Why Mel Owes One To
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 make three 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 all the 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 events in 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 real purpose-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'tre. 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,
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 of these Jewish organizations sadly suggest
that they are in the grip of a hatred for Christianity that is only
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 become our Rottweilers. God help us.
More from The Passion
of The Christ special
feature on CBN.com
Radio talk show host, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, is president of Toward Tradition,
a bridge-building organization providing a voice for all Americans who
defend the Judeo-Christian values vital for our nations survival.
Used by permission of Toward Tradition.
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