I’ve never lived through a pogrom, but I can well imagine that one understands hatred, ignorance, and bigotry up close and personal after having been through such a horror. I’ve never lived in a Jewish ghetto, but I imagine I would certainly resent any who caused my condition.
Let's Begin with Empathy
If I had lived through the ghetto and a 20th Century holocaust, I imagine Gibson’s The Passion might also cause me to fear that small-minded people might blame all Jews as responsible for an event that happened 2,000 years ago.
The good news is most Christians are not small-minded. In fact, we, too, are not unacquainted with (existential as opposed to cynical) doubt which is part of the human condition, and so can relate to our fellow man who might not yet embrace our core joy in accepting the Gospel. We see all people first as human beings, not as Jews or Muslims or Christians, but as members of one family. My religious views determine in large part who I am, but such views are still secondary to being human first, much as race, and nationality are.
Though secondary to being human, religious beliefs must be respected. Bigotry can be a two way street. Christians do not attack the Hebrew Scriptures, we embrace them as revelation. We do not cynically approach them as mythological or as merely politically motivated. We reverence them as the sacred revelation of the One God who reveals Himself precisely through the vicissitudes of history. We preach their truths from the pulpit; we pray them in our monasteries and breviaries.
ADL Cannot Really Intend to Mock the Apostles
The ADL takes issue with the Gibson movie, however, without regard for the historical witness which the Christian scriptures represent: “The film relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate…”
Are the ADL and friends too hurt by past wounds to see that they are in danger of wounding Christians by suggesting we are knowingly propagating historical error when we say that some of the Jewish leadership induced Pilate to cave after Herod the Tetrarch was unwilling to kill Jesus himself? Must they insist on the notion that the (mostly Jewish) Gospel witnesses deliberately misrepresented the Sanhedrin and (according to their version, not the Gospel witness) made Pilate look innocent of the whole affair (he was not entirely innocent) and that the Gospel writers purposefully misrepresented the facts only so they would be free to spread the Gospel in Roman territories having made the “Jews” look more guilty than the Romans?
This would make the Gospel witnesses simple liars. This mocks the Founder of Christianity and His followers and casts doubt on the trustworthiness of these men. This is hardly a friendly suggestion. Indeed it can turn into a form of religious bigotry and persecution.
Forward to the Historical Truth
Those making such charges or innuendoes, of course, are free to do this, because in America free speech is protected. However, the only persons stirring-up trouble are those who will not let Gibson allow what the Gospels witness attest. Gibson is only attesting to what the followers of Jesus witnessed as historically true. Corruption by some in high places led to innocent people’s deaths, in this case Jesus’. Is that so hard to believe, considering history? Those questioning the Gospel's historical account may suggest that Christians are liars and in this way pick a fight, but it is a simple truth that only a fringe will ever infer that all Jews were or are responsible for Christ’s death.
More importantly, we don’t hold anyone today responsible, except ourselves, because it is a dogma of our faith that Christ died to save all sinners, for whom He died.
If any are still needlessly worried, instead of denying Gibson the right to show the Gospels in cinema, perhaps they could ask that the movie contain a personal foreword, stating what has been carefully agreed in Christian-Jewish interfaith dialog, that the Jews of today are not responsible and that every human being has value precisely because he or she is human, not because of his religion. Mr. Gibson would probably be more than happy to accommodate you on this. Otherwise, one can only suspect that there are deeper, more complex, motivations for criticism of this movie, than the ones openly stated thus far.
Matthew Tsakanikas is married with 3 children and has a B.A. in Theology from Christendom College. He was one of twenty Catholic Press Association representatives from the U.S. invited as a guest of Israel in 1999 to cover Jubilee 2000 preparations in the Holy Land. He is currently working as a DRE and freelance writer and has been accepted to begin graduate studies in Melbourne JP II Institute 2004.
This article is courtesy of TCR News offering “Catholic Reflections & Reports” along with “News, Opinion, and Hope for a Post Modern World.”