A Passion for Hatred That Mocks Christ's Message

  1. Published on Tuesday, March 2, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
    A Passion for Hatred That Mocks Christ's Message
    by Robert Scheer

    It took me a while to realize what they were saying. "You kilt our Lord," the guys looking for a fight would snarl, just before landing a punch on my nose. This was in the New York City of my childhood, where the accents were heavy and the theology more than a bit crude when you wandered into the wrong neighborhood.

    When I finally got the drift of what the true-believer hoodlums were saying, I was tempted to utter in plaintive defense, "No, only half of me did it!"-meaning that my father was born in Germany and raised Protestant. But my father would have taken his belt to me had I employed that cop-out because of his intense shame over the genocide perpetrated by his Christian countrymen against my Jewish mother's people in Eastern Europe.

    As opposed to Mel Gibson's father, mine never underestimated the horror of the Holocaust. Nor do my Christian relatives in Germany, who have underscored the depth of wartime Germany's depravity by pointing out to me that the local minister had been one of the town's leading Nazi enthusiasts, even wearing his Nazi uniform under his clerical garb.

    Old wounds, I know, but I just saw Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and it is a blood libel against the Jewish people that should have every prominent Christian minister and priest speaking out in opposition. All they have to do is look to the pope's apology for the Catholic Church's sins against Jews.

    It requires a deeply felt anti-Semitism on Gibson's part to depict the community that nurtured Jesus as nothing more than a venal mob that forced an eminently reasonable and kind Roman overlord to crucify Jesus. Even the beastly lower-level Roman legionnaires who whip Jesus for most of the movie's duration are engaged in this orgy of sadism not to please Caesar but rather to mollify the rabbis.

    Of course, the movie should not be censored, nor can it be totally dismissed.

    I found it useful to be reminded of the suffering that Christ endured for his convictions, and even the sadomasochistic preoccupation of the film could not obscure the fact that Christ never endorsed vengeance or departed from his message of universal love. Ultimately, however, this is just an exploitation flick that serves up the body of Christ as an object of continuous sick torture while ignoring his life and thoughts.

    As soon as I got home from the movie theater, I opened my King James version of the Bible, one that has the statements directly attributable to Jesus conveniently printed in red type. Opening it at random, I read in the Gospel according to St. Matthew a clear reassurance that Gibson has it all wrong: When Christ "opened his mouth," which he rarely does in the movie, he told his disciples all of those things that super-militant Christians who seek to divide us never want to hear: "Blessed are the poor .... Blessed are the meek .... Blessed are the merciful .... Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

    That's the Jesus we need in our lives, and I say this as one who self-identifies very much as a Jew. But I am as uncomfortable with the dogmatists of Jewish theology as I am with all others this side of the deism or Unitarianism that commonly marked the philosophies of a number of leading authors of our Constitution.

    Religious mythology of all sorts is valuable when it informs and enlightens rather than seeks to displace scientific and other rational thought.

    Admittedly, I am not in Gibson's target audience, and I do not begrudge others finding solace and meaning in the scriptures of their choice. What I fear is hatred spawned of religious fundamentalism, the same type that tore apart the world of my childhood and continues to be an enormous producer of pain, warfare and division. Despite our pretensions of modernity and humanitarianism, the world is currently plagued by Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists who seem more passionate about employing their holy books as weapons than as instruments of peace.

    Sadly, that is the essence of Gibson's movie. But the good news is that the actual words of Christ that have been passed down to us do not lend themselves to such a mean-spirited enterprise.

    Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
    •  
  2. 107 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    Sermon on the Mount

    And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
    Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.

    Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.

    Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.

    Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.

    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
  4. by   nekhismom
    Hmmm. I haven't seen the movie yet. But very interesting post.
  5. by   Darchild77
    Now don't jump on my back, but this is still just a hollywood movie!!. I don't understand why everyone is so opposed and whatever about one man's interpretation about Jesus' death. Movies usually represent one persons' ideas and opinions, it's not like this is a factual documentary!!! It's Hollywood and that's it
  6. by   Tweety
    Quote from Darchild77
    Now don't jump on my back, but this is still just a hollywood movie!!. I don't understand why everyone is so opposed and whatever about one man's interpretation about Jesus' death. Movies usually represent one persons' ideas and opinions, it's not like this is a factual documentary!!! It's Hollywood and that's it

    Well said. Somebody say AMEN!

