lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 3 07:51:39 MDT 2003
NY Times, Aug. 3, 2003
Mel Gibson's Martyrdom Complex
by Frank Rich
The Jews didn't kill Christ," my stepfather was fond of saying. "They just
worried him to death." Nonetheless, there was palpable relief in my Jewish
household when the Vatican officially absolved us of the crime in 1965. At
the very least, that meant we could go back to fighting among ourselves.
These days American Jews don't have to fret too much about the charge of
deicide or didn't, until Mel Gibson started directing a privately
financed movie called "The Passion," about Jesus' final 12 hours. Why worry
now? The star himself has invited us to. Asked by Bill O'Reilly in January
if his movie might upset "any Jewish people," Mr. Gibson responded: "It
may. It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth. . . .
Anybody who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own
Fears about what this "truth" will be have been fanned by the knowledge
that Mr. Gibson bankrolls a traditionalist Catholic church unaffiliated
with the Los Angeles Roman Catholic archdiocese. Traditionalist Catholicism
is the name given to a small splinter movement that rejects the Second
Vatican Council which, among other reforms, cleared the Jews of deicide.
The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages, which have lavished praise on Mr.
Gibson and his project, reported in March in an adulatory interview with
the star that the film's sources included the writings of two nuns: Mary of
Agreda, a 17th-century Spaniard, and Anne Catherine Emmerich, an
early-19th-century German. Only after Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, among others, spoke up about the nuns'
history of anti-Semitic writings did a Gibson flack disown this provenance.
Emmerich's revelations include learning that Jews had strangled Christian
children to procure their blood. It's hard to imagine a scenario that bald
turning up in "The Passion." Indeed, it's hard to imagine the movie being
anything other than a flop in America, given that it has no major Hollywood
stars and that its dialogue is in Aramaic and Latin (possibly without
benefit of subtitles). Its real tinder-box effect could be abroad, where
anti-Semitism has metastasized since 9/11, and where Mr. Gibson is arguably
more of an icon (as his production company is named) than he is at home. He
shot "The Passion" in Italy, where a recent cartoon in the newspaper La
Stampa showed Israeli tanks about to roll over the baby Jesus' manger. "Do
you want to kill me once more?" read the caption.
In recent weeks Mr. Gibson has started screening a rough cut of his film to
invited audiences, from evangelicals in Colorado Springs to religious
leaders in Pennsylvania to celebrities in Washington. But the attendees are
not always ecumenical. At the Washington screening, they included Peggy
Noonan, Kate O'Beirne, Linda Chavez and David Kuo, the deputy director of
the White House's faith-based initiative. Like the membership lists of
restricted country clubs that let in a minority member or two to deflect
charges of discrimination, the screening guest list did include a token
Jew: that renowned Talmudic scholar Matt Drudge. No other Jewish members of
the media were present, said one journalist who was there.
That journalist must remain unnamed as a result of signing a
confidentiality agreement a practice little seen at movie screenings.
Since then, some of those present, including Mr. Drudge, have publicly
expressed their enthusiasm for "The Passion" without legal reprisal,
anyway. One invitee, the radio host Laura Ingraham, gave Lloyd Grove of The
Washington Post a sense of the event's tone when she told him why she was
sorry she couldn't get to the screening in time: "I want to see any movie
that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy."
Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org
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