Okay, back to Mel: the NY Times remains consistent in its disapproval of The Passion. Conservative commentator William Safire sees the fim as inflaming anti-Semitism:
- The word “passion” is rooted in the Latin for “suffer.” Mel Gibson’s movie about the torture and agony of the final hours of Jesus is the bloodiest, most brutal example of sustained sadism ever presented on the screen.
Because the director’s wallowing in gore finds an excuse in a religious purpose – to show how horribly Jesus suffered for humanity’s sins – the bar against film violence has been radically lowered. Movie mayhem, long resisted by parents, has found its loophole; others in Hollywood will now find ways to top Gibson’s blockbuster, to cater to voyeurs of violence and thereby to make bloodshed banal.
What are the dramatic purposes of this depiction of cruelty and pain? First, shock; the audience I sat in gasped at the first tearing of flesh. Next, pity at the sight of prolonged suffering. And finally, outrage: who was responsible for this cruel humiliation? What villain deserves to be punished?
Not Pontius Pilate, the Roman in charge; he and his kindly wife are sympathetic characters. Nor is King Herod shown to be at fault.
The villains at whom the audience’s outrage is directed are the actors playing bloodthirsty rabbis and their rabid Jewish followers. This is the essence of the medieval “passion play,” preserved in pre-Hitler Germany at Oberammergau, a source of the hatred of all Jews as “Christ killers.”
….In 1965’s historic Second Vatican Council, during the papacy of Paul VI, the church decided that while some Jewish leaders and their followers had pressed for the death of Jesus, “still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”
That was a sea change in the doctrinal interpretation of the Gospels, and the beginning of major interfaith progress.
However, a group of Catholics rejects that and other holdings of Vatican II. Mr. Gibson is reportedly aligned with that reactionary clique.
….Matthew in 10:34 quotes Jesus uncharacteristically telling his apostles: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” You don’t see that on Christmas cards and it’s not in this film, but those words can be reinterpreted – read today to mean that inner peace comes only after moral struggle.
The richness of Scripture is in its openness to interpretation answering humanity’s current spiritual needs. That’s where Gibson’s medieval version of the suffering of Jesus, reveling in savagery to provoke outrage and cast blame, fails Christian and Jew today. [NY Times]
That is the most direct accusation of anti-Semitic intent ascribed to the film I have yet heard expressed by a mainstream writer, a writer who also attributes the film’s perspective to that of a “reactionary clique” of Catholics. Obviously, with the boffo business the film is doing and the many positive reactions we are hearing to it from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the film’s appeal is not limited to this “reactionary clique.”