    However, the problem being that Mr. Gibson in his interpretation stated it was God himself who made the movie, through the moving of the Holy Spirit.

    But you're right, people should lighten up. It's only a movie.
  7. by   Sheri257
    Quote from Darchild77
    Now don't jump on my back, but this is still just a hollywood movie!!. I don't understand why everyone is so opposed and whatever about one man's interpretation about Jesus' death. Movies usually represent one persons' ideas and opinions, it's not like this is a factual documentary!!! It's Hollywood and that's it
    People can't seem to understand this basic concept. Look at CBS pulling the Reagan movie. Or all the heat Oliver Stone took for JFK, which the media still attacked during the recent assassination anniversary coverage.

    I totally agree with you, but I don't understand why so many don't.
  8. by   eltrip
    Yes, indeed, it is a movie. Gibson felt that he needed to make this movie. It is his point-of-view of scripture being viewed on the screen including his interpretation of how he felt moved by the Holy Spirit. Our human minds will color any and every message that we receive whether written, spoken or viewed. We're just built that way as humans.

    I am hoping that those who view it do receive the spiritual uplift they expect. I am also hoping that this doesn't create any anti-semitism. If it does, rest assured I'll stand up and fight it.
  9. by   Jay-Jay
    Interesting article. Totally ignores the fact that many Jewish people have seen the movie, and say they do NOT find it anti-Semetic. Totally ignores the fact that one of the cast members was Jewish, and Mel frequently consulted her to make sure that the movie was accurate in its depiction of Jewish culture and customs.

    To each his own...
  10. by   NurseHardee
    The Jewish community is big and split, Jay-Jay. Many of the conservatives in the Jewish community are relunctant to criticize a film so exciting to so many proZionist Christians.

    Still, the whole message of Mel, his new film, and Mel's dad is that the Jewish community WAS full of inhuman monsters who turned on the 'son of god', and had him tortured to death. Mel's dad, at least, still thinks that Jews are victimizers and liars about the Holocaust. If Mel Gibson himself is not an anti-semitic hater of Jews, then all he has to do is be interviewed about his political opinions and clear the record.

    The fact that he hasn't done this before the release of this film says much, does it not? And the fact that he NOW doesn't come out and state that he explicitely doesn't blame the Jewish people for the world's problems and the death of Jesus says it all, as does the script of the film itself. It certainly appears that Mel is an anti-semitic hater of Jews and 'The Passion' is a film that conveys Mel's point of view. Why should anyone think otherwise?

    Here is a question in an interview with Mel Gibson that I came across, where Mel hides behind the Bible for why he blames the Jewish community in the film as he does. He says that he is merely being faithful to Scripture. But if the Jewish-Christian Rightist alliance were to fall apart, then we will once again see how this ' Christian fundamentalism' is pure viciousness and hatred hiding behind sanctimony. Mel states that Christ paid for all our sins... but it's clear that that is to mean only for all those that accept him as some sort of savior. The Jewish people of today do not.


    <<Q: But if this film is focused on bringing the Gospels to life, won't it be offensive to non-Christians? For example, the role of the Jewish leaders in Jesus' death. If you depict that, won't it be offensive?

    Gibson: This isn't a story about Jews vs. Christians. Jesus himself was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and so were his Twelve Apostles. It's true that, as the Bible says, "He came unto his own and his own received him not"; I can't hide that.

    But that doesn't mean that the sins of the past were any worse than the sins of the present. Christ paid the price for all our sins.

    The struggle between good and evil, and the overwhelming power of love go beyond race and culture. This film is about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. These are things that the world could use more of, particularly in these turbulent times. This film is meant to inspire, not to offend.>>

    Pure disingenuity, Mel.... The film is offensive, and not by mistake. I think it clear that Mel Gibson, as many Christians like him similarly do, clearly hates those who are not Christians and are unlike themselves.

