The Jewish perspective
: Jewsweek, the wonderful online magazine, devotes itself entirely right now to Mel Gibson’s Passion.
Editor Benyamin Cohen’s review:
Well, after walking out of an advance screening, my first comprehensible thought was this: I really want to kill a Jew.
In recent interviews, Gibson has been uttering the following mantra: “Wait until the film is released. You’ll see that I don’t blame the Jews.” Well, Gibson not only goes out of his way to blame the Jews for Jesus’ brutal crucifixion, but he goes so far as to portray the Romans as unwilling accomplices, which is, with certainty, a willful distortion of the original text. Meanwhile, Gibson depicts most of the Jews as an angry lynch mob which gains pleasure from watching a man writhe in pain and flood the ground with blood. It would take an act of God to incite more anti-Semitism than this film is sure to ignite.
But putting false claims of theological culpability and biblical fidelity aside, the film suffers from poor storytelling. Since the movie only depicts Jesus’ final hours, we are given no background — why did the Sanhedrin want him dead? What crimes did he commit to deserve such a gruesome death? All we’re shown is these mean Jews who want to murder this nice young man.
… [B]y reducing the film to just twelve brutal hours, Gibson has, unfortunately, undermined Jesus’ spiritual qualities and squandered an opportunity to create a unique cinematic and profound religious experience. Instead, he opts to turn the story of Jesus from one of intense spirituality to one of brutal violence. The film feasts on the physical torture and not the metaphysical elevation. It’s Gibson’s obsession with sadomasochism on display for everyone to see in all its, um, gory.
This does a horrible disservice to the Christian community. By transforming the story from one filled with hope to one mired in rage, Gibson is teaching a new, and violent, Christian doctrine. Contrary to what you may have learned in Sunday School, he seems to be saying, Christianity is based on revenge, not love. This is nothing short of an embarrassment to our Christian brethren.
This reminds me of one thought I had during the film: The fetisishtic treatment of violence and blood reminded me of nothing so much as the unleashing of self-flagellation by certain Islamic sects. It emphasizes the virtue in suffering and pain, in blood and violence — rather than the virtue of good acts and a gracious heart. And that is troubling.
: Jewsweek’s blog points us to the official Mel Gibson Passion souvenirs, such as this pewter spike — just like the one nailed into your Christ’s hand — on a leather necklace. Only $16.99. Oh, man.
: And there is an excerpt of a book on the Oberamergau Passion Play; a feature on the Jewish actress who plays Mary; a story on Mel Gibson’s father‘s infamous anti-Semitism; a backgrounder on the story of the Passion by a Columbia religion prof; a state-of-anti-Semitism story; a story on Mel’s side; and many columns. An impressive report and I’m only halfway through reading it.