Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Mel Gibson's "Passion"

While reading a news report via Yahoo! News about Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion"--which chronicles the last 12 hours of Jesus' life--finally recieving a solid distribution deal, I was struck by a few things (and not for the first time):

The article reads:
The movie... has come under fire from some Jewish groups who claim its story could foment anti-Semitism by tying Christ's death to Jewish authorities.

But Catholic and Protestant groups, as well as biblical scholars, have defended the film, saying it sticks closely to accounts of the crucifixion as told in the New Testament.

This appears to me to be an attempt to portray the criticism of possible antisemitism as just the paranoia of the Jews, when in fact non-Jews have also expressed concern over the film. The Xian defense of the film is here being buttressed by the words of "biblical scholars," who one assumes are meant to be unbiased. However, it sidesteps the issue entirely. Most Jewish critics of the film fear antisemtic content because it sticks closely to the NT accounts. The Xian Gospels--especially John, which Gibson reportedly used extensively--are filled with antisemitism. It was upon the NT that the passion plays of old--which did regularly incite anti-Jewish acts of violence--were based. There is no question that Gibson is sticking to the NT. In fact, that may be the problem.

Personally, though I share some of the concerns regarding this film, I am reserving judgement until I can actually view the piece. I agree 100% with the statement released by the ADL:

If in fact Pope John Paul II has screened Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" and if in fact his reaction to the film was positive, as has been reported, then we respect his statement. The Pope has a record and history of sensitivity to the Jewish community and has a clear moral voice and understanding when it comes to anti-Semitism.

However, we must reserve final judgment on "The Passion of Christ" until we have an opportunity to see the film. We hope that Mel Gibson has heard our concerns and those of Christian and Jewish scholars and religious leaders, who expressed unease about the earlier version of the film and its potential to fuel, rationalize and legitimize anti-Semitism.

If Mel Gibson has changed the film, which he has referred to all along as a "work-in-progress," then we would welcome that. We would like the opportunity to screen the final version for ourselves to see if the scenes of concern have been changed, and if so, publicly congratulate him.


The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.