Many Christian groups chose sermon series, training seminars and discussion groups over boycotts and mass protests to greet the 2006 screen version of Dan Brown's best seller. Church leaders said the wildness of the book's claims - that there has been a conspiracy over nearly two millennia to keep the secret that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a child - were so easily countered by scholarly evidence that the movie offered an excellent opportunity for religious education and evangelism.
"The Passion of the Christ."
Some Christian and Jewish leaders expressed concern that Mel Gibson's unflinching 2004 account of the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Jesus would inflame anti-Semitism by following Gospel accounts that assign significant responsibility to Jewish leaders of his day. In a response some critics considered inadequate, the filmmaker deleted a controversial scene before the film opened - the so-called "blood curse" from the Gospel of Matthew that has been abused for centuries to hold all Jews accountable for the death of Jesus.
The 1998 film showed New York being terrorized by bombings linked to a group motivated by Islam. It had a sympathetic Arab character played by Tony Shalhoub. But many U.S. Muslims, along with groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, decried the film for portraying Muslims as bloodthirsty, backward terrorists.
-David Briggs But Deepak Sarma, an associate professor of religious studies at Case Western Reserve University, expressed concern that the film could just fuel "a kind of jingoistic Americanism" that makes fun of those who are different among unsophisticated audiences.
"The amount of damage that's going to be done for the understanding of Hinduism in America is tremendous," said Sarma, editor of "Hinduism: A Reader."
The Hindu community in Northeast Ohio is growing along with Indian immigration. About 4,000 Hindus live in Northeast Ohio, an increase of about 1,500 Hindus since 1980, according to Surinder Bhardwaj, a professor emeritus at Kent State University.
There is great diversity in the practice of Hinduism, but in general a guru is considered a spiritual teacher leading disciples to a state of higher consciousness. Students are encouraged to treat their guides with humble reverence.
The concern over the movie is understandable, Bhardwaj said. "The guru tradition is so much of a core tradition of Hinduism that this movie tends to denigrate it so the core of Hinduism is being attacked," he said. (MORE)