'The Rite' – Dark but Not Dangerous

Highly anticipated film, "The Rite," gives the devil and the power of darkness a fair share of the screen time, but hopefully viewers will walk away thinking about the other spiritual power that also exists.

Despite the strong language and eerie scenes (minus the pea soup vomit and head spinning), "The Rite," which opens in theaters on Friday, offers Christians and non-believers alike the chance to converse about the power of faith.

 "It ("The Rite") will attract more than an audience of believers, but I do hope that the movie might actually convince people that there is more to the world than what they see and that it may actually have a benefit," commented Dr. Clay Schmit, a professor of preaching and academic director of Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts at Fuller Seminary in California, on Monday.

The Brehm Center at Fuller integrates the arts with worship and theology, which includes exploring the connections between film and theology.

 "I look forward to seeing it. I look forward to the conversation it will generate between film and theology," Schmit added.

"The Rite" is loosely based on a nonfiction book by American journalist Matthew Baglio. Inspired by true events, the movie follows a skeptical seminary student Michael Kovack (Colin O'Donoghue) to the Vatican where he will attend exorcism school. It is there in Rome that the character meets aging priest Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who introduces him to the dark spiritual world around them.

While Hollywood films about exorcism have always been popular, "The Rite" is receiving extra buzz because of reports several months ago about the Catholic Church's exorcism initiative.

More than 100 Catholic clerics attended exorcism training in Baltimore in November in response to increased inquiries from U.S. priests about such a program.

In Italy, exorcism is quite popular with about a half a million reported cases a year, according to Baglio.

Fuller professor Dr. Clay Schmit acknowledged that demonic possession is more prevalent outside of the United States. He said he heard plenty of evangelicals who work in Africa and other parts of the world who have encountered people who are possessed. Schmit also said demonic possession is "certainly" scriptural and the Bible records Jesus dealing with such dark spirits in people.

Schmit suggested that a possible reason why demonic possession is less prevalent in the United States is because Americans tend to tune into technology and the media more than in other countries.

"That is why it's hard for us to connect with things that are more within us or around us," he noted.

The supernatural thriller "The Rite," which will open in theaters on Jan. 28, is directed by Mikael Hafsroem, who previously made the Stephen King adaptation of "1408."

Christian Post reporter Michelle Vu contributed to this article.

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