Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A Jewish Response to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

This piece was published earlier this week by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and is, on the whole, a balanced piece with an appropriately sensitive tone:

A Jewish response to Mel Gibsons "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST"
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

(Also available in PDF and hardcopy)
. . . . This moment in Jewish-Christian relations should be viewed, above all, as an opportunity for Christians to educate themselves on the past and to learn about Jewish sensitivities on this issue, with an eye toward redressing past wrongs committed against Jews and to fulfilling the words spoken by the apostle Paul: " not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:18) And it behooves Jews to reach out wisely and sensitively to their Christian friends, recognizing that there may be no deliberate intent on their part to strike out against Jews. Such Christians may even be surprised to learn what many have failed to grasp why Jews are so deeply concerned with the implications and reverberations of this film . . . . .

. . . . . Just as the release of The Passion of the Christ is viewed by many Christians as a singular opportunity to spread their gospel of salvation to the world, so it presents an opportunity for enemies of the Jewish people around the world to spread their doctrine of hatred by reviving the age-old canard of Jews as "Christ-killers." We need to be very sensitive to the anti-Semitic possibilities such a movie can trigger, particularly in areas of the world where anti-Semitic sentiment and behavior already exist. Christians have a special responsibility to ensure that Jesus' death upon the cross the very act that Christians believe to be evidence of God's ultimate love for his creation (John 3:16) is not twisted to evil purposes, or used by the very diabolical forces they profess to oppose.

Still, it would be a mistake to exaggerate this film's potential for ill. In the entertainment industry, controversy often does more to put a movie in the public eye than does a carefully coordinated publicity campaign.

Long after the controversy over The Passion of the Christ has faded, anti-Semitism will persist. After we have spoken our piece concerning Mel Gibson's film and taken the opportunity to challenge misconceptions and right wrongs, particularly concerning the age-old deicide charge, it will be time to continue our educational and coalition-building efforts, presenting a positive, conciliatory message and advancing Christian-Jewish relations . . . . ."

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