, ultimately violating the terms of his release, which required that he be supervised within the United States.

He married again in 2002, this time to an English citizen living in Amsterdam.

Hein says he operates an “independent, personal ministry” from “an orthodox, evangelical Christian point of view.” He also leads “an English-language house church” in Amsterdam called “Bethlehem.”

However, CultNews could not find any official recognition of Hein as a “minister,” other than his name listed as one of the “various ministers” that have “sexually abused children” at Reformation.com.

Hein’s father was a part-time “street preacher” and as a child he attended a “floating Sunday school” on a houseboat run by two evangelical American women in Amsterdam. After that he went on to become “involved with a variety of Christian ministries” including “Teen Challenge,” “Youth With a Mission” and the controversial “Vineyard Christian Fellowship.”

Today Hein largely targets Americans both through his Web site, which is in English and to attend his house church.

“Many people who visit us are…expats, tourists,” he says and they are often brought in through his Web site with an invitation to “a safe place to ‘park’ for a while.”

But is Anton Hein safe?

Not with minors according to the State of California Penal Code and the terms of his probation.

California law specifically states, “Sex offender registrants whose sex crime was against a victim under age 16 are prohibited by law from working, as an employee or volunteer, with minors…”

Despite his plea agreement though Hein insists he is “innocent.”

“As a result of my plea bargain, I spent six months in jail. Those who follow U.S. child abuse cases, real or alleged, know that is a very short period of time compared with the usual lengthy sentences.” And he claims that he “had no choice in that matter.”

It does appear that Hein got a good deal from the prosecutor given the serious nature of his offense. But the terms of his plea don’t negate it, they rather suggest the reason for his choice.

Mr. Hein was essentially forced to publicly explain his criminal record after some folks unhappy with his counter-cult work exposed it online through the Internet.

However, at times that posted response sounds more like an attempt to indict his victim and her family instead of an explanation. For example, he wants everyone to know that “the girl” (as he refers to his niece) was “sexually active” and given to “running away from home, smoking marijuana at school, and becoming promiscuous.”

But it wasn’t the girl who was charged and convicted of a sex crime it was Anton Hein.

Hein also notes “those who claim I fled ‘justice’ have not been paying attention.”

“Anyone who researches the U.S. justice system and the plea bargain approach knows the system’s shortcomings, and anyone who finds him or herself in a situation similar to mine will understand,” he concludes.

Perhaps this explains why Mr. Hein has devoted an entire subsection within his Web site to what he calls “America’s…human rights violations” and “faulty ‘justice’ system.”

Hein doesn’t appreciate the US judicial system, but he does want American dollars.

Mr. Hein says that he has been “declared 100% disabled…due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and that he “live[s] on disability pay.” He also solicits and receives gifts or “donations” from the United States.

Hein provides for overseas funds transfers at his Web site.

He states that his site is “nonprofit” and “not financially sponsored by any church, ministry, organization or individual. Therefore, the publishers of Apologetics Index rely on donations.”

However, he uses his Web site to sell advertising and once again the money appears to come largely from America.

Amazon.com, Google and other American companies currently pay Hein for ad space at his Web site.

He also quotes his own individual rates for running a single ad at $70 per week or $200.00 per month, three months runs $550.00.

Anton Hein doesn’t like to discuss his past and considers recent disclosures about him “propaganda.” He warns, “Only Satan and his ilk are interested in portraying sins – real or perceived…parading them as juicy bits of gossip, or using them in ad hominem attacks.”

Hein ultimately concludes, “I do not intend to engage such people in discussions on this issue…As a Christian I try to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God. When I fail, I confess my sins and know them to be forgiven.”

Maybe God has forgiven Anton Hein, but the United States and the State of California have not and there is nothing satanic about making such distinctions.

Note: At times Anton Hein has changed his posted public statements after they have been reviewed and/or criticized. CultNews has copied all the material from Mr. Hein’s Web site that is quoted within this article.

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About this time every year the so-called “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ), an evangelical Christian missionary organization that targets Jews for conversion, sends out its traveling road show called “Christ in the Passover,” as reported by the Kentucky News Enterprise.

Such programs are typically staged within evangelical and fundamentalist churches and they seek to superimpose Christian beliefs over the historic understanding of the Jewish Passover observance.

According to the Kentucky newspaper this year’s JFJ program will be presented within “5,000 churches.”

