- I can look at "The Passion of the Christ" only as a woman who defines herself as Catholic, who also defines herself as someone for whom the creation of story has been a crucial locus of self-understanding, and as someone for whom the Gospels have been crucial texts. So I respond to it as a person formed by my history, as Mel Gibson has been formed by his.
I'm older than Mel, but not by much, and we were both brought up by Catholics who would define themselves as conservative. And yet our visions of both the nature of history, the role of story and the experience of Jesus are miles apart.
So, no, I didn't like the movie. But I didn't like Mr. Gibson's "Braveheart," either. I don't do spectacle. I don't do graphic violence. I didn't lose any sleep, though, about not liking "Braveheart." I didn't care about "Braveheart"; I didn't care who liked it because nothing important was at stake. I didn't imagine that "Braveheart" could do any damage in the larger world. The story of "Braveheart" wasn't precious to me. But "The Passion" has been, for me, a cause of deep distress.
My distress has two sources. The first is my anxiety that it will have the effect of fanning the flames of a growing worldwide anti-Semitism. I accept Mr. Gibson's assertion that he didn't mean to make an anti-Semitic film, but he has to be aware of the Passion story's role in the history of the persecution of the Jews, a story whose very power to move the human spirit has been a vehicle for both transcendence and murder. To be a Christian is to face the responsibility for one's own most treasured sacred texts being used to justify the deaths of innocents.
....Mr. Gibson's defense is that he tells it like it is. Or like it was. But that is not precisely the case: the film's screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald, has added extra-Scriptural details: the character of Claudia, Pilate's wife, is much amplified from the Gospel hint; Pilate is given a sympathetic psychological complexity that is nowhere found in the Gospels; details of Jesus' childhood have been invented for dramatic purposes. Caiphas, the high priest, is a cipher in the Scripture; in the film he is, compared with Pilate, a one-dimensional monster, a shrewd rabble-rouser who rejoices in the shedding of his enemy's blood.