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 Gibson’s Goal 

March 2, 2004

Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ has been greeted by some remarkable expressions of hatred for Christianity — all in the name of fighting anti-Semitism, of course. By now it would take a whole book to deal with them thoroughly, but the prize for venom goes to columnist William Safire of the New York Times, who blames the Holocaust on Christ.

After the standard rundown of the Gospels, medieval Passion plays, and the “sadism” of Gibson’s film, Safire quotes Christ himself in Matthew 10:34: “I have come to bring not peace, but a sword.”

Get it? Christ preached hatred and violence. If you connect the dots, his teaching ultimately bore fruit in millennia of anti-Semitism, culminating in Hitler’s mass murders of Jews.

Of course Safire, who seems to be writing for people who don’t know the New Testament too well, doesn’t mention that Christ is speaking metaphorically, as the rest of the passage immediately makes clear: “For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own house.” That is, Christ’s truth will divide people even from their closest relatives. As it often still does.

Safire overlooks an even more famous metaphor of the sword, though Jesus speaks it in the new film: “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.”

Jews like Safire can’t shake the obsessive belief that they are the victims of hatred, even when they’re spreading hatred themselves. Among Jewish writers during the present controversy, only David Klinghoffer, writing in the Los Angeles Times, has been candid enough to mention that the Talmud proudly gives the Jews “credit” for killing Jesus.

The Talmud’s account is historically incredible, but it shows that the notion that some Jews played their part in killing Christ isn’t just a fiction of the Gospels. The Talmud doesn’t even mention the Romans’ role in the story, whereas the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t mention the Jewish role: it merely says that Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.” If the early Church was so eager to blame the Jews, it muffed its big chance.

[Breaker quote: Matthew 10:34 and the Holocaust]Moving along to the Washington Post, we find columnist Richard Cohen charging that Gibson’s film is “anti-Semitic, maybe not purposely so but in the way portions of the New Testament are — an assignment of blame that culminated in the Holocaust.”

Cohen doesn’t quite reach the heights of slander Safire has set; in fact, it’s a standard Jewish anti-Christian calumny — a “hoary canard,” to use another regular cliché. As history, it’s naive in the extreme; if the Gospels were going to “culminate in the Holocaust,” they should have done so when Europe was still Christian, not under the pagan Nazi regime, which left something to be desired in the way of Christian piety and ethics.

The attempt to link Christianity to Nazism has become a heavy industry, culminating, if you will, in recent books smearing Pope Pius XII and the entire Catholic Church from New Testament times to 1965 — when, we are falsely told, the Second Vatican Council “reversed” a teaching the Church had never in fact taught. Little did the bishops of 1965 imagine that their goodwill gestures toward Jews would soon be used to vilify their predecessors.

Lately we’ve witnessed a somewhat new kind of vilification: the calumnious prediction. Jews — not all, but not a few, either — have said flatly that Gibson’s movie “will,” not “may,” incite anti-Jewish violence. They were saying this for months, while the film was still in production.

Well, the movie has been an astounding success. Millions of Christians have seen it, yet not even one violent incident has been reported in or near the theaters. Not even one! The Christians have been behaving like — well, like Christians. Is anyone surprised? Of course not.

Yet, at the urging of some rabid rabbis, the New York Police Department has assigned its Hate Crimes Unit to attend the movie and nab law-breaking Christian bigots who are “pushed over the edge” by the story of the Crucifixion. Arrests so far: zero.

If Gibson’s aim is what he says it is, namely, to bring Christ’s Passion home to millions, he has scored a huge triumph. If his goal is what his Jewish enemies say it is, namely, to cause the persecution of Jews, he has fizzled miserably.

“Hate,” anyone?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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