OK, I`ve seen Mel Gibson`s film
The Passion of the Christ and am therefore
entitled to pronounce the definitive and final word on a
subject over which more ink has already been spilled
than cuttlefish can squirt.
I have to confess the film did
nothing for me religiously and even less aesthetically.
It`s a well-made movie, but the brutality inflicted on
the person of Jesus I found repellent, tasteless,
bordering on the blasphemous and implausible.
A human being who gets the kind of
beating administered in the movie would be dead or
dying, and he wouldn`t be lugging a 15-foot-tall cross
for several miles an hour or so later.
The answer is "No."
Yes, Jewish priests and their
hired mob are depicted as engineering the execution of
Jesus, carried out by Roman soldiers. This is from the
New Testament account, the only historical source we
have about the event, and it`s perfectly consistent with
the teaching of the Catholic Church today. "The
authorities and those who followed their lead
pressed for the death of Christ," Pope Paul VI
stated in his 1965
Nostra Aetate declaration.
The writers (mainly but not
entirely Jewish) who have
denounced the movie for anti-Semitism have dwelled
on the Jewish role in the crucifixion as the main basis
for their claims, and they don`t hesitate to instruct
Mr. Gibson, a lifelong
traditional Catholic, in his own religion.
But neither the Church nor Mel
Gibson can rewrite historical documents the way these
writers demand. The more important point is that
neither Paul VI nor Mr. Gibson`s film holds Jews today
or all Jews responsible for the killing of Christ, which
is what most of the critics try to lump in with the
historical account. The pope added, "What happened in
His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews,
without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of
today." The movie insists on the universal
responsibility of mankind for Christ`s death and dwells
most of all on
Christ`s own forgiveness of those who tortured and
At no time during or after the
movie did I get the idea that it blamed all Jews or that
you were supposed to get that idea.
Yet the response to the film has
been literally hysterical. "Gibson`s
Blood Libel,“ yells Charles
concludes Richard Cohen.
"Unambiguously contrived to vilify Jews" says
Frank Rich. Gibson "has chosen to give millions
of people the impression that Jews are culpable for the
death of Jesus," writes Leon Wieseltier in the
That`s only a small sample.
But probably the most bizarre
reaction comes from an Orthodox Rabbi, Ariel Bar Tzadok,
writes that he feels nothing for the sufferings of
the mother of Jesus watching the crucifixion of her son,
a story "considered by many non-Christians to be a
fictional account recorded in the Gospels."
What the rabbi does identify with
Jewish mothers who cried for their sons, suffering from
Spanish Inquisitors, and all types of European
Crusaders. All of these persecutors of the Jews held
one thing in common, they were all Christians, and they
had all at one time or another seen a `passion play,`
similar to Mr. Gibson`s movie that motivated them to, in
their eyes, take revenge for Christ against those who
Well, now, speaking of
Aside from his
insulting parody of Christianity, what`s important
here is what the rabbi`s fiction tells us about the
Jewish reaction to The Passion. His response is
extreme—but not really very different from other
And what that reaction reveals is
that many Jews—Orthodox and traditional as well as
modern and secular—seem to harbor a deep, ineradicable
Christianity itself and the central events of the
It`s more than the normal dislike
one religion often feels for another but a hatred drawn
from what they insist are centuries of vicious
persecution of Jews, a persecution held to come from
the heart of Christianity itself.
If that kind of hatred does lurk
in the Jewish psyche, then there`s a much bigger problem
here than Mel Gibson`s movie.
There`s a fundamental (and perhaps
irresolvable) conflict with a country and a civilization
that—as the immense popularity of The Passion of
Christ shows—continue to insist on calling
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,
America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The
Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available
Americans For Immigration Control.
for Sam Francis` website. Click
here to order his monograph,
Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American
Political Future and
Glynn Custred`s review.]