Christian missionaries posing as “Jews” generally have received a “bad reception” from the Jewish community as reported by the Washington D.C. Jewish Times.

The fact that Passover has an established meaning that predates both Jesus and Christianity doesn’t seem to bother JFJ and/or its supporters.

The missionary group’s version of “Passover” is at best misleading, but it also can be seen as an expression of ethnocentric religious arrogance, which largely disregards both the history and the intrinsic significance of the Jewish holiday.

As anyone acquainted with the Book of Exodus or the movie classic the “Ten Commandments” knows Passover is not about Jesus or Christianity, it is a holiday specifically observed to commemorate the deliverance of Jews from bondage in ancient Egypt as recorded within what Christians call the “Old Testament.”

But the purpose of Passover to JFJ appears to be more of a fund raising gimmick. And the organization, which has had its share of money problems, seems anxious to continue its annual program that apparently has become something like a sacred cash cow.

At the end of its “Passover” shows comes JFJ’s pitch, or as it is most often described the call for an “offering.”

This also affords an opportunity for the controversial group to collect names and thus expand its mailing list.

JFJ is the creation of Pastor Martin Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister who retired some time ago from his long-running position as head of the missionary organization.

However, a while back the peripatetic pastor hit the road once again in an effort to rally the faithful to his somewhat fading ministry, which was first launched in the 1970s.

Martin likes to be called “Moishe,” which makes him seem Jewish.

Jewish surnames also suffuse the list of front line JFJ staff, again giving the group a seeming patina of supposed “Jewishness.”

However, JFJ’s funding comes essentially from Christian fundamentalists.

Isn’t it just a bit presumptuous for a missionary organization founded by a Baptist minister to define the meaning of a Jewish holiday and its symbols?

JFF and its supporters don’t seem to think so.

Financial support of such groups from evangelicals along with their overwhelming enthusiasm for last year’s Mel Gibson film “Passion of the Christ” despite its disturbing anti-Semitic content, continues to raise eyebrows within the Jewish community regarding the actual sentiments of so-called “born-again” Christians.

Positive ecumenical dialog has existed for some time between more moderate or “Mainline” Protestants and Jewish denominations. And there have been historic breakthroughs in recent years between Jews and the Roman Catholic Church.

But what meaningful interreligious dialog actually exists between evangelical Christians and the organized Jewish community?

These are the same Christians who frequently say they “love” both Jews and Israel.

But if evangelicals truly “love” Jews why would they continue to support insulting and confrontational groups such as JFJ year after year, while essentially ignoring the bad reception they receive from the Jewish community?

Doesn’t such continued support demonstrate a disregard and/or insensitivity to the concerns of Jews?

In fairness it should be noted that some evangelical leaders have spoken out critically against groups like JFJ, such as Billy Graham.

Jesus once offered the analogy that you would know a tree by its fruit.

It appears that there may be quite a few rotten apples hanging from fundamentalist Christian trees.

One rabbi displayed this troubling truth in a recent article titled “An Exchange With a Missionary” published by Israel’s Arutz Sheva.

In this rather poignant piece the rabbi reviews the ethnocentric aspects of fundamentalist Christian dogma through an imagined conversation with a JFJ operative.

He ultimately concludes, “Hell doesn’t sound so bad after all, if I’ll be with…Jewish martyrs. And I’m not so sure I’d want to be in Heaven with guys who think like you!”

Note: Rick Ross is a former member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) National Committee on Interreligious Affairs.

Eileen Barker the founder and impetus behind “INFORM” (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) has long been considered a leading “cult apologist.”

The British professor of sociology has aligned herself with other “apologists” such as J. Gordon Melton, Massimo Introvigne and the late Jeffrey Hadden.

Barker sits on the board of Introvigne’s CESNUR an organization that regularly attacks cult critics

Hadden cited Barker prominently within a notorious memo that outlined strategies to suppress criticism of “cults.” And he hoped that funding for his proposals would come from groups called “cults.”

This would not have been anything new for Ms. Barker; whom once received funding from Rev. Moon of the Unification Church for a book she wrote about the organization and its members.

Nevertheless the London professor wants the public to believe she is an objective observer and academic.

However, it appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t buy it.

The Church of England leader recently “snubbed” Barker’s INFORM organization reports The Guardian.

