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Monitoring Mel

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I have no particular preconceptions going into the frenzy over Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ film. I think he has been great in any number of movies and I do not minimize his talents as a director. I also have no problem with his depicting Jews as culpable in the death of Jesus, although I see Romans as no less so – for both camps it was a matter of power and politics. I’ll let you know what I think about the movie after I see the movie.

Because of the controversy surrounding Gibson’s depiction of Jews in the film, questions have arisen regarding his personal attitude towards Jews, and in particular, his view of the Holocaust.

The problem I have now is reconciling what Gibson told Peggy Noonan in an interview for Reader’s Digest with what he told Diane Sawyer for ABC’s Primetime.

Cathy Young relates what he told Noonan:

    Holocaust denial is relevant here because of Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson. A prominent member of the “traditionalist” Catholic movement which split off from the Catholic Church over the 1965 reforms of the Second Vatican Council (which, among other things, rejected the doctrine that the Jews were guilty of “deicide”) is also known as a Holocaust denier. Of course Gibson shouldn’t be blamed for the sins of his father; but in an interview with Peggy Noonan, forthcoming in the March issue of Reader’s Digest, he says, “My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life.”

    It was in the same interview that Noonan, who has defended Gibson in the controversy over “The Passion,” offered him a chance to end any speculation about his views on the Holocaust: “You’re going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?”

    Gibson’s reply: “I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.”

    ….Holocaust “revisionists” typically do not deny that Jews were killed; they simply minimize the killing, portraying it as another part of the overall death toll of World War II rather than the systematic extermination campaign that it was. In Bernstein’s opinion, “Gibson is skirting pretty close” to this kind of minimization.

    ….Gulag revisionism is not stigmatized the way Holocaust revisionism is. Historian Robert Thurston’s 1996 book, “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia,” which argued that bad things happened but there was no systematic deliberate terror, was published by Yale University Press and received blurbs from respected scholars hailing it as “thought-provoking” and “original.” Meanwhile, “The Black Book of Communism,” a 1999 book documenting communism’s bloody record, was widely criticized as sensationalist and biased.

    So yes, there is a double standard because communism is seen as having “progressive” goals. And yes, the Soviet regime engaged in mass murder on a Nazi-like scale. But that hardly justifies Gibson’s comments.

    Given an opportunity to state clearly that the Holocaust happened and that it was a horrific crime, Gibson, instead, chose to hedge — to give a “yes, but” answer, to gloss over the Nazi extermination of the Jews and quickly move on to other victims of other regimes. This may not signify anti-Semitism, but it certainly signifies a frightening moral obtuseness. [Boston.com]

Exactly, I agree. The Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews WAS uniquely evil in its scale, its intent – the removal of all person’s of a given religion from the face of the earth – and its clinical mechanization. There has never been anything like it, and I pray there never will be again.

Now listen to what Gibson said to Sawyer, as related by our Blog Bloke:

    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.”

    ….”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?”

These last two sentences at least convey that Mel gets what the central issue is: that victims of war, no matter how deplorable their loss, are in a different category from systematic extermination. But was he able to more clearly convey what he really believes in the later interview with Sawyer, or was he simply more canny in knowing what he could get away with saying?

I don’t know – does Mel?

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • Dawn

    All I can say to Mel or anyone else who is “unclear” as to whether the Holocaust was a systematic and clinical extermination of specific set of people, visit a concentration camp.

    I recommend Dachau. Being the only Jewish person on our visit during my class trip to Germany, it was especially real to me and I felt very clear that had it been 40 or so years earlier, I could have been there as not a visitor seeking historical knowledge, but as a captive audience.

  • I think my overview of the situation, posted at Blogcritics BTW, puts two of the controversies around “The Passion” into perspective. It emphasizes the circle Gibson moves in is dominated by Opus Dei. Whether he openly expresses anti-Semitic views or not, the backward group, which opposes pretty much everything after the Reformation, has long been accused of anti-Semiticism. It is also very used to getting its way when it comes to the Church. OD is very important to getting the big picture.

    If you are interested in something more informative about the “The Passion” controversies than the Right Wing puff piece being cited above, I’ve posted my primer here.

  • Eric Olsen

    MD, your work is very importnat and informative on the matter. But I was speaking about two specific instances of what Gilbson himself said re the Holocaust, and BB’s post is where one of the quotes came from, hence the reference.

    I actually came to different conclusion regarding Gibson than did he.

