Skip to comments."Not peace but a sword" (Safire slams The Passion)
Posted on 02/29/2004 9:12:37 PM PST by churchillbuff
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: March 1, 2004
Columnist Page: William Safire
WASHINGTON ...Mel Gibson's movie about the torture and agony of the final hours of Jesus is the bloodiest, most brutal example of sustained sadism ever presented on the screen.
...[snip] the bar against film violence has been radically lowered. Movie mayhem, long resisted by parents, has found its loophole; others in Hollywood will now find ways to top Gibson's blockbuster, to cater to voyeurs of violence and thereby to make bloodshed banal.
What are the dramatic purposes of this depiction of cruelty and pain? First, shock; the audience I sat in gasped at the first tearing of flesh. Next, pity at the sight of prolonged suffering. And finally, outrage: who was responsible for this cruel humiliation? What villain deserves to be punished?
Not Pontius Pilate, the Roman in charge; he and his kindly wife are sympathetic characters. Nor is King Herod shown to be at fault.
The villains at whom the audience's outrage is directed are the actors playing bloodthirsty rabbis and their rabid Jewish followers. This is the essence of the medieval "passion play," preserved in pre-Hitler Germany at Oberammergau, a source of the hatred of all Jews as "Christ killers."
Much of the hatred is based on a line in the Gospel of St. Matthew, after the Roman governor washes his hands of responsibility for ordering the death of Jesus, when the crowd cries, "His blood be on us, and on our children."
Though unreported in the Gospels of Mark, Luke or John, that line in Matthew embraced with furious glee by anti-Semites through the ages is right there in the New Testament. Gibson and his screenwriter didn't make it up, nor did they misrepresent the apostle's account of the Roman governor's queasiness at the injustice.
But biblical times are not these times. This inflammatory line in Matthew and the millenniums of persecution, scapegoating and ultimately mass murder that flowed partly from its malign repetition was finally addressed by the Catholic Church in the decades after the defeat of Naziism.
In 1965's historic Second Vatican Council, during the papacy of Paul VI, the church decided that while some Jewish leaders and their followers had pressed for the death of Jesus, "still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."
That was a sea change in the doctrinal interpretation of the Gospels, and the beginning of major interfaith progress.
However, a group of Catholics rejects that and other holdings of Vatican II. Mr. Gibson is reportedly aligned with that reactionary clique. (So is his father, an outspoken Holocaust-denier, but the son warns interviewers not to go there. I agree; the latest generation should not be held responsible for the sins of the fathers.)
In the skillful publicity run-up to the release of the movie, Gibson's agents said he agreed to remove that ancient self-curse from the screenplay. It's not in the subtitles I saw the other night, though it may still be in the Aramaic audio, in which case it will surely be translated in the versions overseas.
And there's the rub. At a moment when a wave of anti-Semitic violence is sweeping Europe and the Middle East, is religion well served by updating the Jew-baiting passion plays of Oberammergau on DVD? Is art served by presenting the ancient divisiveness in blood-streaming media to the widest audiences in the history of drama?
Matthew in 10:34 quotes Jesus uncharacteristically telling his apostles: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." You don't see that on Christmas cards and it's not in this film, but those words can be reinterpreted read today to mean that inner peace comes only after moral struggle.
The richness of Scripture is in its openness to interpretation answering humanity's current spiritual needs. That's where Gibson's medieval version of the suffering of Jesus, reveling in savagery to provoke outrage and cast blame, fails Christian and Jew today.
It's long been evident to me, living my whole life amid Jews in NY and L.A., that Jews more than other religious groups are most likely to be offended by Christmas displays. But some Jews, like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved, are beginning to see this Jewish hostility and are speaking against it, which is good.
However, I think black conservatives are likely free of anti-white feelings, whereas many a Jewish conservative (like Safire) may yet harbor anti-Christianity feelings (for I think his animosity or more against Christianity that against Christians). This may be because conservatives are more likely to challenge false charges of racism than of anti-semitism.
