: I just saw the TV commercial for Mel Gibson’s Passion and I have to say it felt oddly, uncomfortably profane: Come see Christ die! Now!

Can’t wait until it’s out on DVD and they offer the uncut version.

: But seriously… In Germany, churches are fretting about the impact The Passion will have on antisemitism there, as well they should.

Germany’s Roman Catholic and Protestant churches joined the Jewish community Thursday in a rare joint declaration to warn that Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” could fan anti-Semitism in Europe.

In their first joint statement in four years, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the German Bishops Conference and the Protestant Church criticized the film that opened on Thursday in Germany for its “overly negative portrayal” of Jews.

“There is a danger the film will revive anti-Semitic prejudices,” they said.

“This is especially explosive in view of the situation in Europe with a noticeable increase in anti-Semitism. Whether its intention was anti-Semitic or not, there is a danger it could be used as anti-Semitic propaganda.”


: UPDATE: The test of The Passion‘s anti-Semitism is not how many lynchings, bombings, murders, graffiti-scrawlings it causes. That meme is spreading in the comments here and in plenty of places and so I’ll repeat my reply here.

The test, instead, is the critical — that is, subjective — judgment of the work itself: Is it anti-Semitic? I believe it is for reasons I made clear the day after it opened, when I saw it.

Now I do not believe that TV violence begets real-life violence. People who are going to go on mass-murder sprees are going to do that anyway and TV certainly cannot make them do it. So I discredit all those stupid stories of people copying TV or movies whenever they come out.

So if there are more anti-Semitic acts in Europe after the film opens, I would be the first to say that the film is not the cause, only the latest excuse.

Germany is, of course, a quite special case. There are restrictions on speech there that are understandable on one level. But at some point, they need to grapple with the fact that stopping someone from saying something anti-Semitic does not make them tolerant. These religious leaders are grappling with exactly that because of The Passion. They feel compelled to call anti-Semitism where they see it. And they see it in this film. And they should know it when they see it…

  • This strikes me as hypocritical, Jeff. Howard Stern can say whatever he likes on his radio show, and should have no repercussions whatsoever, but Mel Gibson’s movie about Christ’s death should catch hell (if you’ll pardon the pun) because it might make people angry at Jews over in Europe?

  • I am not stopping anybody from showing it. But that should not stop anyone from criticizing it… even councils of catholic, protestant, and jewish leaders… and me. If I’d been blogging when the piss-covered Jesus was on display in a New York gallery, I would have said the same thing. Gibson can show his film. Others can criticize it. And I happen to agree with what these guys said; it’s anti-Semitic. Of course, in Germany, that causes special concern…

  • Michael Sweeney

    I find it odd to see people take in soda and popcorn to scarf down all while watching Jesus get torn to shreds and then hung on a cross.
    In a much less serious note, I was thinking about going the first weekend and just start yelling, “Get him! Get Him!!” Just to see if I would get out alive.

  • Timothy lll

    I.m not trying to tell you what to do, but you might want to rethink your flippant attitude, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ. A little more fear of God on your part, might be in order. You can be entertaining without joining the ‘trash religion crowd’. Just trying to help.

  • I will consider that tonight when I go to my church meeting.

  • Roger

    Seems to me anti-Semitism has been going strongly before Mel’s movie. Maybe these Europeans are looking for a scapegoat.
    By the way, polls of people coming out of The Passion show a large majority having a more favorable view of Jews after the movie.

  • TomP

    Just out of curiosity, now that it’s been out for a couple of weeks here in the US, are you aware of any evidence that this movie has in any way contributed to anti-Semitism? I sure haven’t.
    My strong sense is that the “anti-Semitism” charge is just a convenient PC accusation to throw at a movie that you find distasteful for some other reason. It is clearly not overtly anti-Semitic – /all/ of the major protagonists and antagonists are Jews (besides a couple of Romans). It’s like calling a movie about the Civil War anti-American. And no one remotely aware of the Christian theology explaining this event could be mistaken about the fact that it’s not about “the Jews”, at all, but about something bigger than that. I can understand that there are many reasons not to like this movie (it’s too violent, it takes liberties with the Gospels, it’s too literal, it’s a incomplete picture of Jesus, it’s too Christian, it’s too Catholic, it’s not my kind of Christian, etc.) but that it’s “anti-Semitic” is not one of them.

  • andy obuoforibo

    Argh. “Braveheart” did not inspire anti-English sentiment (although I told my piano teacher she could take my life, but not my freeeeeedom!!!!!).
    “JFK” did not inspire anti-American ire. THe average viewer is intelligent enough to put this movie in context. Only people who alreasdy hate Jews (for whatever reason) would draw evidence from this movie.