  • Glad to hear it. I had no thoughts about Mel Gibson beyond he was an okay actor until this situation arose. Some of us in the blogosphere who have been corresponding about the “The Passion” controversies have been trying to learn whether Gibson grew up with ties to Opus Dei, or was seduced by them later. So far, it isn’t clear. OD people are known for being very secretive. The question to reconcile, in my opinion, is whether both can be true. Can Gibson disagree with OD and be in its favor with it simultaneously? Seems doubtful.

  • BB

    Eric, I don’t understand what problem y’all seem to have with Mr. Gibson. Could you please be more specific when you say you came to a “different conclusion regarding Gibson than did he” (ie me). Because I really don’t understand why all the speculation with respect to holocaust denial allegations, Opus Dei or whatever, and I would like to know what in fact it all this has to do with his new movie?

    The Passion is not about the holocaust or who killed who, and Mel made that quite clear in his interview with Sawyer. You could ask me the same question and get two seemingly different answers. That may be because I wish to stress a different point in one question more so than another. Or maybe I just want to vary my answer because I’m bored stiff with hearing myself repeat the same thing over and over again, especially if I had to give a lot of interviews like Mr. Gibson has.

    So would that make me a liar or being coy? I think not. That is an old trick trial lawyers use asking the same question over and over hoping to find contradictions in testimony. However, in Mel’s case he clearly hasn’t contradicted his message (or testimony so to speak) and unfortunately it seems to me that many people are trying to make a case out of a sow’s ear.

    So why is that? If this were just another Lethal Weapon movie nobody could care less. But because it is about the last hours of Christ, everybody is hanging on to every word that utters from his mouth hoping to find something that will hang him. I don’t get the impression there is anything sinister about Mel. Do you?

  • BB

    To be direct, I suppose what I am saying is there seems to be a distinct anti-Mel Gibson agenda going on here (I’m not accusing you BTW) and I was wondering why is that? Obviously it has a lot to do with the subject – i.e. Jesus Christ. I have my own private theories but I was wondering what were your thoughts. As a matter of fact I may decide to make a separate post about this phenomina.

  • Dawn

    The entire controversy surrounding the last days of Jesus are what’s at stake. And to make a polarizing movie about that event is to force oneself into the spotlight. The entire history of the death of Jesus is shrouded in anti-Semitism, that’s hardly news. To make a very graphic and violent depiction of his death is to raise issues in all directions. It’s a well known fact that for CENTURIES the Jews themselves were blamed for the death of Christ and thrown out every place they tried to live. You know, like Germany in the early part of this century.

    So if the Jews are to be blamed for the death of Christ by many Christians to this day (what do you think created the hatred of the Jews anyway?) then one could speculate that a very religious Catholic man who chooses to make a movie about this subject in painfully graphic terms may also be foisting a hidden agenda on the world at large.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to question Gibson’s motives.

    Do you think Jews want to be blamed for Christ’s death until the end of time? I mean how many Jews do you think were alive 2000 years ago and directly responsible for Jesus’ death?

    Mel’s hatred of the Jews is barely veiled. While he may not be a card carrying anti-Semite, how many people do you think are these days? But yet, Jew-hating is still alive and well.

  • BB

    “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.”

    Dawn, those are Mel’s own words and unless there is proof otherwise (which there isn’t) then in a court of law he would be given the benefit of the doubt. I for one am willing to give him that benefit and it is grossly unfair to malign him for the sins of his father or the history of bigotry in this world.

    His movie is depicting the brutal reality of the crucifixion of Christ so that the full extent of His sacrifice can be appreciated. That is it in a nutshell and to make any other claims is malicious and foolishness.

  • Eric Olsen

    I essentially agree with Dawn. Also, this specific post is about Holocaust denial, which somehow finds a way to add insult to the greatest injury in history. Anyone who misses the special monstrousness of the Holocaust is suspect at best as far as I’m concerned.

    I am also deeply suspicious of the conservative/reactionary wing of the Catholic Church, which seems to embody some of the very worst traits of organized religion in general, as well as anti-Semitism, self-aggrandizement, organizational priorities over human priorities (the pedophile shuffle), greed, and any number of other sins of omission and comission.

    And if the Vatican is too “liberal” for you (Opus Dei), you have some serious explaining to do.

  • Dawn

    I think a better movie (but far less sensationalistic and polarizing) would be a movie about the teachings of Jesus and how his words, if followed as instructed, would create a world of tolerance, peace and understanding of everyone, Jews included.

