Those of us who strongly opposed “The Passion of the Christ” as defamatory of Jews should feel no sense of vindication now that Mel has shown what he really thinks of Jews. On the contrary, this story is a tragedy all around. Who would have thought that in Hollywood of all places there could be personalities so filled with Jew-hatred? The tragedy is compounded by the fact that Mel Gibson largely established his career in the role of a white detective who has the warmest possible relationship with his black partner in the “Lethal Weapon” movies. Turns out that all along good ol’ Mel was a bigot.
Not that we should have been all that surprised, given the Holocaust-denying remarks Mel’s father has always made publicly, with Mel saying in his defense, “My father never lied to me.”
Still, there are a number of things to be learned from this sad event. Firstly, all those who defended “The Passion of the Christ” as a benign movie about the death of Jesus ought to do some real soul-searching. This defamatory movie repeated the oldest and most destructive lie ever told, that the Jews killed god. Millions of Jews throughout history have been murdered over this lie. And yet, when a modern movie appeared portraying the Jews as bloodthirsty and desperate to see a dead Jesus, it became one of the biggest box office successes of all time. Worse, so many of our evangelical brothers and sisters promoted the movie as a modern Christian triumph. Churches around the country who normally love and support Israel rushed to show the movie to their flocks, as if doing so were a sacrament. They defended Mel Gibson especially as having made a film that promoted Christianity rather than defamed Jews. I hope that they will now reconsider their attitude toward the film and stop showing it at churches, as it perpetuates the stereotype of Jews as perfidious Judases.
Likewise, I especially hope that the many Jewish conservatives who defended Mel Gibson and even heavily promoted the movie will rethink their support.
However, Mel Gibson has now apologized, and I am a great believer in apologies. So his apology ought to be accepted, even though it was not courageous enough to apologize to the Jewish community directly. For those who would say that his apology was not even sincere, I would answer that apologies should not be examined as to their sincerity. Rather, if a man apologizes, he should be taken at his word.
I honestly hope that Mel Gibson will find the healing that his body needs from alcoholism and that his soul needs from bigotry. I honestly hold no ill will toward him. He is clearly a troubled man. Why someone that successful would need to hate a whole group for no reason is something that we will probably never understand. And I pity him, just as I pity any man whose inexplicable hatred compromises his humanity.
Having said this, it is proper that Mel Gibson’s apology be coupled with action. He should make it up to the Jewish community by re-releasing “The Passion of the Christ” with an important disclaimer at the very beginning of the film detailing the undisputed historical fact that the Romans killed Jesus, and that any of the Jewish leadership, like Caiaphas the High Priest, who called for Jesus’ death were all in the employ of Rome, and indeed served as the Roman police enforcers in Judea.
Because claiming to love Jesus and simultaneously hating Jews are deeply contradictory, since Jesus was not a Catholic or a Christian, but a Jew.
Finally, a word to Mel: I have long been impressed by your devotion to your father, especially since he appears to have a screw loose. Even so, you stuck by him. But the Commandment that instructs us to honor our parents does not mean that we ought to honor their bigotry. On the contrary, we honor our parents by becoming better people than they and righting their wrongs.