Mel Gibson and Christians and Christ-killers, oh my!
Mel Gibson has had a bit of a stretch of controversy over his movie The Passion of Christ, and charges that it promotes anti-Semitism by depicting Jews as having a high degree of culpability in Christ's death. Let's see if we can ease up to this topic without setting off any race riots or hate crimes trials.
To be blunt, the problem isn't Mel Gibson, it's his source material. It is the Bible that is problematic, not Gibson. He has no hostility or animosity toward Jews. He's just trying to represent the story of the Bible as accurately as he can make it out.
I come to this as a non-believer. In fact, not only do I not believe in the resurrection, I have doubts about whether there was even a historical figure of Jesus. Best I can tell, there's precious little documentation of the existence of Jesus outside of the Biblical texts, and the gospels seem to have been written maybe a century or more after the supposed time of Christ. For all I know, Jesus is as completely made up as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
So far as I can see, then, we're arguing over the interpretation of a fictional story. Only thing is, a lot of people still actually believe in this story- including Mel Gibson. Those who believe in this story generally accept ONE authoritative text as the official story: The Bible. The Bible says what it actually says, and not necessarily what we would LIKE for it to say.
If you're going to be a Christian, then by rights you need to accept the whole Bible. Otherwise, you're just making crap up off the top of your head. From Revelation 22: 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
I once wrote a weekly newspaper column at the Ball State student paper in character as a fundamentalist Christian called God and Country. The columns all stemmed from saying, if you believe the Bible is the revealed word of a living God, then you must believe... In what turned out to be my final column, I connected the dots for the Biblical problem of relations between Christians and Jews. I concluded that, by Biblical teaching, Christians should not support Jews. CLICK HERE for "True Christians shouldn't support Christ's enemies."
The New Testament shows a problem with Jews based on their rejection of Christ, the crucifixion being only one nub. The point of this was that the Bible itself takes a fairly harsh tone about Jews. It was not Mel Gibson who said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" - (Luke 13:34:35).
Now, you CAN come in determined not to find general culpability among Jews in the Bible, and TRY to skirt carefully around it as much as possible. Perhaps you could argue that the Bible meant mostly to blame a few self-serving Jewish leaders personally. That doesn't go very well with Luke up above, though, does it?
In essence then, people are demanding that Gibson place a loyalty to modern liberal political values ahead of his belief in Jesus Christ. Make your representation of the Bible fit in with what we want to hear. Of course, if Mel Gibson believes that the Bible is God's holy word- which he does, and if he has any integrity- which he seems to, then he's going to resist sanitizing GOD'S WORD. Wouldn't be right, would it?
He might show Romans actually killing Jesus, as per the story. He might reasonably emphasize that, supposedly, Christ died for the sins of every one who ever lived, up to and including Y-O-U.
But also, Gibson knows that "Jesus said unto them, 'If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God...Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do'" - (John 8:42-44).
He can't very well leave that stuff out, and remain true to his beliefs.
Even where he might have some room for how to reasonably interpret the Bible, he will chafe at being pressured by modern interest groups to fudge on the word of God. Duh.
Best I can make of it from my perspective a couple of millennia distant from the relevant facts, the whole thing boils down to internecine warfare between two sects of Judaism. As a Jewish splinter group, the early Christian church seems to have been intent on capturing the full allegiance of Jews. Some of the tough talk looks to me like simple strong-arming. The Christians were making the Jews an offer they couldn't refuse.
Note that this is basically a religious and not a racial question. The Biblical authors were mostly Jews themselves. They didn't want to condemn their brethren; they wanted to sign them up. Once they sign up with Jesus as their personal savior, they're one of the gang.
As a staunch supporter of Israel, I'm glad that American Christians support Israel. Israel deserves support. These days, Jews and Christians generally find themselves in common cause, rarely in opposition. The state of Israel counts on American evangelicals as a critical point of political support. They're natural allies.
However, that does not change facts. From my political and social viewpoint, it would be CONVENIENT if the New Testament were not set against Jews. Christians have to jump through some hoops to be careful not to pick up bad ideas about Jews from the New Testament.
In 2004, we're past the historical point of that old stuff, but now it's set in stone. The US Constitution, we can just pass an amendment or write a whole new document. The Bible, however, is supposed to be the revealed word of a living God. We cannot retain any honesty or integrity and simply pretend that the Bible says something other than what it actually does.
This problem will be around as long as Christianity is a major religion, and no amount of slapping Mel Gibson around will change that.
Perhaps we can work this problem all out in SONG like they used to do at the end of Fat Albert.
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