The Passion

Here are a few of the reactions to the Weekly reader about Mel Gibson’s The Passion and a lengthy discussion of the politics of the movie.

Thank you for your letter. Who can argue with the doctrines of Jesus? or Mohammed? or Moses? The paths are good. How they have been understood and practiced is another story. May the day come when there will be no need for law and all will practice the doctrine of lovingkindness.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

Dear Rabbi Drucker,
I received your letter through the Internet and felt moved to respond. I can imagine the pain and fear in seeing a phenomenon, so attractively packaged, receiving such attention. I have not seen the film, so I am not equipped to discuss its merits or flaws, but I do know that Jews are often blanketly portrayed as the perpetrators of the death of Jesus, causing anti-Semetism in those who are understood to be Christians.
The last verse of the book of Malachai, the last prophet of the “Christian Old Testament”, says that the hearts of the fathers must be converted to those of the sons and the hearts of the sons to those of the fathers so that G-d does not smite the land with a curse. These were His last words before 400 years of silence: these words, echoing in the minds of those who were willing to hear for generations. I hear in these words that there must be anunderstanding between Jews and Christians, that is, true Christians.
I use the phrase “true Christians” because Christians are often understood to be those who identify themselves as being either Catholic or Protestant, often simply because of having been born in a Catholic or Protestant home.. One who identifies himself as a Christian is often thought of as belonging to a particular political party or holding a certain set of political beliefs.
In fact, none of these defines a true Christian. A true Christian is one who believes that Jesus really came to fulfill, not to abolish, the Jewish teachings, and who seeks to follow in His steps. Jesus‚ disciples were Jews.
He Himself was a Jew. His true followers are not anti-Semetic for, if they were, they would, by definition, hate the one they claim to follow. True Christians sought to help Jews during the Second World War, not to destroy them. True Christians seek to please Jesus, to love what He loved and hate what He hated. Thus, once again by definition, true Christians loveJews.
I am so sorry that those who profess to be “Christians” would be associatedin any way, shape, or form with anti-Semetism. This is a contradiction in terms and a disgrace to anyone who identifies himself as a follower of Jesus.
As a Christian, and a Jew, I ask for your forgiveness.
Peace and blessings to you,
-a congregant
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Another Opinion

Re: The Weekly Reader
Definition of anti-Semitism: hating Jews more than is necessary.)
I didnt know it was necessary to hate jews.

I dont think you can always judge a movie by its trailer, or predict the reaction of a viewer to a subtle messages contained in a movie, but I understand your concern. I am not concerned that the movie will foment anti semitism, but I could be wrong. hopefully i am not.

Gibson was on one of those nighttime interview show (i think diane sawyer) and she asked the hard questions. He had some slippery answers, but his true colors came through. this whole thing will hurt him. i know i look at him differently than before.
-a congregant

Subject: RE: The Weekly Reader on Dangerous Passion

This writing is a GEM. Thank you!!! i hope you are submitting it to the Times and other places as an opinion piece! Beautifully written.

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From Rabbi Drucker a letter concerning the politics of the discussion.The email that this refers to is quoted below

Yikes, Barry, attacked from the right! Not a great surprise. Rabbi Lapin is known as a neo-Conservative, and there are a number of Jews, including Michael Medved, who enjoy the religious right’s affection for Jews and Israel. If it didn’t depend upon the end of the world and mass conversion to Christianity, I’d enjoy it, too.

My basis for calling the seed of Christianity is Elaine Pagels and common sense. I’m not a student of religion or religions. I don’t know if there is another case where one religion attempts to supplant another by calling the earlier religion’s followers children of Satan.

Judaism’s rabbinic misogyny and occasional xenophobia is part and parcel of all ancient traditions. All of must wrestle with the past in our respective faiths.

While Judaism is my path and I love it, I haven’t seen a faith path yet that I don’t like. I also haven’t seen one that gives us an easy way to walk the talk; we have to keep trying.