  • Steve in Houston

    I agree with Roger. It’s not like Europe has been free of anti-Semitism of late. And it had nothing to do with a high-profile Mel Gibson flick. While there’s the off chance that the movie might in some subtle way contribute to ill feelings among the five or six Christians still living in Europe, my guess is the secular and Islamic sources of anti-Semitism are much more of a threat.
    AFAIK, there has been no uptick in anti-Semitic feelings over here, at least not in response to the movie. Free-floating unmotivated anti-Semitism, of course, is still at play.

  • The proof is not a lynch count. The proof — either way — will come in years. Prejudice is subtle, haven’t we learned that by now?

  • HH

    Sheesh… meanwhile the SF Chronicle reports that there has been no anti-Semitic surge from the film, in fact it may be that it has lessened anti-Semitism. And now the buzz is that it could beat Titanic. I’m sorry but this is akin to “The Matrix caused Columbine.” Let’s stop blaming Hollywood (or talk radio or what have you) for what psychos and idiots and bigots do.

  • Dan Herzlich

    I wanna know if it’s a mortal sin to makeout with your girlfriend, or significant other as the case my be, during this movie?
    I think this was a Seinfeld episode.;)
    DH – Going to hell in a bucket, least I’m enjoying the ride.

  • John

    There are many articles detailing how Gibson went out of his way in TPoTC to portray Jews in a more negative light then they appear in the Gospels, and the Romans in a more positive light. I have read a lot of responses to this criticism, and NONE of them attempt to refute the specific charges in a substantive manner. They either: 1. Equate criticism with censorship, as the first post here does, 2. Attack that critic with a holier-than-thou attitude (as Timmy here), 3. Downplay the charges of anti-semiticism in a general manner, implying that the critic is making these charges for alterior motives (anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-religion, too PC, etc.), 4. Make the statement that there are no reports of anti-semitic acts, so what’s the fuss? (as several people here do), AND almost all downplay (or don’t even mention) the role Passion plays have had over several hundred years of anti-semitic hatred, pogroms, and murder….
    (BTW, I’m not Jewish)…

  • Ric Locke

    What I find alternately amusing and infuriating is the subtext to all of this. None of the commenters expect that watching the film will cause anti-Semitism in themselves. What they’re clearly worried about, though they don’t say it out loud, is all those unwashed, ignorant, hymn-singing rednecks going out to see the flick and coming back to get their shotguns.
    Well, guess what: that’s just more indication that the commenters with those worries are utterly ignorant of what’s going on. As a card-carrying unwashed, ignorant etc. I can tell you with confidence: set your mind at ease. Religious-Right rednecks are not going to be launching any pogroms, because of this movie or for any other reason.
    Evangelical Christians have been enthusiastic supporters of Israel and respecters of Jews for a long time. Pentecostals are somewhat less enthusiastic, but are at worst neutral. All of them go to see the movie as an examination and affirmation of faith, not any kind of polemic.
    FYI both Evangelicals and Pentecostals have come to a conclusion about the “blood libel:” yes, the Jews killed Jesus. That was their job, that was what they were supposed to do. Christ was supposed to die for our sins, which means somebody was going to get the job of sticking the nails in. God killed Christ, and blaming the instruments is just wrong.
    Also: Jews are God’s Chosen People, and anybody who envies them that is insane — it means they get assigned all the dirty work. Think of the network guru who gets called to reboot the server at 0300 on Sunday morning. They deserve support — and they get it.
    So cool it with the anti-Semitism accusations. You’re insulting my friends and neighbors, and there’s no basis for it.

  • Steve in Houston

    Jeff, you’re right of course that the possible subtle effects of anti-Semitism may indeed be borne out in the indeterminate future.
    My suggestion is that as pernicious as those effects may turn out to be, they pale in comparison to the danger posed by poisonous overt secular and Islamicist anti-Semitism currently in vogue in Europe.
    Haven’t we learned that by now?

  • John

    Oh, I forgot one: The “it’s nothing compared to Islamic anti-semiticism” defense (corollary: Europe and the rest of the world already have so much anti-semiticism, why worry about this?). If you’re not showing Jews killing children to serve in their matzoh for passover, it can’t be REAL anti-semiticism…

  • Mara

    Jeff – an honest question. You are chiding people, rightly so, for making statements about the content of Howard Stern’s radio show without listening to him. Aren’t you doing the same thing with “The Passion”? You don’t want to see the film – as is your right – but Germany had a serious anti-semitism problem long before this (as does a lot of Europe right now). Do you really think this film will encourage anti-semitism the same way the non-Stern fans think he’s the root of the downfall of the culture as we know it? And are you OK making these judgments without being familiar with the source material but not allowing the same for the non-Stern-fans?
    OK, three honest quetions.

