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 Gibson’s Offense 

August 3, 2006 
 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseHave a few drunken words to an arresting officer ever gotten as much publicity as Mel Gibson’s “despicable” (by his own admission) outburst to officer James Mee? Today's column is "Gibson's Offense" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Gibson apologized, which is all he could do, and that should have been the end of it.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseBut of course it wasn’t. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League landed on Gibson with both jowls, calling him “unremorseful” without explaining how he knew Gibson was insincere. He recognized a golden opportunity to repeat the accusations of anti-Semitism he’d leveled at Gibson’s hugely popular film The Passion of the Christ.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseGibson’s words to Officer Mee were ugly, but they had nothing to do with his movie, except in the minds of his enemies, of course. Mee himself dismissed them as the inebriated rant they were. If only Gibson’s enemies could show such restraint!

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseGibson’s real offense is that he has shown himself to be an unapologetic worshipper of Jesus Christ, defying the secularist taboo on Christian expression in the marketplace. Christians are expected to behave furtively; they may call themselves Christians, as long as their public prayers are “nonsectarian” — that is, avoiding the name of Jesus before mixed audiences. Perceptible traces of Christianity in today’s movies are, to say the least, rare.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseNever mind that Jesus himself made the astounding claim that he and the Father were one; that countless Christians, to this day, have willingly died in agony to bear witness to his resurrection; that St. Paul preached that every knee should bow at his very name.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseGibson defied this atheistic etiquette by filming a faithful version of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last hours. It was almost unbearable to watch, reminding the world what crucifixion meant — the cruelest torture the ancient Romans could devise.

[Breaker quote for Gibson's Offense: Hollywood's most hated] indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseHis rise from death was the Good News. It had changed everything forever, and Christians were to treat it as the central and organizing event in their own lives, even if it meant martyrdom. Jesus warned them to expect the world’s enmity. The world would hate them as it hated him; but they must imitate him by praying even for their persecutors. And he warned us that if we deny him before men, he will deny us before the Father — words that should sting our consciences when we are tempted to avoid referring to him.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseGibson’s film was part of the program. It shocked Hollywood with its bold depiction of Jesus’ story, which even other versions have watered down with treacly piety.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseSome Jews, alas, chose to interpret the film as directed against them, as if the point of the story was that Jesus’ enemies included Jews. A reviewer called it the most anti-Semitic film since the Nazi era. One scholar, having read a stolen copy of the script, flatly predicted that the film would provoke not only anti-Semitism, but actual “violence” against Jews.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseSuch charges were baseless; not a single anti-Semitic incident resulted from the film. Nevertheless, Gibson continued to endure a torrent of abuse and slander. Some Hollywood executives pledged to do their worst to ruin his career. None of his detractors has seen fit to apologize; today they are claiming vindication. His despicable words have aroused more indignation than the despicable life of Cuba’s murderous tyrant, Fidel Castro.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseOther critics called the film (and Gibson himself) “sadistic” and “masochistic,” though it is hard to imagine how any viewer could take perverted pleasure in it. At any rate, Gibson was under a kind of pressure that no other filmmaker has ever been subjected to; even his father wasn’t spared. It’s no wonder if his mental balance was affected, especially if he was (as he also admitted after his arrest) also struggling with alcoholism.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseStill, The Passion of the Christ remains a cultural milestone, an affirmation of faith for which millions of Christians, accustomed to having Hollywood insult their convictions, are properly grateful. If, months later, Gibson lost his composure in a mad moment, making just the sort of comments to delight his enemies and mortify his admirers, not to mention his family, his quick apologies showed real remorse.

 indent for Mel Gibson's OffenseGibson’s situation may well be irreparable now. He has thrown himself on the mercy of his enemies, who are not always a forgiving lot. Drunkenness and foul language may be pardonable, but the glorification of Jesus is another matter.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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