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Here we go again…

Posted by Chance on August 2, 2006

Well, Mel made a complete fool of himself as you all have probably heard by now. One of the sad things about this is that it affects the perspective of Passion of the Christ. Critics of the movie are now saying “Ah hah! I knew it! Passion of the Christ was anti-Semitic!

This is an old issue, but one that is being raised again, thanks to Mel’s brush with the law.

A few points.

1) The fact that the bad guys in a movie belong to a certain ethnic group is, by no means, necessarily intended to target an ethnic group in a certain way. The fact is, the people who participated in the murder of Jesus were Jewish and the Roman. That’s a matter of history, not just of the Bible. You cannot edit a movie and ignore historical fact. Is Schindler’s List anti-Germanic because the bad guys did heinous things to the Jews? That was a separation of 50 years, not 2000. What about Roots? Is that anti-whitey? Should that movie have not been made because it could result in bad feelings towards white people?

2) The people who killed Jesus just happened to be Jews. The people who killed Jesus were simply greedy for power. It wasn’t an issue of Judaism vs. this new way Christ was introducing. Otherwise, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have dismissed him as a wacko and let him be. However, they knew He was a threat to their position. The land of Israel just happened to be where God chose to send His Son.

3) Jesus died for our sins. The Jews and the Romans happened to be His instruments, but it was our sins that put Him there in the first place.

4) True Christianity in no way harbors hatred towards the Jews. There may be some supposed, even actual, Christians, who claimed that the Jews killed Christ and harbor resentment because of their collective rejection as Christianity as Messiah. However, this is not applying true Christianity. If someone hates the Jews because of the crucifixion, that is because they are ignoring the tenets of Christianity, not applying them. Growing up as a Christian, I don’t believe I, for one, gathered hatred from the Jews through the Bible or my Christian teachers/leaders. It’s just not a natural response to the whole story. Growing up, I never thought, “Oh, it was the Jews that killed Him.” As I said earlier, they just happened to be the ones, instead of the Grecians, or Swiss.

Why is retelling the story of the crucifixion anti-Semitic? That, and the resurrection, are central pieces to Christianity, yet I believe an overwhelming number of Christians have a love for the Jews, or at worst, an indifference. The few wackos who uses the crucifixion for hatred of the Jews are hardly the norm.


3 Responses to “Here we go again…”

  1. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    I think you misunderstand why many reviewers like myself considered The Passion of the Christ to be anti-Semitic. It wasn’t just that some villains were Jewish, but the Romans were portrayed sympathetically as potential converts and as just too easily manipulated by evil Jewish leaders.
    Then there was that weird devil figure that seem to infect the Jewish people.

    This did not come from Scripture, but from a Medieval passion play and they were notorious for being used in Easter season to stir up Christian hatred for Jews. Priests would lead their congregations from church on Good Friday into the Jewish ghettos and destroy synagogues and murder “Christ killers.” I think Gibson shares that view and that it comes across in his film.

    I also objected to the way the film tried to present the death apart from Jesus’ life (seeing a brief healing and teaching flashback does’t cut it), so you don’t know WHY Jesus was a threat to the Roman rulers and the Jewish elites so it looks like he was just killed out of “Jewish evilness.” In general, I think evangelicals try to separate Jesus’ death and resurrection (and where was the resurrection in this movie?)from his life–so they see his death primarily as fulfilling God’s plan instead of seeing it in the context of his mission and the opposition it generated.

    The concentration on the pain of the crucifixion (positively pornographic in detail) misses the NT concentration on the SHAME of the cross, too.

    Back to anti-Semitism. In general, now that the churches are almost entirely Gentile, we miss the Jewishness of Jesus and the Gospels. The fight between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was an argument between rival Jewish groups. Both the Pharisee movement and the Jesus movement were alternative (and rival) renwal movements within Judaism. So, Jesus’ critique is a sibling rivalry and it is like the prophets’ criticism of Israel in the OT–an internal critique. This all sounds different when Gentile churches make sweeping statements about “the Jews.”

    Much more teaching needed in the churches and Gibson’s film didn’t help matters.

  2. Chance said

    Hey Michael, thanks for the comments.

    I’ve only seen the movie once, so I would have to see it again to judge for myself how the Romans were portrayed. I remember Herod was displayed as a creepy hedonist, and I don’t remember the potential for conversion there. I do remember that Pilate was not portrayed as such a bad guy, as a guy caught in circumstances, but this does not deviate too far from the biblical account. Not that it is justified, but Pilate had no malicious motive, just one of trying to appease his superiors.

    It would have been nice if the film focused on Jesus actual life and teachings, but I think it was more of a choice of the direction of the movie, but I don’t think this absence stirred more hatred towards the Jews. In fact, I believe showing the events of his life would have stirred more anger. I won’t say the film took the wrong direction, but I could see how hard it would be for someone less familiar with the gospels to be as sympathetic to Jesus dying, not actually seeing what else he had done on earth.

    “and where was the resurrection in this movie?”
    I agree. I did hate to see such a minor part devoted to the resurrection. No offense to Catholics, but I think the fact that Mel is a Catholic may have led to this focus. I can explain that statement if you wish.

    Concerning the pain of the crucifixion, I do agree that the crucifixion was more than a painful ordeal, but that Jesus was taking on the sin of the entire world, if that is what you are referring to, as far as shame. The metaphysical is hard to illustrate however, and I think the devil figure was an attempt to illustrate that there was physical stuff going on as well.

  3. The Prophet said

    Great post, Chance. First wars & rumors, now Mel Gibson an anti-semite?!?

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