Agony and art.

Author:Rose, Michael
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the Editor

The rhetorical devices employed by Russell Hittinger and Eilzabeth Lev in "Gibson's Passion" (March) to justify the orgy of sadomasochism and anti-Semitism in Mel Gibson's film--and to cover over their own lack of cogent arguments--should not go unchallenged. They note, for example, that the film is "nearly the opposite" of a passion play because viewers "must struggle to keep watching, which is humiliating in its own right." This is precisely what makes the film so dangerous: it leaves the audience so humiliated that it will look for someone to blame. This is how people react to being humiliated. Just as Hitler used German humiliation during the Weimar Republic to galvanize anti-Semitism, Gibson's message is: don't blame the Romans or Pilate for what happened to Jesus--blame the Jews.

Michael Rose

Chevy Chase, Maryland

Not one of us escapes the struggle between the better and lesser angels of our nature, not even the Sanhedrin. A film that better portrayed the trial of Jesus, somewhat downplayed by Russell Hittinger and Elizabeth Lev, was Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth. In that film, the Sanhedrin debated, confronted, agonized, and sought to understand the metaphors of Christ. Even the darkest voices were portrayed as possessing doubts about having made the right decision to the very end. Because it portrays the Sanhedrin as fairly monolithic, Gibson's Passion, an otherwise brilliant work of art, is flawed.

Edward J. Baker

Fresh Meadows, New York

I am a rabbi. I have been a student of early Christianity since my childhood. I have seen The Passion twice and have participated in some amazing discussions about the movie over the past weeks in formal venues and informal exchanges. As a Jew, I understand and empathize with the fears and anxieties of most of my fellow Jews about the potential for anti-Semitism, grounded as those fears are in a strong collective memory.

But as a person of faith, I also empathize and understand the response to the film on the part of believing Christians. Indeed, if the central message of Christianity is that Jesus suffered and died for all of humanity's sins--how could there not be as much blood as there is in the film? Indeed, why wasn't there more?

I believe--and I have seen--that this film has an incredible potential for generating deep and meaningful conversations between believing Jews and Christians. That potential will be realized if: 1) Jews will understand that because Christians really do believe what happened to Jesus was from God and not any segment of humanity, they are not...

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