Here is a clever line that carries truth: I don’t care what your religion is, as long as you’re ashamed of it.
Thanks for sending me this one. I generally just get the good mail.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

PS–You’re welcome to share this with anyone.
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Subject: Fwd: Why Mel Owes One To The Jews/reply
Malka, I thought you might find this discourse interesting. Please feel free to communicate with any of the parties. I would love to be copied on your response, if any. The main thing I, personally find abhorrent, despite any of Mel Gibson’s profestations to the contrary, is his (Mel’s) reluctance or refusal to refute or dispute his father’s claims as a Holacaust “denier”…..congregant
Subject: RE: Why Mel Owes One To The Jews/reply
As a Jew, I feel like I live in The Promised Land. The USA. This said, it is very difficult for the Jewish collective memory, if there is such a thing, to forget 2,000 years+ of anti-semitism coming directly from the pulpits of Catholic and Protestant churches. Thank G-d for Vatican II! We are fighting the last battle because we are afraid of what we once experienced.
I’m not worried about Mel Gibson or his film.-Jim
Thank you for sharing the thoughts of Rabbi Lapin. He seems like an intelligent and courageous man. I was disheartened to read the earlier email from Rabbi Drucker, so Rabbi Lapin’s view of “giving the benefit of the doubt” to Christians who are eager to see Passion was especially encouraging. Rabbi Drucker stated that “Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic”. I don’t even know how to respond to that statement or even how to begin a discussion except to say that I disagree completely. The essence of Christianity is that we are all flawed human beings and can not save ourselves or earn our way to the kingdom of God. All human beings past, present and future are responsible for Christ’s death which was both pre-ordained and willingly accepted. The view that one group of people is responsible more than others for Christ’s death misses the point entirely. As Rabbi Lapin points out, strong Christians (like the current occupant of the White House) have been among the strongest supporters of both Israel and Jews in general. Daniel Pipes has even developeda term called Christian Zionists for those Christians who offer vocal support.
Having said that, however, Mel could have and should have been more sympathetic to those Jewish groups which, based on centuries of past prejudice, were fearful that a movie with this type of violence might promote anti-Semitism. I think he had a tin ear to their concerns and missed an opportunity for greater understanding and reconciliation.-Paul

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Subject: Why Mel Owes One To The Jews
Hi Barry; I have enjoyed the articles on The Passion you have been circulating. I saw this article online, and I thought I would pass it along. I do not know much about Rabbi Lapin or his organization, and these are his opinions and not necessarily my own. But the Rabbi does offer some interesting observations, and I believe he is correct that all the hoopla will serve to attract more viewers, not less. In that sense, all this publicity is counterproductive to the concerns of some.
Personally, from what I have read I doubt the movie will inflame latent anti-Semitism. If people are inclined that direction, they don’t need the movie to fuel their twisted point of view. If they realize that the message of Jesus is that all of us imperfect humans are equally responsible, the movie won’t matter. Of course, stupid people will take any excuse to advance their agendas, and unfortunately no religion including Christianity lacks for stupid people.
Regardless, the Jewish people I know and love are some of the finest people on the planet, and I revere all of them and their history and traditions. No movie will change that.
Anyway, thanks for the articles.

Why Mel Owes One To The Jews
February 12, 2004
By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
President, Toward Tradition
Two weeks before Mel Gibson’s Passion flashes onto two thousand screens, online ticket merchants are reporting that up to half their total sales are for advance purchases for Passion. One Dallas multiplex has reserved all twenty of its screens for The Passion. I am neither a prophet nor a movie critic. I am merely an Orthodox rabbi using ancient Jewish wisdom to makethree predictions about The Passion.
One, Mel Gibson and Icon Productions will make a great deal of money. Those distributors who surrendered to pressure from Jewish organizations and passed on Passion will be kicking themselves, while Newmarket Films will laugh allthe way to the bank. Theater owners are going to love this film.
Two, Passion will become famous as the most serious and substantive Biblical movie ever made. It will be one of the most talked-about entertainment eventsin history, it is currently on the cover of Newsweek and Vanity Fair.
My third prediction is that the faith of millions of Christians will become more fervent as Passion uplifts and inspires them. Passion will propel vast numbers of unreligious Americans to embrace Christianity. The movie will one day be seen as a harbinger of America’s third great religious reawakening..
Those Jewish organizations that have squandered both time and money futilely protesting Passion, ostensibly in order to prevent pogroms in Pittsburgh, can hardly be proud of their performance. They failed at everything they attempted. They were hoping to ruin Gibson rather than enrich him. They were hoping to suppress Passion rather than promote it. Finally, they were hoping to help Jews rather than harm them.
Here I digress slightly to exercise the Jewish value of “giving the benefit of the doubt” by discounting cynical suggestions growing in popularity, that the very public nature of their attack on Gibson exposed their realpurpose-fundraising. Apparently, frightening wealthy widows in Florida about anti-Semitic thugs prowling the streets of America causes them to open their pocketbooks and refill the coffers of groups with little other raison d’être. But let’s assume they were hoping to help Jews.
However, instead of helping the Jewish community, they have inflicted lasting harm. By selectively unleashing their fury only on wholesome entertainment that depicts Christianity, in a positive light, they have triggered anger, hurt, and resentment. Hosting the Toward Tradition Radio Show and speaking before many audiences nationwide, I enjoy extensive communication with Christian America and what I hear is troubling. Fearful of attracting the ire of Jewish groups that are so quick to hurl the “anti-Semite” epithet, some Christians are reluctant to speak out. Although one can bludgeon resentful people into silence, behind closed doors emotions continue to simmer.
I consider it crucially important for Christians to know that not all Jews are in agreement with their self-appointed spokesmen. Most American Jews, experiencing warm and gracious interactions each day with their Christian fellow-citizens, would feel awkward trying to explain why so many Jewish organizations seem focused on an agenda hostile to Judeo-Christian values.