    Nurse Hardee
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    [QUOTE=Jay-Jay]Interesting article. Totally ignores the fact that many Jewish people have seen the movie, and say they do NOT find it anti-Semetic. Totally ignores the fact that one of the cast members was Jewish, and Mel frequently consulted her to make sure that the movie was accurate in its depiction of Jewish culture and customs.
  11. by   fergus51
    He has said that it was not meant as an anti-semitic movie and that he doesn't think jews are responsible for murdering Christ. There is a reason he used his own hands in the scene where Jesus was nailed to the cross: because he said it was his hands. I don't think it's fair to claim to know what is in his heart because you disagree with his movie. I am not even a Christian and I don't want to see this movie, but I think the fact that there are many people who DON"T think it's anti-semitic shouldn't be dismissed so easily, anymore than the opposite point of view should be.
  12. by   LolaRN
    I think that it is great that this movie can serve as a springboard for a discussion. Just as the Left Behind books opened up a discussion about end times. None of us knows the exact facts because even the Bible has been interpreted thru the ages. Great ideas everyone and definitely something to think about.
  13. by   NurseHardee
    One of the best and more thoughtful commentaries about this film, even if it was written before the final release. It is from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Nurse Hardee
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    June 22, 2003
    MEL'S PASSION
    Gibson's making a film on Jesus worries some Jews
    By Marvin Hier and Harold Brackman

    Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 biblical epic, "The King of Kings" offended American Jews by portraying the Jewish people-rather than the Romans-as responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. DeMille dismissed criticism, insisting that "if Jesus were alive today, these Jews I speak of might crucify him again."

    But whether DeMille admitted it or not, the film did fuel anti-Semitism. Consider the following note, passed between two fourth-grade girls, that found its way into the files of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise: "Martha, I found out who killed our God. The Jews did it. I went to see King of Kings. It showed how the Jews killed him."

    Now comes Mel Gibson, who insists Jews and Catholics will have nothing to worry about in his new, self-financed, $25-million film, "The Passion." It's true that the final script hasn't been made available, and there is currently no release date, or even distributor, for the film. Still, there are reasons for concern.

    The passion of Christ-the crucifixion and hours leading up to it-has been used by bigots, including popes and kings, to inflame anti-Semitism through the ages. A belief that Jews were responsible for crucifying the son of God led Pope Innocent III to conclude in the early 13th century that Jews should be consigned to a state of "perpetual subservience" as wanderers and fugitives, and made to wear a mark on their clothing identifying them as Jews. His pronouncement reinforced widespread anti-Semitism that led over the centuries to millions of Jews being burned at the stake and murdered in pogroms throughout Christian Europe.

    Any film about such a sensitive subject would set off alarm bells. But a film by Gibson is particularly alarming. A New York Times Magazine story in March revealed that the actor's father questions many commonly accepted views of the Holocaust, including whether 6 million Jews were killed. Also revealed in the article was that Gibson himself has funded a Catholic splinter group that rejects the three popes elected since John XXIII died in 1963 and the reforms of Vatican II. Rejecting the accomplishments of Vatican II raises particular concerns for Jews, in that one of its significant achievements was the church's declaration that "the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God." It was that milestone that made possible the election of Pope John Paul II, who has done more for Catholic-Jewish relations then any of his predecessors.

    Gibson, who co-wrote the script for his film, has said he relied on three sources: the New Testament and two nuns. One of the nuns, Mary of Agreda, a 17th century Spanish aristocrat, wrote of the Jews involved in Christ's death: "Although they did not die [they] were chastised with intense pains These disorders consequently upon shedding the blood of Christ descended to their posterity and even to this day continue to afflict this group with horrible impurities." The other, Anne Catherine Emmerich, was an early 19th century German stigmatic who often described Jews as having hooked noses and who told of a vision she had in which she rescued from purgatory an old Jewish woman who confessed to her that Jews strangled Christian children and used their blood in the observance of their rituals. She claimed the woman in her vision told her that this practice was kept secret so it would not interfere with the Jews' commercial intercourse with Gentiles.

    Gibson should consider the political context before bringing out his film. Globally, anti-Semitism is at its highest peak since the end of World War II. Synagogues and Jewish schools have been firebombed and Jews beaten on the streets of France and Belgium. According to some recent polls, 17% of Americans (up from 12% five years ago) hold to political and economic stereotypes about Jews; 37% hold Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. On the Internet as well as in print media around the world, the new demonization of Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors is fusing with the old libel of the Jews as "Christ killers."

    A cartoon in the Italian newspaper La Stampa depicted an Israeli tank rolling up to a manger with little baby Jesus staring up in horror and crying out, "Do you want to kill me once more?"