    But to make a movie that focuses on the violent events of his death merely cheapens the lessons of Jesus and takes away from what the message of God was, “I have given you my only son to die for the sins of mankind.” (paraphrased)

    Jesus’ job was to teach and set an example in a dramatic way, his destiny was martyrdom, can’t we focus 2000 years later on his message, not his death?

    Well I can, I guess Mel Gibson can’t.

  • BB

    There have been numerous movies about the teachings of Christ – but none that focus on the reality of His sacrifice. That is what this movie is about. It forces us out of our comfort zone in a dynamic way and that is the reason for most of the fuss.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one guys.

  • Just to clarify, Mel Gibson is associated with the Catholic Traditionalist Movement, which rejects the modern Catholic Church as defined by Vatican II. Traditionalists believe that the mass should still be said in Latin rather than the vernacular language of a church’s parishioners. The movement has quite a few other problems with the Church as it is today. (And the Church has problems with them, too.)

    Opus Dei is an evangelical arm of Catholicism. It does have official Church sanction. So much so, in fact, that its founder was recently made a saint. I don’t think the founder of the Traditionalist movement will be getting that kind of honor any time soon.

    Whether or not Mel Gibson believes everything his father believes is open to debate, and handled very nicely over at Snopes.com.

  • Shark

    Dawn, a better counter would be a film about the Spanish Inquisition.

    Not exactly a proud period for official Churchdom— and the Jews come out as the good guys… or at least sympathetic.

    I’ll be Spielberg is working on it as we speak.

    If not, Steve, E-MAIL ME!

  • Dawn

    To continue to be anti-Semitic based on the premise that the Jewish Authority of 2000 years ago “allowed” Jesus to be killed, is a unfair as to blame your modern day average white American for the crimes of slavery in our nation’s past.

    My issue with Mel Gibson is his assertion that the Jews are responsible for the death of Christ – clearly Jesus’ death was preordained by God himself, so the fault may lay with the Lord.

    Good luck getting him to comment.

  • BB

    It is outrageous that anybody can have the audacity to make allegations of anti-semitism without having even seen the movie yet. If that isn’t a definition of predisposed bias then please explain what is?

  • Shark

    Dawn: Jesus’ death was preordained by God himself, so the fault may lay with the Lord. Good luck getting him to comment.


    “ROME, Italy — Actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of Christ” was struck by lightning during shooting.

    Caviezel was uninjured, but a producer described how he saw smoke coming from the actor’s ear. An assistant director on the film, Jan Michelini, was also hit — for the second time in a few months.

    The first time, a lightning fork struck his umbrella during filming on top of a hill near Matera in Italy, causing light burns to the tips of his fingers, VLife, a supplement to Variety publications said in its October issue.

    A few months later the second strike happened, a few hours from Rome. Michelini was again carrying an umbrella, and standing next to Caviezel on top of a hill, the magazine said. Both were hit, with the main bolt striking Caviezel while one of its forks hit Michelini’s umbrella. Neither were hurt.”

  • Eric Olsen

    This story isn’t about the movie: it’s about public statements made by Mel Gibson about the Holocaust. While perhaps the movie might shed further light on Gibson’s worldview, at the moment I am much more interested in his direct statements on the matter.

  • Dawn

    It would seem pretty evident, based on Mel Gibson’s carefully worded script quoted above, he has some “issues” coming to terms with the “Holocaust” being an example of ethnic cleansing and the continued persecution of the Jews.

    BB, Do you believe the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews was a casualty of war, or an abomination of man representing the most hateful kind of prejudice?

    Maybe it’s a matter of terminology? If someone asked me that same question, I wouldn’t need to qualify my answer with a “Yes, but….?

    Would you?

  • i enjoyed the bit in the movie where the house explodes and the toilet lands on the car.

  • BB

    Dawn, the Holocaust was an abomination. I hope also you concur?

    Mel made his position very clear and your comments about his alleged “issues” are so farfetched and foreign to me that I’m left scratching my head. Here is the content of his interview again:

    “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, and 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?”

    As you can see there was no “Yes, but….?” Mel stated in no uncertain terms that it happened and was an “atrocity of monumental proportion.” He did not “qualify” his answer except to express his righteous indignation for even being asked such a stupid question.