Many individual Jews have shared with me their embarrassment that groups, ostensibly representing them, attack Passion but are silent about depraved entertainment that encourages killing cops and brutalizing women. Citing artistic freedom, Jewish groups helped protect sacrilegious exhibits such as the anti-Christian feces extravaganza presented by the Brooklyn Museum four years ago. One can hardly blame Christians for assuming that Jews feel artistic freedom is important only when exercised by those hostile toward Christianity. However, this is not how all Jews feel.

From audiences around America, I am encountering bitterness at Jewish organizations insisting that belief in the New Testament is de facto evidence of anti-Semitism. Christians heard Jewish leaders denouncing Gibson for making a movie that follows Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion long before any of them had even seen the movie. Furthermore, Christians are hurt that Jewish groups are presuming to teach them what Christian Scripture “really means..” Listen to a rabbi whom I debated on the Fox television show hosted by Bill O’Reilly last September. This is what he said, “We have a responsibility as Jews, as thinking Jews, as people of theology, to respond to our Christian brothers and to engage them, be it Protestants, be it Catholics, and say, look, this is not your history, this is not your theology, this does not represent what you believe in.”
He happens to be a respected rabbi and a good one, but he too has bought into the preposterous proposition that Jews will reeducate Christians about Christian theology and history. Is it any wonder that this breathtaking> arrogance spurs bitterness?
Many Christians who, with good reason, have considered themselves to be Jews’best (and perhaps, only) friends also feel bitter at Jews believing that Passion is revealing startling new information about the Crucifixion. They are incredulous at Jews thinking that exposure to the Gospels in visual form will instantly transform the most philo-Semitic gentiles of history into snarling, Jew-hating predators.

Christians are baffled by Jews who don’t understand that President George Washington, who knew and revered every word of the Gospels, was still able to write that oft-quoted beautiful letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, offering friendship and full participation in America to the Jewish community.

One of the directors of the AJC recently warned that Passion “could undermine the sense of community between Christians and Jews that’s going on in this country. We’re not allowing the film to do that.” No sir, it isn’t the film that threatens the sense of community; it is the arrogant and intemperate response of Jewish organizations that does so.

Jewish organizations, hoping to help but failing so spectacularly, refutes all myths of Jewish intelligence. How could their plans have been so misguided and the execution so inept?
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that nothing confuses one’s thinking more than being in the grip of the two powerful emotions, love and hate. The actions ofhese Jewish organizations sadly suggest that they are in the grip of a hatredfor Christianity that is only harming Jews.
Today, peril threatens all Americans, both Jews and Christians. Many of the men and women in the front lines find great support in their Christian faith. It is strange that Jewish organizations, purporting to protect Jews, think that insulting allies is the preferred way to carry out that mandate.
A ferocious Rottweiler dog in your suburban home will quickly estrange your family from the neighborhood. For those of us in the Jewish community who cherish friendship with our neighbors, some Jewish organizations have becomeour Rottweilers. God help us.

Radio talk show host, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, is president of Toward Tradition