Two weeks before Mel Gibson's Passion
flashes onto two thousand screens, online ticket merchants are reporting
that up to half their total sales are for advance purchases for Passion. One Dallas multiplex has reserved all twenty of its screens for The Passion.
I am neither a prophet nor a movie critic. I am merely an Orthodox rabbi
using ancient Jewish wisdom to make three predictions about The Passion.
One, Mel Gibson and Icon Productions will make a great deal of money. Those
distributors who surrendered to pressure from Jewish organizations and passed
on Passion will be kicking themselves, while Newmarket Films will
laugh all the way to the bank. Theater owners are going to love this film.
Two, Passion will become famous as the most serious and substantive
Biblical movie ever made. It will be one of the most talked-about entertainment
events in history, it is currently on the cover of Newsweek and Vanity Fair.
My third prediction is that the faith of millions of Christians will become more fervent as Passion uplifts and inspires them. Passion
will propel vast numbers of unreligious Americans to embrace Christianity.
The movie will one day be seen as a harbinger of America's third great religious
Those Jewish organizations that have squandered both time and money futilely protesting Passion,
ostensibly in order to prevent pogroms in Pittsburgh, can hardly be proud
of their performance. They failed at everything they attempted. They were
hoping to ruin Gibson rather than enrich him. They were hoping to suppress
Passion rather than promote it. Finally, they were hoping to help Jews rather than harm them.
Here I digress slightly to exercise the Jewish value of "giving the benefit
of the doubt" by discounting cynical suggestions growing in popularity, that
the very public nature of their attack on Gibson exposed their real purpose
-- fundraising. Apparently, frightening wealthy widows in Florida about anti-Semitic
thugs prowling the streets of America causes them to open their pocketbooks
and refill the coffers of groups with little other raison d'être. But let's assume they were hoping to help Jews.
However, instead of helping the Jewish community, they have inflicted lasting
harm. By selectively unleashing their fury only on wholesome entertainment
that depicts Christianity, in a positive light, they have triggered anger,
hurt, and resentment. Hosting the Toward Tradition Radio Show and speaking
before many audiences nationwide, I enjoy extensive communication with Christian
America and what I hear is troubling. Fearful of attracting the ire of Jewish
groups that are so quick to hurl the "anti-Semite" epithet, some Christians
are reluctant to speak out. Although one can bludgeon resentful people into
silence, behind closed doors emotions continue to simmer.
I consider it crucially important for Christians to know that not all Jews
are in agreement with their self-appointed spokesmen. Most American Jews,
experiencing warm and gracious interactions each day with their Christian
fellow-citizens, would feel awkward trying to explain why so many Jewish
organizations seem focused on an agenda hostile to Judeo-Christian values.
Many individual Jews have shared with me their embarrassment that groups,
ostensibly representing them, attack Passion but are silent about
depraved entertainment that encourages killing cops and brutalizing women.
Citing artistic freedom, Jewish groups helped protect sacrilegious exhibits
such as the anti-Christian feces extravaganza presented by the Brooklyn Museum
four years ago. One can hardly blame Christians for assuming that Jews feel
artistic freedom is important only when exercised by those hostile toward
Christianity. However, this is not how all Jews feel.
From audiences around America, I am encountering bitterness at Jewish organizations
insisting that belief in the New Testament is de facto evidence of
anti-Semitism. Christians heard Jewish leaders denouncing Gibson for making
a movie that follows Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion long before any of
them had even seen the movie. Furthermore, Christians are hurt that Jewish
groups are presuming to teach them what Christian Scripture "really means."
Listen to a rabbi whom I debated on the Fox television show hosted by Bill
O'Reilly last September. This is what he said, "We have a responsibility
as Jews, as thinking Jews, as people of theology, to respond to our Christian
brothers and to engage them, be it Protestants, be it Catholics, and say,
look, this is not your history, this is not your theology, this does not
represent what you believe in."
He happens to be a respected rabbi and a good one, but he too has bought
into the preposterous proposition that Jews will reeducate Christians about
Christian theology and history. Is it any wonder that this breathtaking arrogance
Many Christians who, with good reason, have considered themselves to be Jews'
best (and perhaps, only) friends also feel bitter at Jews believing that
Passion is revealing startling new information about the
Crucifixion. They are incredulous at Jews thinking that exposure to the Gospels
in visual form will instantly transform the most philo-Semitic gentiles of
history into snarling, Jew-hating predators.
Christians are baffled by Jews who don't understand that President George
Washington, who knew and revered every word of the Gospels, was still able
to write that oft-quoted beautiful letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport,
offering friendship and full participation in America to the Jewish community.
One of the directors of the AJC recently warned that Passion "could
undermine the sense of community between Christians and Jews that's going
on in this country. We're not allowing the film to do that." No sir, it isn't
the film that threatens the sense of community; it is the arrogant and intemperate
response of Jewish organizations that does so.
Jewish organizations, hoping to help but failing so spectacularly, refute
all myths of Jewish intelligence. How could their plans have been so misguided
and the execution so inept?
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that nothing confuses one's thinking more than
being in the grip of the two powerful emotions, love and hate. The actions
of these Jewish organizations sadly suggest that they are in the grip of
a hatred for Christianity that is only harming Jews.
Today, peril threatens all Americans, both Jews and Christians. Many of the
men and women in the front lines find great support in their Christian faith.
It is strange that Jewish organizations, purporting to protect Jews, think
that insulting allies is the preferred way to carry out that mandate.
A ferocious Rottweiler dog in your suburban home will quickly estrange your
family from the neighborhood. For those of us in the Jewish community who
cherish friendship with our neighbors, some Jewish organizations have become
our Rottweilers. God help us.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin is the Founder and Director of Toward Tradition, working to advance our nation toward the traditional Judeo-Christian values that defined America's creation.