Thursday, August 18, 2005

My Feb. 2004 Essay on Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"

My Take on Mel’s Movie (Sight Unseen)
Holly in Cincinnati, 2/15/04


Mel Gibson claims that his new film, "The Passion of the Christ" is about "faith, hope, love and forgiveness." If I were to see his movie, I doubt that I would see even one ounce of these qualities – they are simply not connotations of the Cross for non-Christians. I cannot speak for all Jews and Mr. Gibson cannot speak for all Christians, but it should be obvious that when Jews and Christians look at the story of Jesus' crucifixion or even a cross on the outside of a church, we do not see the same things.

Superstitious Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe would spit or “poo-poo” to ward off the Evil Eye upon seeing such an ill omen. When they saw a church, they walked on the other side of the street. I do not know what a Christian sees when he looks at a cross or a crucifix. Quite possibly "faith, hope, love and forgiveness." At best, I see something to be ignored or something meaningless. More typically I see persecution, hatred, anti-Semitism, murder, bigotry, falsehood, racism, calumny and evil. I asked a friend who is converting from Islam to Judaism for his reaction: "Muslims see the cross as a symbol of oppression...when you see the cross coming, either prepare to run or fight: the Christians have come to kill you and take your land and possessions...I know that I would see a film that was sowing the seeds of hatred, persecution, destruction, and death." Do churches seriously think that this movie will be an evangelizing tool?

From what I have read, this movie is unbelievably graphic and violent and will be attended mostly by people who publicly deplore popular culture, sex and violence. This gives them an "acceptable" reason to attend the film and delight in their baser emotions. In Europe, the most common reaction of the ignorant populace to medieval Passion Plays and bloody sermons was to rush out of the church, murder the neighborhood Jews and seize their property. The Crusades were only an extension of this nasty attitude into the Muslim world. Although this is not likely to happen in North America, it is a real possibility on other continents.

Christians and Jews who express concern about this film are subject to vicious personal attacks. Some fundamentalist evangelical Protestants have made veiled threats that, since they support the State of Israel, Jews should shut up. Mr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, said of suggestions that the film could spark violence against Jews, “The obvious implication is that Jews need to fear practicing Christians more than agnostics or atheists or Muslims.” Maybe this is news for Mr. Donahue, but I do fear (some) practicing Christians far more than I fear agnostics or atheists. Christians often seek to change my God-concept, religion, politics, values and sexual orientation, whereas agnostics and atheists generally respect me for who and what I am.

Mr. Gibson says that his movie is "meant to make viewers realize the extent of Christ's sacrifice." For non-Christians, "Christ's sacrifice" means nothing. Mr. Gibson’s statements that Jesus "died and suffered for all mankind” and “we're all culpable in the death of Christ” seem incredibly ignorant, insensitive and insulting to non-Christians. We do not consider ourselves to be guilty of any acts for which Jesus’ death could possibly atone. This Jew’s death seems wasted, a fabrication, as if you murdered my cousin Josh and blamed me for it. This is the theological equivalent of shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater just for kicks, thereby causing dozens of people to be trampled to death. A good case can be made that this controversial portrayal of a radioactive slice of the Gospels violates several of the 10 Commandments.

I have problems with being slandered as a murderer. If I were to see this movie, which I doubt because a) I do not want Mr. Gibson to get even one cent of my money and b) I'm not into snuff porn, I doubt that I would see anything but misery, false witness and Mr. Gibson raking in the dollars. It’s not about love – it’s about money. Is it at all likely that God will forgive Mel Gibson for this atrocity?