Gibson's Favor

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Mel Gibson, the actor and director, has done Christians a favor with his movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Christ.

For one, he’s proved once again that the know-it-all critics don’t know what they’re talking about half the time. When he started this project, the jeers were loud and clear: The guy’s going to lose his shirt; making a movie in Latin and Aramaic is crazy; nobody will go see it; etc. and so forth.

Well, as you probably know, Gibson’s movie grossed four times its cost in the first five days of release and will certainly add greatly to Gibson’s wealth. The naysayers were just flat wrong.

A more important favor he did, however, was to remind Christians of the malevolence many secularists feel toward them and their religion. I have never seen the level of personal attacks directed against Gibson launched against any other director, plenty of whom have produced bloody garbage and soft porn. Even when the Disney people hired a convicted pedophile to direct a movie that had pedophile overtones, the critics were all “ho-hum” and “so what.”

What you’ve seen spewed out against Gibson is pure venom, a hatred that goes far beyond any critical disagreement as to the merits of the movie. The attacks have been vicious and personal. He’s been called an anti-Semite, a sadomasochist, a wacko and Lord knows what else. It is far more revealing of the nature of his critics than it is of him. Gibson is a Christian and a near genius as a moviemaker. He is not an anti-Semite.

The movie accurately reflects the account of the Gospels. When you hear people say that the movie is inaccurate, they are really saying the Gospels are inaccurate — which, of course, is the secular position. Christ’s arrest and execution were instigated and insisted upon by the Jewish religious establishment. That’s in the Gospels and also in the Talmud. Christ never criticized the Roman Empire, but he did criticize the Jewish rabbis of his day.

Here, you must give credit to Christian fundamentalists. If the Gospels are not the inspired word of God and therefore not true, then the whole religion collapses. There are no secular accounts, except for a brief mention here and there.

But if you’re not a Christian, then why should you care what Christians believe? What is it about Christianity that causes disbelievers to hate it so? And that’s the point of this column. All of this malevolence directed at Gibson is also directed at Bible-believing Christians. Don’t kid yourself.

There is a limit to ecumenicalism. If Jesus is the son of God and the true Messiah, then Judaism is a false religion, as is Islam. If the Jews are right that Jesus was a fraud, then Christianity is a false religion. Mutually contradictory propositions cannot be compromised. That doesn’t mean that people with different and contradictory beliefs cannot treat each other with courtesy and decency, but theology, by definition, is not suited to compromise.

As for the movie itself, in my opinion, it’s too violent for children or even squeamish adults. Gibson has made real the suffering of Jesus and done so deliberately. It’s one thing to read that he was scourged and crucified; it is another thing entirely to see it. That causes people to realize the enormity of the sacrifice. But that’s why the movie is R-rated, and it is certainly less violent than much of the junk that Hollywood produces.

Gibson is owed an apology by his critics, but I expect to see the Second Coming before that happens. But you Christians can take comfort in the fact that your enemies are pretty much a nest of vipers — the kind of people no decent person would want for friends.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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