updated 2/26/2004 4:54:19 PM ET 2004-02-26T21:54:19

With Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” hitting screens across the country this week, talk of faith and religion has traveled well beyond the usual places of worship.  As questions about the movie’s deeper meaning and historical accuracy abound, NBC News will present a special look at the role that faith plays in our lives and our world.  This cross-platform special series, “The Power of Faith,” will be the focus of reporting throughout the day on Friday, February 27.

Beginning at 7 a.m., “Today” takes a look at the Armageddon phenomenon – the so-called “end of the world.”  While it has been a popular topic in Hollywood for years, it is also the focus of a series of fiction novels.  Based on the theology of the bible, what happens to those left behind fill the pages of what will be fourteen books in all, the twelfth due out next month.  All together, they have already sold over 55 million copies. 

On “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” Rehema Ellis will report on an in-depth examination of faith as a political issue as the presidential election year gets underway, and how moviegoers view “The Passion of the Christ,” in their own words.

While Gibson’s movie looks at the final hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, “Dateline NBC” (8 p.m. ET) looks at the events of the year leading up to that moment that had his followers so excited.  “Dateline” also looks at a number of different ways that faith can affect modern day living.  Stone Phillips reports that the concept of injecting faith into business strategies is something that more and more current day CEO’s are looking into, claiming it’s not just an idealistic strategy, it’s a great business.

MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” will present a special report on the raging culture wars in America and on playing politics with God - is it heartfelt values or a crass effort to win votes? MSNBC contributor Peggy Noonan will present special in-depth analysis on the culture war as seen through the reception of “The Passion of the Christ” and Hardball Election Correspondent David Shuster will have a live report from the steps of city hall in San Francisco, Calif. where gay and lesbian couples are standing in line to get married. Vanity Fair correspondent Christopher Hitchens and William Donohue of the Catholic League are among the guests.

On “Scarborough Country,” host Joe Scarborough discusses whether its appropriate for children to see “The Passion of the Christ”—is it a valuable spiritual lesson or is the violent imagery too disturbing?  He talks live to a panel in Kansas City, Kan., where First Family pastor Jerry Johnston has reserved auditoriums for children age 11 and older to watch the movie.

CNBC will look at the merchandising of “The Passion of the Christ,” and MSNBC.com will provide online access to all of the NBC News’ programming coverage of “The Power of Faith.”  In addition, readers can cast their vote in a poll on audience reaction to “The Passion of The Christ.”  Other stories will look at the “Passion” of the publicists, how the controversy has been good marketing for Mel Gibson as well as questions regarding merchandising of the film.  The Entertainment section of MSNBC.com will have a review of the movie and a rundown of major film critic reaction from around the nation.


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