    Dawn you are unfairly reading more in to this and maligning his good character. Did you listen to his interview with Dobson today? He again put to rest alleged anti-semitism or hollocaust “issues”.

    Isn’t it amazing how two people can hear the same thing and walk away with completely different impressions? I suppose it all comes down to not WHAT we heard but what we WANT to hear.

    But it’s Ok, I still love ya anyway (Eric – in a platonic, brotherly way of course 🙂

  • Dawn

    I am just a little sensitive about my peeps – I will reserve judgement until I see the movie, although Mel’s dad sure is a tool!

  • Alexis

    FOR THE PERSON WHO WROTE THE TOPIC. I may come off as nieve or ignorint but oh well. Didn’t God forgive the jews for doing what they did to jesus christ? For they didn’t know any better & sins are forgivable. So why would Mel Gibson have a problem with jews? I’m am pretty much sure that with the movie it has probably nothing to do with his personal views against jews in the Holocaust. Like I said in the begining I may come off as that yet I also could care less to read a 5 page summary of a formal shit talking on a actor which no one knows. Yet just seeing “They’re killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?” should sum it up for you, so why are you still looking for a validation. you only want to hear what you already assume.

  • Chris Kent


    After reading your comment, I feel a pain between my ears…..

  • Eric Olsen

    Perhaps I am hearing something not there – I hope that is the case because even the slightest mitigation of the Holocaust is reprehensible and unacceptable.

  • Dawn

    I am with Chris on this one. My ears are actually bleeding.

  • Dawn

    A reader left the following on my post from my blog about his subject:

      I was fairly supportive of this movie before I realized that he had filmed only the gospel of Matthew. He could have chosen any of the gospels but chose the most anti-semitic one (as evidenced by the line everyone is talking about: ‘his blood be upon us and our children’). Then, when that line drew so many complaints the production company said they had taken the line out. Actually, what they did was take the subtitles out when that line of dialogue is said. So, in other words, there’s spoken text and suddenly no subtitle. Sometimes, as Dawn so eloquently put it at the end of her post, it is what you don’t say that says volumes. Or, in this case, what you don’t translate.

      If Mel Gibson truly wanted a completely non-anti-semitic representation of the last 12 hours of Christ he could easily have done so and still stayed true to the source material. He chose not to. That and the unconscionable drivel from his father (yes, I know, the sins of the father shouldn’t be a burden to the son, but still the man says some insane things) lead me to wonder.

    I looked up that Gospel, and indeed, it false under the title “Christ Killers” as describing the Jews.

    Nice Mel, very nice.

  • bhw

    Do you think Jews want to be blamed for Christ’s death until the end of time?

    I swear, Hitler exterminates 6 million Jews and some people [like Mel’s dad] think it’s just b.s.

    A handful of Jews kill one guy with a messiah complex 2000 years ago, and their ancestors can never live it down.


  • bhw

    Whoops. Make that their descendants, not ancestors.

  • BB

    Dawn, regarding the post above the writer is misinformed. In ALL of the interviews with Mel that I heard he stressed that ALL of the gospels were referenced.

    Regarding the line ‘his blood be upon us and our children’ – tell me what would have been easier? Taking out the subtitle or having to go back into production and re-shoot the entire scene over? After all it was Mel’s own money that paid the bills, and taking that out of context and using it to build a case of anti-semitism is grossly unfair. Nevertheless, if it is a direct quote from the Bible then perhaps the writer just has a problem with scripture period.

    These allegations are pure poppycock and I can assure you that if I find any valid proof of anti-semitism then I will be the first speak up. Let’s focus on the (real) message of the movie instead of shooting the messenger.

  • Syndey, true. But, other prinicipals of “The Passion” are associated with Opus Dei. Furthermore, the traditionalists are one of the few other groups OD will work with, because they have so much in common. I think OD having their own bishop and hierarchy, which allows them to ignore the regular Church leadership is a great incentive for other conservative Catholics to work with them. That way they get pass any mainstream leader who might question or put the brakes on. It does not seem that farfetched to think other reactionary branches of the Church might merge under the Opus Dei banner down the road. As for sneaking Escriva (the founder of OD) into sainthood, if it happened once, it can happen again.

    We also need to be clear that the Holocaust was not after the fact for Escriva, who was in his prime when it occurred. And, he allegedly supported it, speaking fondly about it years later.

  • bhw

    These allegations are pure poppycock and I can assure you that if I find any valid proof of anti-semitism then I will be the first speak up. Let’s focus on the (real) message of the movie instead of shooting the messenger.

