updated 3/9/2004 2:53:38 PM ET 2004-03-09T19:53:38

Is 'The Passion of the Christ' a movie for kids?  Dr. James Dobson, a child development specialist, and the founder and chairman of the board of 'Focus on the Family' joined 'Deborah Norville Tonight' on Monday to share his opinion.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: I gather that most of those families who put the kids in the station wagon and went off to see “The Passion” would no more dream of taking their kids to see an R-rated movie than they would walk down the street with their clothes on.  What‘s going on out there? 

DR. JAMES DOBSON, PRESIDENT, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY:  I would have to know what you mean or what somebody means about “taking the kids to the movie.”  That may mean 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds.  And for some junior highers, this movie would be appropriate. 

If you‘re talking about children under 12, that would be a big mistake.  But I haven‘t seen any evidence that a large number of 12-year-olds are going to this movie.   I have recommended, as a child developmentalist, that parents not take their children 12 and under.  It is a very disturbing film, but a very, very significant one. 

NORVILLE: Your specialty is dispensing family and child-rearing advice all based and rooted in the Bible.  Do you see some trend in the popularity of “The Passion”?  Maybe, it speaks to the fact that many parents do want their children to have a Bible-based education?  If going to the movies is the best way to do it, so be it? 

DOBSON:  Well, some of them do, Deborah.  But it is really broader than that.  It‘s really about time that Hollywood recognize this huge demographic that‘s out there.  I just saw the statistics for this year this afternoon;  43 percent of the American people go to church every Sunday, 43 percent.  That‘s nearly 100 million people.  And Hollywood has insulted those people.  They have spoken disparagingly of the Christian faith.  They have used God‘s name in vain.  They‘ve showed people jumping into bed on the first date.

They‘ve just done everything they could to drive this demographic away.  There's a reason why they‘re not going to the movies.  And along comes one that‘s not only on a biblical theme, but the biblical theme for Christianity, and it should not be surprising, considering how well it‘s done, that they have come out in droves. 

NORVILLE:  But isn‘t it interesting that this values-oriented push is coming from Hollywood. It‘s not from any Christian right or left or any sort of organized religious group, but rather, from that segment of society that some would look at as the “Sodom and Gomorrah” of modern times. 

DOBSON:  Well, money is the mother‘s milk of Hollywood.  And when they see an opportunity to make a buck, they‘re going to go for it.  But it‘s not going to be sufficient just to make Bible-related films. 

I mean, those have been done through the years, and many of them have been not very good, and they have not been attended well.  And this is an exceptional movie.  And it was done better than, I think, any film on the life of Jesus and especially the last 24 hours of Jesus‘ life have ever been done, and there‘s a reason why they‘re coming out in such numbers. 

I mean, goodness, $212 million have been spent at the box office for “The Passion.”  So people do appreciate it.  But they‘re discerning and they‘re not going to just buy junk.  If it‘s well done, I believe they will support it, and they have in the past.  But those projects have been few and far between.

'Deborah Norville Tonight' airs weeknights, 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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