The much anticipated release of The Passion, Mel Gibson's graphic depiction of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus is fraught with controversy. Jesus, or His message, bids fair to be crucified again - by the same people. Jewish religious groups are up in arms saying that the movie will inflame anti-semitism by its portrayal of Jews playing a large role in the crucifixion. I have two pieces of news for these objectors: 1) it is a historical fact that Jews were the main instigators in Jesus' death, and 2) there were also plenty of Jews who were the good guys in the story - Jesus Himself being not the least of them.
Secular groups out of Gibson-unfriendly Hollywood are up in arms as well. They claim to foresee all sorts of riot and hate crimes being fomented by the showing of this film. It is the public good and peace they are after. I have comments for them as well: 1) the film depicts a Jesus who forgives no matter the evil done against Him, and 2) I wonder why you aren't concerned about public good and peace when you release violent, pornographic slasher films.
A lot like real life in every century, huh?
The historical facts (related by Jewish people) are that both the secular Romans, seeking the public good and peace, and Jewish leaders, seeking to get rid of the Man whose real religion made theirs look phony, joined together to murder the Man who simply "went about doing good."
In the gospel accounts, three of which were written by Jews, some of the bad Jews included one of Jesus' own followers as a total sell-out to the jealous among the Jewish religious leaders, as well as the on-again-off-again goodness and badness of Peter who wimped out when things got dicey, but later repented and was forgiven. There is one "good" Jewish thief and one "bad Jewish thief on the crosses next to Jesus. Good Jews include Nicodemus, a well-known Jewish leader, John, who followed Jesus all the way to the hill of Golgotha, and several women named Mary, who did likewise - a pretty bold thing for Jewish women of the time to do.
In the cast of Romans, Pilate, while a bad guy in the end, seems to occasionally allow a bit of conscience to affect his all-out badness. The soldiers, as with cops and military everywhere and everywhen, are "just doing their jobs" - except when they decide to play "crown the king" games with Jesus. On the other side, Pilate's wife is afraid that Jesus might be special and takes His part. One soldier at least, appears to experience an epiphany at the death of Jesus and realizes that Jesus was probably an innocent man.
What I am saying is: This sounds an awful lot like real life in any age. When Good stands out starkly against the mundane gray of everyday evil, there are those whose reaction is violent and evil, and also those whose reaction is good and accepting. There are a whole range of in-betweens - and many who switch sides, often repeatedly.
With the advent of the movie, though, it looks as though the same cast of characters is assembling. Jesus, or His message, is to be starkly portrayed. The "Romans" of today are, as always, looking out for the public order. The Jews who object to Jesus' message citing the patently ridiculous charge that Jesus, a Jew who forgives all those involved in His execution, will stir up hatred and crimes against other Jews.
He is to be crucified again - if this unsavory pair has any say in the matter. No charge is to petty or mean against the film's producer; no slander to great against the Object of the film.
They seem to say, "Yeah! He is just faking that forgiveness! His words are just an anti-semitic code for good Aryans like Jesus (whoops!) to go after the Jews." Yeah, right!
The simple fact is that people object to Jesus because He is good and they know they can never measure up to that goodness. It is sad that they miss the message: Yes, you cannot measure up to God's goodness. You have sinned against Him, but I bring you forgiveness - if you'll have it.
Evidently, those playing the modern parts of the bad Romans and Jews are having none of it.
(To see the startling movie trailer, go to www.passion-movie.com and click on "Media.")
� 2003 Paul deParrie - All Rights Reserved
Paul deParrie is a 17-year veteran of anti-abortion street activism, a preacher, and a social critic. He is the author of "Dark Cures: Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics" (Huntington House) available at NewsWithViews Online Store Front. deParrie may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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"Gibson has been explicit about his work here. There are bad guys who are secular - some Roman officials - and good guys who are secular as well. There are bad guys who are Jews, and good guys who are Jews."