    The fact is, nobody knows if the allegations are poppycock, as far as the movie goes. I’d recommend waiting until you see it before you believe Gibson’s stated message of the movie OR the the allegations of anti-semitism in the movie.

    Just because Gibson says it’s about one thing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain the subtext of the other, anyway.

  • Alexis

    Oh well I’m obviously confussed and I misunderstood something. I said that in the begining. Proceed to bleed & wash all your flith down the drain.

  • BB

    Thanks bhw I think you made my point for me.

  • We are to fall on our knees and praise Mel Gibson, for he is a far Right Winger and therefore can do no wrong according to . . . you guessed it, another far Right Winger. And, the penchant of that sort to order people around and tell them what they are to believe and say pops up again. Why am I not surprised?

  • BB

    Sorry to hear you feel that way Mac. Your opinion is every bit as valid as anybody else’s, so long as the name calling and labelling is in check. And BTW, I’m not a “Right Winger”. Peace 🙂

  • Dawn

    Alexis, your statements leave me mystified.


    I would love to hear what Hollywood industry types think of Mel Gibson. Lots of Jewish folks there, bet someone knows something of his predilections toward Jews people.

  • BB

    I look at it differently Dawn. I think it took huge cahoonas to speak up in tinsel town. Surprisingly however in his interview with Dobson today Mel said fallout from hollywood wasn’t all that bad. Go figure?

    You can listen to the interview here.

  • mike

    The best thing about the hullabaloo over Passion is that it virtually insures that Jews will not be voting Republican. Which is a great thing.

    Between this and the gay marriage amendment (with its obvious scapegoating), the Christian Zionists, according to polls, have worn out their welcome with the Jewish community.

    One Passion supporter said, “You Jews had better get on board with this, because we support Israel.” Thankfully, most Jews are declining to do so.

    Thanks, Mel!

  • Shark

    One Passion supporter said, “You Jews had better get on board with this, because we support Israel.”


    And excellent points, Mike.

  • Dawn

    Unfortunately, not everyone who supports Israel is doing it for the Jews. It’s a selfish far-right motive and has nothing to do with the historical persecution of Jews.

    I think the difference between us BB, is that I am a Christian and you are a Catholic. Even more significant, I am a Jew turned Christian, and you, well you are still a Catholic.

    Catholics are defined by dogmatism. The rest of the Christians in the world typically just want to get along, but as I have learned in my Lutheran church, there is a HUGE difference in the way Catholics feel about God and the way the rest of Christians feel about God.

  • mike

    As a lapsed Catholic, I can say without hesitation that all other religions are for wusses. WE burned people at the stake; WE persecuted gays for centuries– CENTURIES, DO YOU HEAR ME?!–WE hung out with royal despots like the Sun King; WE rocked with Franco.

    You’re not a real religion unless you’ve slaughtered thousands of innocents and built grotesque palaces while your worshippers starved.

    And, most importantly, unless your priests have been dating their altar boys for hundreds of years, you’re a total piker.

    The Catholic Church–20 centuries of oppression!!!!! Here’s to 20 more!!!

  • Eric Olsen

    That would pretty well define the anti-Catholic position.

  • Shark

    You’re not a real religion unless you’ve slaughtered thousands of innocents and built grotesque palaces while your worshippers starved.

    Then the Pope better not look over his shoulder: Islam is on his heels.

  • mike

    Yes, not since the 1967 Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys championship game have two contenders been so evenly matched.

    Although perhaps they’ll join forces. I remember Cardinal O’Connor of New York expressing sympathy for Khomeni’s jihad against Salmon Rushdie.

  • Chris Kent

    I’m sorry, but Don Meredith vs. Bart Starr on the frozen tundra is far more interesting than a race between the Pope and the Nation of Islam…..

  • BB

    Dawn I’m flabbergasted that you would even think me a Catholic. Actually I’m probably more anti-religion than most on Blogcritics. I am so anti-Catholicism but I try to not fall into the trap of religion bashing. When we do that we fall into the false notion that we are somehow better, for when we judge we elevate ourselves at the expense of others.

    All that I am saying about the Passion movie is what Mel Gibson has said. The movie has a spiritual message. It is extremely violent in order to shock us into the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us. And most importantly – we are ALL culpable. NOT just the Jews. NOT just the Romans – but it is ALL of us who crucified Him.

