Gibson and His Enemies
February 19, 2004
by Joe Sobran
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[Breaker quote: Did Christ teach hate?]
According to a verse in the Book of Proverbs, I believe
(though, being a Catholic, I can't find it), "There is no
such thing as bad publicity."
Thanks in large part to vitriolic protests by Jewish
groups, Mel Gibson's forthcoming film THE PASSION OF THE
CHRIST will surely be a stupendously popular movie. Jewish-
owned media have given it enormous pre-release advertising -
- hostile, to be sure, but free of charge.
Gibson risked more than $20 million of his own money on the
film, filling out the spare Gospel accounts of the
Crucifixion with vivid details. As many who have seen it
attest, it's very hard to watch. Unlike most films, it
makes violence horribly ugly and repulsive. To watch even a
terrible criminal crucified -- a routine Roman punishment --
would sicken most modern viewers. But to see a re-creation
of Christ's torture and death is far worse for Christian
audiences, who can only see in it what their own sins did
to their Savior.
I saw a screening of it in November. When the film ended,
the small audience sat in appalled silence for several
minutes. And this is the reported reaction at every
The notion that THE PASSION (as it was then called) could
inspire hatred, let alone violence, against Jews, or anyone
else, is hysterical. It's perhaps the most violent film
ever made, precisely because it shows how hideous violence
But Gibson isn't the only one who is getting free
publicity. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League is
getting it too, as he makes the wild accusation, in
countless interviews and newspaper columns, that the film
will cause "anti-Semitism."
Well, maybe it will -- if you equate "anti-Semitism" with
Christianity, which seems to be the implication. According
to many Jewish writers, even the Gospels are anti-Semitic,
as was the entire Christian tradition until the Second
Vatican Council in 1965. Some, like Hyam Maccoby, actually
blame Christianity for Hitler and the Holocaust.
But why stop with the Gospels? If the entire religion
centered on hostility to the Jews, why not blame the
founder himself? Foxman and his ilk never explain why they
exempt Jesus from the accusation. But if all his early
followers and their successors were anti-Semitic for two
millennia, this calls for an explanation.
According to the Talmud and other authoritative Jewish
writings, Jesus was a "bastard" and "sorcerer" who deserved
his death and is now in hell, "boiling in excrement." These
lurid writings, which date from centuries after the
Crucifixion, are disgusting to a degree that might shock
Foxman never mentions these "religious" texts. Would he
object to a film about Jesus based on them?
Such obscene smears bear out Christ's own prediction that
he and his disciples would be hated by the world. So have
the innumerable Christian martyrs even to our own time,
some of whom are still being persecuted from the Sudan to
Nobody today actively hates anyone else from that period,
not even such horrifying tyrants as Nero and Caligula. But
after two thousand years, the gentle Savior, Jesus Christ,
is still hated. That is one perverse testimony to the power
of his message -- and of the Gospels that bear it.
A watered-down or distorted image of Jesus, as in Martin
Scorsese's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, doesn't move the
Foxmans of this world to fury. Nobody would bother
crucifying Scorsese's bland Jesus, who could excite neither
hatred nor devotion, let alone change even the secular
If Gibson's film can be faulted for anything, it may be for
failing to show how popular Jesus was among the ordinary
Jews of Jerusalem, who had wildly welcomed him only days
before his murder. This popularity, the Gospels tell us,
was the reason both the Jewish and Roman authorities feared
him and decided to try him at night, in secret.
Not that Gibson's enemies would applaud him for showing the
adoring crowd greeting Christ on Palm Sunday. That might
offend them worse than the vicious crowd he does show.
One can only marvel at the almost lunatic self-absorption
of those who feel victimized by THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.
This film is not about them, any more than it's about the
Roman Empire. It's about the Son of God.
Joe Sobran is a syndicated columnist and the editor of a
monthly newsletter, SOBRAN'S. His books include ALIAS
SHAKESPEARE (The Free Press 1997) and HUSTLER: THE
CLINTON LEGACY (Griffin Communications, 2000).