    Gibson's secrecy about his film stands in contrast with the handling of other controversial films. The producers of a recent drama about the young Hitler responded to criticism by soliciting input from responsible critics. They got good suggestions that made for a better film. In Gibson's case, his lawyers threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose nine-member advisory board issued a thoughtful critique of a leaked version of his script. What is interesting is that the critics were not only Jews but also leaders and scholars of the Catholic Church.

    At this tinderbox moment in our new century, we need to be especially careful about a movie that has the potential to further ignite ancient hatreds. In a world where the Oberammergau Passion Play, a notoriously anti-Semitic presentation held every 10 years in Bavaria, is finally being toned down, it is ironic that we now have to be concerned about a possible revival of anti-Semitism in Hollywood.

    It shouldn't need saying, but apparently it does. The Romans and their procurator, Pontius Pilate, were in control of Jerusalem at the time of Christ's execution-not the Jews. Crucifixion was the preferred Roman method of punishment, not one sanctioned by Jewish law. Jesus and his followers were Jews; there was no Christianity back then. Could Jewish authorities have played a role in turning Jesus over to the Romans because they feared a revolt or because Judaism gives no credence to the notion of a divine messiah? Possibly. But, it was the Romans, not the Jews, who crucified him, as they had crucified thousands of other Jews. Yet it was the Jews alone who for 2,000 years have been held responsible, not because God wanted it that way but because bigots and anti-Semites insisted that it be that way.

    Gibson is a great actor and director, but he has a responsibility to make a movie that does not contribute further to a legacy of pain and suffering. Franco Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" avoided flaming anti-Semitism. And if Gibson uses a wise head and a brave heart, his movie can do it too.

    Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Wiesenthal Center.
  14. by   Jay-Jay
    Still, the whole message of Mel, his new film, and Mel's dad is that the Jewish community WAS full of inhuman monsters who turned on the 'son of god', and had him tortured to death. Mel's dad, at least, still thinks that Jews are victimizers and liars about the Holocaust. If Mel Gibson himself is not an anti-semitic hater of Jews, then all he has to do is be interviewed about his political opinions and clear the record.
    Mel HAS been interviewed about this, and you have quoted him below. The whole point Mel is trying to get across, the whole point of Christianity, is that Jesus died for US, for ALL of us, nonbelievers as well as believers. We are ALL sinners. That was the whole point of Mel showing HIS OWN HANDS driving the nails into the cross. It wasn't the Jews who crucified Jesus. Jesus CHOSE to die. He could have talked his way out of the crucifiction, had his disciples rescue him, done a hundred things to stop what was happening. He was the son of God and had the power to do so.


    Here is a question in an interview with Mel Gibson that I came across, where Mel hides behind the Bible for why he blames the Jewish community in the film as he does. He says that he is merely being faithful to Scripture. But if the Jewish-Christian Rightist alliance were to fall apart, then we will once again see how this ' Christian fundamentalism' is pure viciousness and hatred hiding behind sanctimony. Mel states that Christ paid for all our sins... but it's clear that that is to mean only for all those that accept him as some sort of savior. The Jewish people of today do not.

    <<Q: But if this film is focused on bringing the Gospels to life, won't it be offensive to non-Christians? For example, the role of the Jewish leaders in Jesus' death. If you depict that, won't it be offensive?

    Gibson: This isn't a story about Jews vs. Christians. Jesus himself was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and so were his Twelve Apostles. It's true that, as the Bible says, "He came unto his own and his own received him not"; I can't hide that.

    But that doesn't mean that the sins of the past were any worse than the sins of the present. Christ paid the price for all our sins.

    The struggle between good and evil, and the overwhelming power of love go beyond race and culture. This film is about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. These are things that the world could use more of, particularly in these turbulent times. This film is meant to inspire, not to offend.>>
    (I added the bold emphasis, as Mel has summed up, in a nutshell, Christianity as most Christians understand it. It IS about love, hope and forgiveness. If you choose not to believe, that, you are entitled to your opinion, but PLEASE do not take the man's words and twist them into something they were never meant to be. You are calling him a liar, without justification for doing so.

    Pure disingenuity, Mel.... The film is offensive, and not by mistake. I think it clear that Mel Gibson, as many Christians like him similarly do, clearly hates those who are not Christians and are unlike themselves.

    Nurse Hardee
    Sorry, Nurse Hardee, I couldn't disagree more!
    Last edit by Jay-Jay on Mar 4, '04

Must Read Topics


close