The English prelate will apparently not follow his predecessors by becoming a patron of the group.

It seems that Barker and her supporters are already busy trying to spin the bishop’s snub as the result of pressure from “evangelicals” that disapprove of “INFORM’s consensual” rather than confrontational approach to so-called “new religions” (a politically correct euphemism for “cults”).

But is this all about style or substance?

Critics of Barker have raised serious questions about the professor’s academic integrity and the substance of her “research.”

And concerned families that have historically sought help from INFORM have complained that its “consensual approach” may have included letting a “cult” know about their expressed concerns.

Maybe the snub from the Archbishop is just evidence that he is informed about INFORM.

NPR offered up its final segment regarding “New Religions” yesterday and featured coverage of the latest fashion in faith often called Neo-Paganism, categorized in this presentation under the heading “Wicca.”

Host Barbara Bradley Hagerty narrated what was billed as an exploration of “Teens and Wicca.”

Various teenagers, mostly girls, came out of the “broom closet” to discuss their fascination with witchcraft, which one expert said really took off through the popular movie “The Craft.”

But in the end it seemed that Hagerty let her own bias show a bit by giving fellow evangelicals largely the last word.

The NPR host reportedly is “on the board of directors for Knowing and Doing, the magazine of the C.S. Lewis Institute, which ‘endeavors to develop disciples who can articulate, defend and live faith in Christ through personal and public life.’”

One evangelical dryly observed on NPR that “playing with Wicca [is] dangerous,” but he failed to offer any specific examples. A “born-again” teen warned Wiccans had “sold [themselves] to Satan.”

According to a critical report about her professional conduct Hagerty “likes to say that God is her ‘employer and audience.’”

Does this mean the reporter does double duty for NPR and “God”?

The “cult apologists” Hagerty promoted through her first piece about “new religious movements” might not appreciate the sentiments expressed in her last one about Wicca.

And most of the public appears to agree that though Wiccans might appear weird they are benign, unlike the previous “cults” essentially given a free pass by Hagerty and NPR.

National Public Radio doesn’t seem to be in touch with its public through this recent programming.

But then again, maybe the only “audience” that concerns Ms. Hagerty is “God”?

After reading so many articles about the alleged “anti-Semitic” content within Mel Gibson’s “Passion” I decided to go see the film and judge it for myself.

My interest to date regarding the controversial movie has been the cultural phenomenon it has created and the fringe schismatic so-called “Traditional Catholic” group Gibson comes from.

After Easter the theater was almost empty.

Sitting through “Passion” isn’t easy; it’s a bit slow and the action is somewhat redundant. Unlike previous religious movies such as The Ten Commandments or The Robe this is “a film so narrowly focused as to be inaccessible for all but the devout,” as a LA Times critic wrote.

And “the devout” seems to be essentially evangelical Christians largely from Baptist, Pentecostal and non-denominational fundamentalist churches, who have defended Gibson’s movie.

But back to the issue of anti-Semitism.

There is no getting around the way Jews are portrayed in this movie, and it’s not pretty. Negative stereotypes abound and as the old adage says, “if it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it just might be a duck.”

Gibson’s movie looks and sounds anti-Semitic based on key scenes and dialog, but somehow the director and his boosters want everyone to believe it’s not.

However, as many have observed outside the religious fervor the film has generated, you cannot escape the artistic license Gibson took regarding both his screenplay and direction. The dialog and scenes portray Jewish leaders in an evil conspiracy out to get Jesus and the Jewish mob thirsty for his blood.

Meanwhile Pontius Pilate and his spouse are given more than enough wiggle room to get off the hook.

Mrs. Pilate even tearfully brings Mary towels as an apparent act of contrition, even though according to Mel’s script she tried to save Jesus’ life.

Of course none of this dialog exists in the New Testament, which removes the basis for the frequently offered apology that somehow Mel’s just following scripture.

And given Gibson’s background of being raised by an anti-Semitic father amidst Jewish conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, it seems reasonable to suspect that environment influenced him.

Mel Gibson has never directly and explicitly repudiated his father’s teachings, no matter how repugnant.

The director’s supporters want us to think he is just a loyal son, but watching the movie you can’t help but think that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“Passion” certainly earns every bit of its R rating through its constant and brutal bloodshed. Mary even has a scene mopping up her son’s blood. James Caviezel who plays Jesus spends most of his time being beaten, bleeding, falling down and writhing in agony.