  • Doctor Slack

    What they’re clearly worried about, though they don’t say it out loud . . .
    Ric: any argument that requires you to put words in the mouths of your opponents is one you need to take a good hard look at. Pay attention to what Jeff says here:
    Prejudice is subtle, haven’t we learned that by now?
    Exactly. That is the point. Mel Gibson’s film is an old-style passion play, with everything that that implies. Maybe he’s naive about that (though I’m not convinced); I am convinced that much of his audience is naive about it. But being naive about prejudice isn’t a defense against it, and being pro-Israel isn’t an automatic signal of impermeable respect for Jews.
    I don’t think Gibson should get a pass on promoting anti-Semitism, wittingly or unwittingly; the old-style anti-Semitic tropes of the European Middle Ages worked for a reason, and it’s just too complacent to think they can’t have a corrosive effect today. That anti-Semitism is a worse problem for today’s Muslims is obvious enough, but not an excuse.
    Oh, and incidentally, re: the “rising anti-Semitism meme,” here’s a note from the recent Pew survey:
    Despite concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, there are no indications that anti-Jewish sentiment has increased over the past decade. Favorable ratings of Jews are actually higher now in France, Germany and Russia than they were in 1991. Nonetheless, Jews are better liked in the U.S. than in Germany and Russia. As is the case with Americans, Europeans hold much more negative views of Muslims than of Jews.

  • Doctor Slack

    Oh, I meant to post a link to this above.
    You don’t want to see the film – as is your right
    Ehhh, I think Jeff has seen the film.

  • mitch

    To date in North America: Christians have killed no-one since the release of the Passion. Islamics have killed approx.700 since the opening of the Passion.

  • Mara: I saw it. Post/review here — — with more comment in many posts that follow.
    I made sure to see it precisely so you could not chide me for chiding people.
    So I’ll turn it back around: Make sure you see the source material — in this case, what I’ve written — before chiding me, eh? I wrote about it the day after the movie opened.

  • Doctor Slack

    If “mitch” is trying to allude to the al-Aqsa Intifada, that’s been going since a long time before the Passion was released. That four-year conflict has killed some 700 Israelis and 1900 Palestinians.

  • I responded on the post in an update….

  • Dan Herzlich

    If I had one question to ask Mel I’d asked him if he were a sedevacantist.
    To be against the principles of Vatican II (not dogma), affirms that the Catholic faith is the one true religion, and that the Jews and Muslims will not achieve salvation. No freedom of religion, no ecumenism. The Muslims as well as Jews should question the intent of the Passion.
    Gibson is building a church in California that is schismatic to the Roman Catholic Church, reverting to the latin mass.
    BTW, the sedevacantists (meaning “vacant seat”) believe that the last true Pope was Pius XII who died in 1958. All since then are heretics, and therefore the papalcy is currently vacant.
    Nicht wahr?

  • Mara

    Jeff, my apologies – I thought you didn’t see it. I was wrong and I’m reading your review now.
    Thanks for the quick reply and your right – I didn’t know you saw the film, so my concerns were based on an uninformed assumption, as are the non-Stern fans’.

  • Mara: And thanks for your quick response in return.

  • Dan Herzlich

    “Now I do not believe that TV violence begets real-life violence.”
    Images created and displayed to influence behavior: isn’t this the craft of advertising?
    Jeff, your argument lacks rigor.

  • Dan Herzlich

    Why aren’t you concerned about the anti-semitism of Wagner?

  • Tell me if this is antisemitism or not. I think it is. It is also manipulation of PR by Mel Gibson without caring if he stokes anti-Jewish conspiracies. The guy is a sleaze.

  • “Why aren’t you concerned about the anti-semitism of Wagner?”
    1) Plenty are. It is still practically forbidden to play Wagner in Israel.

