My 'Passion' Transformation
A Muslim writer raised in a Jewish-Christian family finds his view of Jesus and the Crucifixion altered by Gibson's film.
More than a week has passed since I saw Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," joining the hundreds of thousands who made its opening day one of the biggest in movie history. Like most of the people who have already commented on the film, I found it a profound and harrowing experience that is hard for me to react to outside my personal religious history. So I should begin with that.
I am the product of a Jewish-Christian marriage. Following the religion of my Jewish father, I began life as a Jew. But the marriage ended bitterly after a few years, and I was raised from then on as a Christian.
I was an enthusiastic Christian as a child, especially in regard to my love of Jesus. So when a charismatic fundamentalist minister moved to my small town during my teenage years, I gravitated to his exciting message that Christ was returning soon.
Every night at my bedside I begged Jesus to accept me into his coming kingdom and waited for the trumpet of the apocalypse. But the end of days never came, and I began to feel worn out by all the anxiety. I also began to be repelled by that particular church's increasing insistence that the Jews, along with other non-believers (which by its definition included many Christians), were damned.
By then, I was completely convinced by my church that it represented the only true interpretation of Christian theology. So when I finally rejected it, I rejected all of Christianity as well.
After years of being essentially an atheist yet yearning for a return to religion, I was introduced to Islam. I was immediately attracted to its message of compassion and tolerance-though to listen to both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists talk about Islam today, you wouldn't know that such a message exists in it at all.
And that is my own point of personal departure for "The Passion of the Christ." These last few years have been emotionally taxing for most American Muslims. From abroad, we are stunned by religiously justified violence that defies everything we believe about our faith. At home, we feel attacked by hostile rhetoric about Islam that would never be accepted in the public square about any other faith.