All the while the Jews are overwhelmingly either happily watching Jesus suffer, pelting him with rocks or egging the Romans on. There is an occasional benevolent Hebrew, but this device only serves to punctuate the ongoing polemic.

The constant focus on Mary is interesting. That emphasis in Catholicism has often upset Protestants, especially evangelicals. But this time they seem willing to suffer through Gibson’s fascination with the mother of Jesus as long as it serves their agenda.

According to a recent poll one third of the Americans who have seen “Passion” believe the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus reported Religion News Service.

“Generally, there is a correlation between seeing the movie, and expressing an intention to see it, with holding the view that Jews were responsible for Christ’s death,” pollsters said. And that “people who are drawn to this movie may be predisposed to this opinion more than others.”

This comes as no surprise to many Jews who have often been troubled by evangelical Christian sentiments. It is this religious community that spends millions of dollars annually funding groups like “Jews for Jesus” that target Jews for conversion.

Not surprisingly “Jews for Jesus,” which was founded by a Baptist minister, strongly endorsed “Passion” reported Agape Press.

More moderate “mainline” Protestants and Roman Catholics don’t agree with such missionary efforts and instead prefer building bridges to the Jewish community through mutual acceptance and ecumenical dialog.

This is probably why Mel Gibson sought out evangelicals in his marketing strategy, sensing correctly that they would not object to his portrayal of Jews.

“Passion” seems to resonate with those who harbor certain sentiments about Jews and thus it’s not a shock that the film has done well in Muslim countries reported Salon.

Mel’s message about Jews has made angry Arabs happy that believe in Jewish conspiracies.

Note: Rick Ross is a former member of the National Committee for Interreligious Affairs of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, a large denomination of Judaism.

Mel Gibson has certainly pulled off a phenomenon with his film “The Passion of The Christ.”

From a purely business standpoint the actor’s investment of about $30 million dollars has more than paid off and it should add at least $100 million to his personal fortune. A synergistically driven merchandising campaign of souvenirs, books and CDs will perhaps net Mel a few million more.

“Passion” now ranks eighth on the top ten list of domestic blockbusters with more than a $350 million gross. It took in $17 million just on Easter weekend reported Coming Soon.net.

But besides its now established status as a box office bonanza, the controversial film released to coincide with Lent and Easter, has become both a media and cultural event.

Gibson made this all possible, first by his fame and name recognition and second through the scrutiny his project received as a work that allegedly contains an “anti-Semitic” message.

However, the savvy star hired a Manhattan PR firm for spin control and got out in front of his critics by mounting something of a crusade amongst evangelical Christians.

It was ultimately those religious connections and not Hollywood that put his film over.

This community of conservative Protestants, despite their historic animus towards Catholics, embraced Mel Gibson like one of their own.

They heaped effusive praise on their “Braveheart” seemingly seeing his movie as somehow a part of God’s plan for redemption.

The actor himself appears to agree. “The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film,” he has said. And Many of those connected to the project appear to think their work fulfilled some divine purpose.

But buying a ticket to Mel’s “Passion” only allows admission to the theater; the film’s director seems to think his Protestant supporters are going to Hell.

In an interview with the Herald Sun in Australia when asked specifically if Protestants are denied eternal salvation the star said, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church.”

He then elaborated, “Put it this way. My wife is a…Episcopalian…She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff…she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair” reported MSNBC.

And what that “chair” pronounces, for this Oscar winning director, means what God says as defined by the so-called “Traditional Catholic movement,” which Gibson was raised within and still steadfastly supports.

“The Passion is nothing short of a party political broadcast for this movement,” reported The Scotsman.

Roman Catholics are not immune from Mel’s stern judgement.

“I go to an all-pre-Vatican II Latin Mass,” he told USA Today. “There was a lot of talk, particularly in the Sixties, of ‘wow, we’ve got to change with the times’. But the Creator instituted something very specific, and we can’t just go change it.”

Despite the kind words the Pope had for Gibson’s movie the director/producer may not think that His Holiness is Catholic enough to get into heaven either.

In fact, the only people that may be doing “something very specific” enough to get into heaven are the small flock of less than 100 believers that attend a church Mel built in Malibu. Though some 50,000 or so “Traditional Catholics” might have a shot too.

