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Time for Mel Gibson to Go to the Confessional
by Scott Shore
12 March 2004

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.

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.

I respect 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.

If Mr. 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.

Mr. Gibson 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 father’s ideas.

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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