As one of the few
Jewish writers who tried to lower the decibel level of vituperation regarding
Mel Gibson’s movie, and as one who was primarily critical only of his liberal
use of cinematic artistic license and selectivity of history and scripture
in his portrayal of the Passion, I feel I have an obligation to speak my
mind about the real problem with Mel Gibson.
Mr. Gibson’s faith and his desire to bring it to life using the genre of
movies. Granted that movies are a pretty dumbed-down way to faith, but we
are living in such times. Nevertheless, Mr. Gibson does have guilt on his
head. He has set himself up as a religious personality and must take the
responsibility that goes with it.
Gibson is sincere that his movie is not anti-Jewish but about universal love,
then he must speak openly and loudly to the Christian community that his
work not be misinterpreted. Instead, Mr. Gibson has chosen to speak
occasionally on television before friendly interviewers and made fairly empty
remarks that “we are all guilty of Jesus’ death,” in spite of the fact that
this does not seem to be image movie-goers get while watching ugly Jewish
mobs and smug and sadistic Jewish leaders watch Jesus’ gruesome and violent
death. The voluntarism of Jesus’ sacrifice and the universality of
mankind’s guilt are not the first things that come to the viewers’ minds.
If that was Mr. Gibson’s meaning then he should be screaming from the rooftops
that people should not be misled by his movie. Mel Gibson has done nothing
of the sort and is quite content to let the social fallout be whatever it
will be. He has made himself a religious spokesman and if he believes
in tolerance and love, he should be everywhere spreading that message in
the same way that he acted like a typical Hollywood producer, selling his
movie like a carnival barker on every talk show that would have him. This
act of omission is serious.
should acknowledge the terrible results of his movie that have already occurred
in Europe. Jewish children have been beaten in hundreds of incidents and
the cry of “Christ killers” has once again raised its ugly head. Mr. Gibson
needs to go to Europe and set the record straight as to the meaning of his
movie and to condemn in the strongest possible terms the entirely PREDICTABLE
outbreaks of anti-Jewish behavior in Europe. Mr. Gibson should be working
with all people of god will in Europe to stop this phenomenon. Given
the climate in France, could Mr. Gibson have been so naïve as to believe
that anything but anti-Jewish outbreaks would occur? Does Mr. Gibson believe
that in Russia his movie will lead to interfaith dialogue? Can Mr. Gibson
believe that the Islamic world will use his film as anything BUT a further
tool of incitement against Israel and Jews? Mel Gibson is a sophisticated
film maker. He knows the financial rewards of overseas markets and
the distribution rights to other countries. Mr. Gibson’s silence and lack
of action on these fronts is nothing short of shameful. Mr. Gibson will have
Jewish blood on his hands in nations less enlightened and tolerant than the
United States. This is a sin of commission. Incitement to violence and murder
is not the sign of a man of love.
Where are the televangelists that were so quick to defend Mr. Gibson, now
that their job is only half done? Do they not need to say to both American
audiences and foreign audiences what they have said here in the US? While
Mr. Gibson may have awakened the faith of many in America, he has also opened
a Pandora’s Box of hatred among a small minority in the US and among the
not-so-silent majority abroad. I have little doubt that Jews will die in
violent acts because of this film and the failure of Mr. Gibson to condemn
publicly and in important venues any anti-Jewish interpretation of his film
(although the film itself will make that quite difficult). Mr. Gibson needs
to get over his whining, self-pitying, “I am a victim of the Hollywood establishment”
role and think of the real victims he is helping to create. His behavior
so far has been self-righteous and belligerent. It would seem the Hollywood
establishment has been pretty good to Mel over the years. When Mel was getting
started and needed the money, he did his own fair share of schlock movies
with questionable moral messages.
I must finally discuss the most unseemly aspect of Mel Gibson. His recent interview in Reader’s Digest
and his many statements prior to that leave absolutely no doubt that he is
a Holocaust-denier like his father. I do not know if he believes every crazy
idea of his father (like the Jews were secretly responsible for 9/11), but
he has done absolutely nothing to disavow such beliefs. He mentions the Holocaust
by saying that “some Jews died…war is terrible…” He then compares that to
civilian casualties in the Second World War. Apparently Mr. Gibson can make
no distinction between a systematic plan to exterminate a people and a religion
and the normal ravages of civilian populations in total war. Even the biggest
Holocaust-deniers agree that “some Jews were killed by the Nazis.” That is
no major breakthrough. His words reinforce neo-Nazis here and abroad.
He has the absolute gall to trivialize the deaths of six million people and
a plan to exterminate an entire people. I can understand that Mr. Gibson
does not want to attack his father’s Jew hatred publicly out of some filial
devotion. That’s one thing; but now he is showing his agreement with his
Before the movie, Mel Gibson deserved the benefit of the doubt. His subsequent
behavior leaves him beyond the pale of civilized opinion. Instead of furthering
the goal of trying to reassert traditional values in American life and general
opinion, Mr. Gibson has set back the cause of traditionalists by restoring
the worst stereotypes of traditionalist and religious people as mere bigots.
This is NOT true, but thanks to Mr. Gibson a lot of work has been undone.
As a Catholic he should run—not walk—to confess his sins. Then again, I forgot
that Mel doesn’t believe that the Catholic Church is Catholic enough for
him. He rejects the teachings of the Popes since Vatican 2. He has set up
Gibsonian Catholicism. From whom does a man who is holier than the Pope receive
absolution of sins? It is good that Mr. Gibson believes in a forgiving God
because he will need it.
Scott Shore is a political commentator and management consultant in Providence, Rhode Island.
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