The Passion of Hotel Rwanda

First, click here to read Brian McClaren's article concerning the film "Hotel Rwanda" and his reaction to it verses his reaction to last year's "The Passion of the Christ." Then come back and read my response.


Wow…it’s difficult to know exactly how and where to start in responding to an article such as this. Brian obviously feels strongly about this and many other things which he hinted at throughout the article. I suppose that’s a good thing, but it comes off a little overweening, like someone who’s passionate without having really thought through how to communicate that passion in a circumspect manner. The Apostle Peter seemed to have that same tendency…of course he went on to become one of the pillars of Christianity. Maybe Brian is headed in that same direction.

But I must admit, it’s disheartening to discover that such a very direct and simple presentation of the Gospel such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ “frustrated” Brian. I’m sure he has his reasons, but it really is difficult to argue with the bottom line: Multiplied millions heard and even witnessed that Jesus died for our sins. How does that qualify as frustrating—especially for a child of God? My fear is that Brian’s desire to come across as postmodern, open-minded and artsy has diminished his ability to reign in his emotions and see the bigger picture. Of course that’s pure conjecture; I could be badly mistaken.

I am thankful that a movie such as Hotel Rwanda stirred Brian so powerfully. I can actually think of many movies over the years that have stirred me in the same ways. Of course, none of those movies would be considered “Christian.” It’s sort of like having God speak directly to you through, say, a donkey. On the other hand, there are times when the subtle and unexpected approach such as Hotel Rwanda simply isn’t what I need to hear: I need a direct, simple, unclouded reminder of what Christ did for me on the cross. I think I speak for many when I admit this. And I’m inclined to believe that Paul had the same debate in mind when he addressed the Corinthian church (1:17–31, NRSV):

Christ [sent me] to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

Paul was one of the most prolific writers and profound thinkers of Christianity’s beginnings. He probably would have loved Hotel Rwanda. But in the end, he would have kept it simple and pointed people back to the plain truth in The Passion of the Christ, for without the cross, the sacrifice and service of that hotel manager would be for naught.

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About Eric Wilbanks

Brand strategist. Wordsmith. Change architect. Training specialist. DiSC Certified. Family guy (hot wife and 4 cool kids). Love my Bible, guitars, baseball, and MMA.


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