Gibson and His Enemies
February 19, 2004
to a verse in the Book of Proverbs, I
believe (though, being a Catholic, I cant find it), There is no
such thing as bad publicity.
Thanks in large part to vitriolic
protests by Jewish groups, Mel Gibsons forthcoming film
The Passion of the Christ will surely be a stupendously
popular movie. Jewish-owned media have given it enormous pre-release
advertising hostile, to be sure, but free of charge.
Gibson risked more than $20
million of his own money on the film, filling out the spare Gospel accounts
of the Crucifixion with vivid details. As many who have seen it attest,
its very hard to watch. Unlike most films, it makes violence
horribly ugly and repulsive. To watch even a terrible criminal crucified
a routine Roman punishment would sicken most modern
viewers. But to see a re-creation of Christs torture and death is
far worse for Christian audiences, who can only see in it what their own
sins did to their Savior.
I saw a screening of it in
November. When the film ended, the small audience sat in appalled silence
for several minutes. And this is the reported reaction at every screening.
The notion that The
Passion (as it was then called) could inspire hatred, let alone
violence, against Jews, or anyone else, is hysterical. Its perhaps
the most violent film ever made, precisely because it shows how hideous
violence really is.
But Gibson isnt the only
one who is getting free publicity. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation
League is getting it too, as he makes the wild accusation, in countless
interviews and newspaper columns, that the film will cause
Well, maybe it will if
you equate anti-Semitism with Christianity, which seems
to be the implication. According to many Jewish writers, even the Gospels
are anti-Semitic, as was the entire Christian tradition until the Second
Vatican Council in 1965. Some, like Hyam Maccoby, actually blame
Christianity for Hitler and the Holocaust.
stop with the Gospels? If the entire religion centered on hostility to the
Jews, why not blame the founder himself? Foxman and his ilk never
explain why they exempt Jesus from the accusation. But if all his early
followers and their successors were anti-Semitic for two millennia, this
calls for an explanation.
According to the Talmud and
other authoritative Jewish writings, Jesus was a bastard
and sorcerer who deserved his death and is now in hell,
boiling in excrement. These lurid writings, which date from
centuries after the Crucifixion, are disgusting to a degree that might
shock Larry Flynt.
Foxman never mentions these
religious texts. Would he object to a film about Jesus based
Such obscene smears bear out
Christs own prediction that he and his disciples would be hated by
the world. So have the innumerable Christian martyrs even to our own
time, some of whom are still being persecuted from the Sudan to China.
Nobody today actively hates
anyone else from that period, not even such horrifying tyrants as Nero and
Caligula. But after 2,000 years, the gentle Savior, Jesus Christ, is
still hated. That is one perverse testimony to the power of his message
and of the Gospels that bear it.
A watered-down or distorted
image of Jesus, as in Martin Scorseses Last Temptation of
Christ, doesnt move the Foxmans of this world to fury.
Nobody would bother crucifying Scorseses bland Jesus, who could
excite neither hatred nor devotion, let alone change even the secular world
If Gibsons film can be
faulted for anything, it may be for failing to show how popular Jesus was
among the ordinary Jews of Jerusalem, who had wildly welcomed him only
days before his murder. This popularity, the Gospels tell us, was the
reason both the Jewish and Roman authorities feared him and decided to
try him at night, in secret.
Not that Gibsons enemies
would applaud him for showing the adoring crowd greeting Christ on Palm
Sunday. That might offend them worse than the vicious crowd he does
One can only marvel at the
almost lunatic self-absorption of those who feel victimized by The
Passion of the Christ. This film is not about them, any more than
its about the Roman Empire. Its about the Son of God.