Jesus, played by Dwight Dissels, sings a pop song for Peter (Omri Tindal) during The Passion 2017 in Leeuwarden.
‘The Passion’: An Unforeseen Success
‘The Passion’ is a televised spectacle that takes place since 2011 in a changing city in the Netherlands. In a multi-medial blend of live performance, pre-recorded segments, a procession and a lively social-media environment including a ‘second-screen virtual procession’, the trial and crucifixion of Christ is played out, musically illustrated by Dutch pop songs. Meanwhile, a huge neon-cross is carried by a diverse group of participants who are interviewed about what The Passion means for them. This event, a collaboration of broadcasters, churches and the local municipality, draws between two and three million viewers annually.
But what does this popularity of The Passion tell us? How is The Passion related to secularization in the Netherlands? Is this ‘mere entertainment’ or proof of continued interest and emotional investment in the narrative of Christ? Through ethnographic fieldwork and social media analysis we see how Christ’s Passion is a platform for a variety of emotions. We also see how the organizers are confronted with an audience that gives meaning to The Passion in ways that are difficult to manage or control.