Two nights ago Mel Gibson was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Primetime” about his new movie the ‘Passion’, scheduled to open Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25th. Mel has received an incredible amount of flak for his new movie including accusations of anti-semitism and misrepresenting the gospels – allegations that he flatly refutes.
- Abraham Foxman, U.S. director of the Anti-Defamation League, is urging the Vatican to instruct Catholics around the world that the film is an artistic work and not the Catholic Church’s sanctioned gospel.
“It’s Mel Gibson’s version of the gospel, it’s Mel’s gospel. He’s entitled, but he’s promoting it as the gospel truth,” Foxman told Reuters Television Tuesday.
“He’s promoting it as biblical, historical truth and I believe the Church has a responsibility to its teachings, its interpretation, and this is at variance with what the Church is all about.” Foxman believes the film is not anti-Semitic. But he says since it portrays Jews as “bloodthirsty and vengeful,” it “has the potential to fuel anti-Semitism.”
Mel’s answer to critics’ fears the movie’s depiction of the Jewish role in the death of Jesus could encourage anti-Semitism was that he simply did his best to interpret the Gospels.
- “Critics who have a problem with me don’t really have a problem with me in this film,” he said. “They have a problem with the four Gospels. That’s where their problem is.”
Gibson told Diane Sawyer for ABC’s “Primetime” that the film is not anti-Semitic because “to be anti-Semitic is a sin.” “It’s been condemned by one Papal Council after another. To be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and I’m not”.
Mel went on to allay accusations of holocaust denial by saying:
- “Do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do; absolutely,” he says. “It was an atrocity of monumental proportion.”
Asked if the Holocaust represented a “particular kind of evil,” he tells Sawyer it did, but adds, “Why do you need me to tell you? It’s like, it’s obvious. They’re killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?”
I was struck by Mel’s honesty and humility when he confided of the time he hit his lowest point 13 years ago:
- Gibson said ultimately he was moved to depict Jesus’ sacrifice on film after reaching “the height of spiritual bankruptcy” himself more than a decade ago. Things got so bad that he says he once contemplated hurling himself out a window.
Instead, he turned to the Bible. “I think I just hit my knees,” Gibson says. “I just said, ‘Help.’ You know? And then, I began to meditate on it, and that’s in the Gospel. I read all those again. I remember reading bits of them when I was younger.”
“Pain is the precursor to change, which is great. That’s the good news. I just didn’t want to go on,” he told Sawyer. “I was looking down thinking, ‘Man, this is just easier this way,’ “. You have to be mad, you have to be insane, to despair in that way. But that is the height of spiritual bankruptcy. There’s nothing left.” The “spiritual bankruptcy” led him to reexamine Christianity, and ultimately to create The Passion of the Christ — “my vision … with God’s help” of the final hours in the life of Jesus.
When Sawyer asked Gibson who he believed killed Jesus, Gibson replied: “The big answer is, we all did. I’ll be the first in the culpability stakes here.” In fact it was Mel’s own left hand that is shown holding the nail driven into Christ’s body.
“I don’t want people to make it about the blame game,” Gibson added. “It’s about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. That’s what this film is about. It’s about Christ’s sacrifice.”
All of the flak hurled at Mel is a classic case of blaming the messenger. But then again most of the prophets were stoned to death. If the “Passion” is too real for some then perhaps that is good. Sometimes we need to be taken out of our comfort zone. Torture and death is not a pretty thing and from a believer’s view the portrayal of Christ’s sacrifice can never be too real. I certainly have a lot more respect for Mel after seeing the interview. To use his own money to fund the project and express his faith in tinsel town took one heck of a lot of guts.