  • Christian snuff click…

  • Ric Locke

    Doctor Slack: “Ric: any argument that requires you to put words in the mouths of your opponents is one you need to take a good hard look at.”
    Thanks for pointing that out, but I think your following observation sort of takes the sting out of it. We are talking here about subtle prejudice, after all, and the picture of the ignorant, violent redneck is a constant in our society — so much so that it’s (IMO) one of the major components in the “Hate Bush” meme.
    Full disclosure: I was a loser in the Civil Rights conflicts, and have come later to believe that that was the right and just result. One of the results of that is that I am familiar with the memes and customs of ethnicist prejudice, because I used to be good at it.
    Guarded viewing-with-alarm used to be one of the prime tactics used by the pseudoliberal wing of the prejudiced, and it still is. You can see it in the gay marriage conflict, and people right here have called the offenders on it — quite rightly. I don’t see any reason I shouldn’t return the favor.
    To repeat: neither you nor I expects urban sophisticates to respond to a mere film by starting to bash Jews. Where, then, does the alarm come from? Who, specifically, are you expecting to be the ones whose anti-Semitism has been increased? There’s only one horse in that race, and I’m telling you it ain’t running, either.

  • Doctor Slack

    Guarded viewing-with-alarm used to be one of the prime tactics used by the pseudoliberal wing of the prejudiced, and it still is.
    Hmmm. Okay, a fair point… and there’s a certain extent to which prejudice is in the eye of the beholder. On the other hand, and very roughly speaking, I think most people can agree that there’s a qualitative difference between people who view the extension of rights[1] with alarm, and those who despise whole categories of people and whose “alarm” about them is really a cover for that distaste. (Yes, I know that’s something of a simplification, but I think we can run with it for the sake of argument.)
    [1] Here I mean the basic, commonly-enjoyed rights enjoined by the majority in any baseline liberal democracy.
    To repeat: neither you nor I expects urban sophisticates to respond to a mere film by starting to bash Jews. Where, then, does the alarm come from? Who, specifically, are you expecting to be the ones whose anti-Semitism has been increased?
    Well, in saying prejudice is subtle I think we’re saying you can’t trace or predict its exact results — but you can’t dismiss it either. When images are commonly accepted and routine, the attitudes they imply can also very easily become routine. Nobody can predict the outcome of that, but it has to have consequences somewhere along the line. The modern West is the exception in Western history in (mostly) rejecting racial caricatures as a “done thing” — and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the modern West is also as unusually tolerant as it is. A vision like Gibson’s is a step back from that achievement, and I don’t think we need to indulge or tiptoe around that.
    In terms of immediate impact, though, the Passion is likely to have the greatest propaganda utility for extremists in the Middle East, where crude forms of anti-Semitism are more politically influential. And, worryingly, a lot of Muslim moderates are just as tone-deaf about the anti-Semitic content as many Westerners.

  • My strong sense is that the “anti-Semitism” charge is just a convenient PC accusation to throw at a movie that you find distasteful for some other reason. It is clearly not overtly anti-Semitic – /all/ of the major protagonists and antagonists are Jews (besides a couple of Romans).
    It’s hard to know where to begin when trying to refute such obtuseness.
    I saw the film in the first week of its run. The fact is, it makes use of every classical anti-Semitic theme in the Gospels and magnifies them thru the medium of cinema as wielded by a strongly reactionary Catholic sensibility. It’s all there: the bloodthirsty Jewish crowd, the craven and manipulative group of high priests, the greedy Judas Iscariot, who falls to his hands and knees to scoop the 30 pieces of silver from the bare floor. Sure, the “good” protagonatists were Jewish, but only because they don’t have a choice. They are proto-Christians. The Jewish Jews are all horrible. At the end of the film, the Temple is destroyed.
    Don’t tell me what anti-Semitism is. You haven’t lived it.

  • Without yet seeing the movie (to be released in Slovakia just before Easter), I can comment clearly on a few items. 1) Jew-hate is all too alive in most of Central Europe; and I’m sure it’s been growing in France (see Merde in France). 2) Most folk who seemed concerned about its increase due to the movie are NOT church going Chistians. To M. Novak and P. Noonan, for instance, the movie was powerful, moving, and left them with the feeling, quite Christian, that WE ALL killed Christ, who died for the sins of ALL us.
    I think it’s inevitable that non-believers will see a different movie than believers — and likely in a more different way than those who haven’t the LoTR books but see the movie.
    Finally, there’s a strong extreme secular thought that free speech, on sex and cursing, doesn’t hurt anybody. But science says the DNA of aborted fetus bodies is different than that of the mothers; many who want to censure sex claim that porno, or near porno, leads to more promiscuity and more sex and more abortion. But abortion certainly kills fetal bodies. Who has the “burden of proof” — believers that sex talk/ porno is bad, or believers that sex talk/ porno is not bad?
    If it’s the “believers … is bad” for sex, it’s up to those who believe the movie increases Jew-hate to prove it.
    Finally, sex-talk has become part of the accepted culture, so is almost daily constant. Such movies are much more one-time events, about a specific few hours in the life of Jesus. The daily culture is far stronger than ony movie.