Perhaps when The Passion does not result in mass attacks on Jews in the U.S., Safire and other Jews will feel more secure, and less hostile?
Here is your ribbon.
What, you don't want this ribbon? You must wear the ribbon!
Everyone who is in the march has to have a ribbon!
Hey, everyone! He (Kramer) does not want to wear the Aids Ribbon!
/sarcasm and a very poor attempt at humor.
I have not seen the movie but plan to. When the movie JFK came out, it was praised by a majority and panned by many - especially the elite on both sides of the politial fence. I liked it because there was not one theory in it that I had not read in books I had previously checked out of my public library. To me it seemed that Oliver Stone's sin was to put those theories in the movie theater in an artistic presentation. I wonder how many on this forum, who have bashed Stone for his artistic license, are now bashing those who bash Gibson for his?
Today, Muslims are waging a worldwide jihad against "Zionists and Crusaders." Devout Christians are the allies of the Jews in this war. Branding these Christians as dumb and potentially dangerous bigots is obnoxious. It also is impolitic.
I am surprised a man as educated as Mr. Safire can be so ignorant. What he says is quite simply, factually wrong.
The truth is that Nazis who perpetrated that great crime were NOT CHRISTIANS. Their symbology and ethos was essentially PAGAN. Along with the huge numbers of innocent Jews slaughtered were thousands of Christian clergy, both Catholic and Protestant.
The true connection with antisemitism seems to be SOCIALISM. The greatest antisemitic pogroms of the 20th Century were committed by Socialist atheists or pagans in their communistic or fascistic forms. The animosity toward Jews from them is more likely brought about by jealousy for their perceived wealth than for any "killing of Christ" accusation.
Although most Jews were employed in the same kinds of work as their neighbors, sufficient numbers of them because prominent businesses that made them easy targets for socialists' purposes of creating a scapegoat to aim their invective at.
Jews, perhaps because of their ingrained need to be fluid in their assets because of a "racial" history of being forced to leave their homes, tended to hold more liquid assets that could be easily carried (rather than "real" assets) and became prominent in jewelry and banking, both associated with "liquid" assets and wealth.
The Jews became the lenders of funds and the purchasers of family heirlooms when people fell on hard times, which tended to give them an appearance of profiteering from the misfortune of others, rather than as benefactors providing ready cash for the newly destitute when needed. There was resentment that always attached to the shame of having to borrow or sell assets to survive. This perception of "somewhat shadily acquired" wealth made them easy targets for the class warfare and demonization the socialists needed to have an enemy to blame for the "failings" of capitalist society.
If one examines the persecution of Jews in the last 500 years, the ultimate cause is more likely this jealousy and resentment usually inflamed by some demagogues than any "blood inheritance" of blame for Jesus' death.
Gibson's Passion tops box office - The Passion of the Christ has gone straight to the top of the North American box office chart. - ***Mel Gibson's controversial film about Jesus Christ took an estimated $76.2m (£40.7m) from Friday to Sunday. ***
"His blood be on us and on our children," is not a self-curse. It is prophecy. It is from the Bible. This prophecy is similar to what Caiphus, the High Priest, uttered, as revealed in John 11:50-52:
Blood sacrifice was instituted by Jehovah. The first act of this we see was done by God Himself, recounted in the Book of Genesis, written by Moses, when God Himself slew animals and used their skins to 'cover' Adam and Eve in their naked shame. Blood sacrifice was confirmed, again in Genesis, when Abel's offering to God was accepted and Cain's refused.
The blood of sacrifice throughout Jewish history cleansed the Nation from sin and delivered them from death, ref. the Passover. In the Old Covenant blood-letting and sprinkling was conducted once a year by the high priest in the Holy of Holies and upon the people.
In the New Covenant, through Yeshua, the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God, sacrificed from the beginning of the world (pictured throughout the Scriptures, and prophecied over and over again in them) the sacrifice has been done once for all.
It is finished.
His blood be upon me, and on my children.
I say this in wonder, awe, and praise.
It is no self-curse. It is salvation.