  • mike

    I didn’t crucify him, pal. Don’t lay that one on me.

  • BB

    No offense meant pal. That was a quote from Mel Gibson.

  • Dawn

    I sure as hell didn’t crucify him either. I can guarantee that if I lived during the time of Jesus, you could have called me Mary – I’d have been the one washing his feet in a most subservient way.

    I love Jesus, I just don’t want to see people in power pervert his word for their hateful not-so-hidden agenda.

  • BB

    Basic Christianity 101: Dawn, surely you understand that He died for the sins of all mankind – which means that goes for ALL of us (with the exception of Mike above ;-). Therefore it goes without saying that WE (mankind) crucified him.

  • Let me take this opportunity to deny ANY personal responsibility for the death of this fictional character.

    I, Al Barger, did NOT crucify Jesus- nor anyone else. I am innocent in the death of anyone.

    Thank you. You may now return to your previous hand wringing.

  • BB

    Ok then.. for the record Dawn, Mike nor Al share any culpability with the rest of us sinners.

  • Dawn, some of the most heartfelt work of feeding, clothing and housing people in the Third World has been done by Catholics. True, the conservative as Hell Vatican frowns on liberation theology, but what’s new about the Church opposing anything that is truly progressive? So, there are good Catholics. But, the conservative mainstream is stronger (and usually on the wrong side of any social issue, or Johny Come Latelies) and the reactionaries, represented by Opus Dei and the traditionalists, are completely wrongheaded.

    Something else you will not hear from those people absent gobbledygook, though they believe it: There are no Protestestants. That’s right. Since the Reformation was a huge mistake, there are really no Protestants. The Catholic reactionaries’ vision is to bring the breakaways back into the flock. That is why they are really getting a kick out of working with the Christian Right in regard to “The Passion.” It allows the traditionalists, OD, and the Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson sorts to be openly on the same page. I said before, there is more to this than the pabulum BB is serving up A lot more.

  • BB

    MD I enjoy a good conspiracy as much as anyone. Thanks for the entertainment and reminding me of the scripture 1Co 3:1 to 3:23, Acts 3:15 and 1Th 2:15. Perhaps you will indulge me and explain what it means? BTW, what Seminary did you attend?

  • Eric Olsen

    Al, I don’t believe many serious scholars doubt the existence of Jesus the person, too many historical references. I believe the area of dispute is his divinity.

  • Eric,

    Actually, while most historians don’t bring it up, there are NO contemporary sources outside of the Christian religion that assert or imply that there was a historical person named Jesus.

    As a historian by training, it’s mostly a non-issue from a historical point of view. My personal guess is that there was a so-named person, but Al’s view is not unreasonable.

    The closest that historians can come is recent archaeological evidence that there was a high priest named Joseph Caiaphas.

    Religioustolerance.org has a page on historical evidence relating to Christianity.

  • Eric Olsen

    From the Frontline website for their From Jesus to Christ series:

    “The problem in understanding Jesus as a historian begins with the fact that we have rather limited sources for reconstructing his life. Those sources are primarily the gospel traditions that we have in the New Testament, some apocryphal materials from the early Christian tradition, and some sources external to the New Testament. Those sources external to the New Testament are particularly valuable because they’re not directly statements of faith, the way the New Testament materials are. Chief among those external sources is Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote at the end of the first century and who in book 18 of his “Antiquities of the Jews,” has a small passage about Jesus. He also reports about John the Baptist, and about James, the brother of Jesus. And those passages constitute the first external testimonies to the existence of Jesus by someone who was not a follower. They may have been tampered with in the transmission, but at the core there probably is a reliable historical account by Josephus of the existence of Jesus.”

  • Shark

    just for the record:

    Josephus’ mention of JC is VERY problematic. The oldest extant MS are from the 10th-11th centuries.

    Most versions, especially those that explicitly mention JC as ‘messiah’ are VERY suspect, ie. possibly contain much later Christian tampering / reworking to fit the contemporary views of Christians, ie editing for propaganda.

    Kinda like those final verses of Mark.
    [wink-wink to BB]

    PS: Josephus was first publised in 93 CE.

  • mike

    I heard the Apostles were all gay.