Is the whole phenomenon of “Passion” then simply an exercise in mutually cynical exploitation?

Gibson selling his movement’s message, not to mention tickets and evangelical Christians using his film as a vehicle to fire up the faithful and make some sort of social statement?

If the director were driven only by faith would he have pursued such a savvy marketing strategy, manipulating both the Jewish and Protestant communities conversely to promote his project?

And what about the fervent Protestant pastors that bought blocks of tickets, what were they thinking? Was it really just Jesus that motivated them or a self-serving media blitz?

It looks like they saw Gibson’s film as a means of demonstrating their clout, in something that can be seen as a social statement measured by ticket sales.

Hallelujah?

According to the New Testament Jesus once said that many would come in his name, but he would not know them.

He also said that it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

This may mean that Mel might have been better off in the hereafter, if he hadn’t made so much money off his Jesus movie.

Postscript: A year ago I wrote, “It seems destined for a very small audience. It certainly won’t be another ‘Braveheart.’” What a difference a year makes, given a slick marketing strategy and the resulting religious fervor at the box office, but don’t expect another Oscar Mel.

About this time every year the so-called “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ), an evangelical Christian missionary organization that targets Jews for conversion, sends out its traveling road show called “Christ in the Passover,” as reported by the Clovis News Journal.

These programs that are typically staged within evangelical and fundamentalist churches, seek to superimpose Christian beliefs over the historic understanding of the Jewish Passover observance, as reported by the Pittsburgh Daily Courier.

The fact that this holiday, its symbols and their established meaning predate Jesus and Christianity doesn’t seem to concern JFJ or its supporters.

The missionary group’s version of “Passover” is at best misleading, but also can be seen as an expression of ethnocentric religious arrogance and it wilfully disregards both the history and the intrinsic significance of the Jewish holiday.

As anyone acquainted with the Book of Exodus or the movie classic the “Ten Commandments” knows Passover is not about Jesus or Christianity, it is a holiday specifically observed to commemorate the deliverance of Jews from bondage in ancient Egypt.

But the purpose of Passover to JFJ appears to be a fund raising gimmick. And the organization, which has had its share of money problems lately, is all the more anxious to pump up this annual program that has become a proven moneymaker.

JFJ sends out its traveling teams to put on these shows and at the end of each performance comes the pitch, or as it is most often described the call for “an offering.”

This also affords an opportunity for the controversial group to collect names for its mailing list.

JFJ is the brainchild of Pastor Martin Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister who not so long ago retired from his long-running position as head of the missionary organization.

But Pastor Martin has recently hit the road again, in an apparent effort to rally the faithful to the somewhat fading ministry.

Pastor Martin likes to be called “Moishe,” which makes him seem Jewish. And Jewish surnames suffuse the list of front line JFJ staff, which again gives the group an appearance of “Jewishness.”

However, all of JFJ’s funding comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians.

It is presumptuous and a demonstration of hubris to say the least, for a missionary organization founded by a Baptist minister to define the meaning of a Jewish holiday and its symbols.

JFJ has also ardently aligned itself with other evangelical Christians by strongly supporting Mel Gibson’s much-criticized movie “The Passion” reported Agape Press.

Financial support of groups like JFJ and overwhelming enthusiasm for the Gibson film, despite allegations of “anti-Semitic” content, raises the question of whether meaningful ecumenical dialog is possible between the organized Jewish community and fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

Certainly such dialog exists between more moderate or “Mainline” Protestants and Jewish denominations. And there have been historic ecumenical breakthroughs in recent years between Jews and the Roman Catholic Church.

But what meaningful interreligious communication exists between evangelical Christians and the organized Jewish community?

These Christians frequently say they “love” Jews and Israel.

But judged by their behavior rather than words, evangelical and fundamentalist Christian support for Jews and Israel seems specious.

If these Christians truly “love” Jews why would they continue to support insulting and confrontational groups such as JFJ?

Doesn’t this generally demonstrate disregard and/or insensitivity to the concerns of the Jewish community?

In fairness it should be noted that some evanelical leaders have spoken out critically against groups like JFJ, notably evangelist Billy Graham.

Jesus once offered the analogy that you could know a tree by its fruit.

And apparently the rather telling “fruit” growing on quite a few fundamentalist and evangelical Christian trees is their support for groups like “Jews for Jesus.”