  • Shark

    I don’t want to be a dead [possibly divine] horse, but here’s my take after 30 years of serious study:

    * Jesus was probably was a historic person; it’s what he said and did that are in question.
    (See ‘The Jesus Seminar’ [Crosslin et al] for a great analysis)

    * the only ‘real’ [reliable?] accounts of JC are the synoptic gospels, and even they contradict each other in MANY cases. (Again, it’s like using “The Night Before Christmas” to prove the existence of Santa Claus.)

    * messiahs were a dime a dozen during the Roman occupation; most hoped for a ‘political/rebel’ leader, although the Jewish religion (under that occupation) was pretty corrupt by then, so a yearning for new twist to Judaism wasn’t so surprising (John the B lost his head over such hopes/fears)

    * Book of Mark is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a ‘first-hand’ testimony; IMO, you can throw out the others as later marketing and propaganda.

    * Mark (the oldest book of the four) would would be more valuable if it weren’t for those pesky additions at the end. (ie, the Resurrection)

    * Faith ain’t called that for no reason.

  • Doug

    “Catholics are defined by dogmatism. The rest of the Christians in the world typically just want to get along, but as I have learned in my Lutheran church, there is a HUGE difference in the way Catholics feel about God and the way the rest of Christians feel about God.”
    Nothing like a little Catholic bashing to make you feel better. Having been a Catholic, lapsed and then come back to Catholicism I can tell you that you are dead wrong. As MD points out there are good and not so good people in every denomination. Yes the Catholic church for years (centuries) used to subscribe to a “our way or the highway” idea. However, that has not been the case for decades. Used to be that if you belonged to denomination outside of Catholicism and wanted to convert you had to be re-baptised in the Catholic church…no more. The Catholics recognize any baptism in any Christian denomination as valid. Also the Pope has been preaching about reaching out and including all Christians for decades. Now, not everyone agrees with that message (witness the traditionalist movement and Opus Dei)but it is still the “official” position of the Church.

    Mike, you are freakin’ hilarious. I laughed out loud reading your entries.

  • Eric,

    Yes, that’s definitely information that is out there, but as Shark points out, we don’t have a contemporary version of Josephus’s writings.

    No criticism of The Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament Yale Divinity School is implied, but he appears to be using a source that many of his peers in the more traditional history and archaeology departments consider problematic. However, it would be worth asking him if he thinks that “Antiquities of the Jews” is proof or if he’s got reservations. I would expect that he clearly differentiates between what he believes and what he considers proven.

    For what it’s worth, I think the historicity of Jesus ends up being similar to ‘creation’ or ‘the existence of God.’ There’s no irrefutable evidence to support or refute it, but the indirect evidence is compelling to some people and not so to others.

    However, as we’ve all been told, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

  • Dawn

    “The Catholics recognize any baptism in any Christian denomination as valid. ”

    That is a huge load of horseshit. I wasn’t allowed to be a speaker at my brother-in-law’s wedding because I wasn’t a properly “baptized” Christian (or in their minds, Catholic). I was basically told my kind (Jew converted to Lutheran) weren’t welcome. They basically had to sneak me into the church to watch the ceremony.

    Don’t you DARE tell me about the enlightened fucking Catholic Church of today.

    Oh, and that glorious union ended in an annullment in less than a year. So much for the sanctity of marriage.

    Also, the priest who said I wasn’t invited to participate – WAS OVERTLY GAY and no one was buying his act.

    What a fucking jackhole that guy was – a good match for hell, not heaven if you ask me.

  • BB

    Your right Shark in the sense that after 2,000 years it is difficult to find an original manuscript that old. Nevertheless scholars more educated than we believe in the accuracy and harmony of scripture.

    All of the points you brought up I have heard before (BB’s eyes roll back in his skull as he summons just enough mental strength to hope that an “All in the Family” rerun is on about now – nudge, nudge, wink, wink 🙂

    The point is there are always opinions for and against, and again I reiterate – it all comes down to faith. So who are you gonna believe? Slog that dead horse or eternal life?

  • Doug

    Dawn, your anger over one Catholic priest doesn’t justify stereotyping an entire denomination…and YES I will DARE to tell you about the Catholic Church of today, since that is what I see, hear and experience every day.

    Based on your logic (or lack thereof)I could classify ALL Lutherans as bitter, Catholic hating, and ignorant of other religous denominations. However I know many Lutherans (Baptists, Pentecostals…etc) who don’t share your views. Also I personally strive not to stereotype…but that’s just me.

  • sophie

    What a wonderful protrayal of Jesus Christ. I will never look at the cross the same way. Thank you Jesus