The gospel of Gibson

By Yousef Munayyer

The Passion of Christ has just dominated the box office for the second weekend in a row and is on track to possibly becoming the highest grossing film of all time. Surprisingly, it is one of the oldest stories we know.

The film has been surrounded with controversy for months. Mel Gibson, the director of the film, has been working on it for 12 years, with his masterpiece attacked for the way it portrayed certain characters.

Before I get into that though, it’s important to note this: the story that is being retold in “The Passion” is based on both scripture and history. If you attempt to criticize this film without reading the scripture or the history, you will simply look and sound like a fool. You don’t have to be a Christian to watch The Passion. You should, however, read the scripture to further understand all that is occurring.

When I watched the film I tried to put myself in the position of a person who has little or no familiarity with the New Testament, and I realized that many things could be unclear. Reading the New Testament doesn’t make you Christian; however, it can make you more educated, the same way reading scripture from other religions can educate you. It is imperative that we become familiar with the scriptures of other religions so that we understand them. The greatest enemy of tolerance is ignorance, and in a world divided by religion, ignorance is abundant.

I became very annoyed watching people criticize the film on television even before I saw it. What bothered me was their willingness to criticize a film based on scripture even though they admit they have never read it before. I watched at least three different critics on different programs criticize the film for its lack of accuracy and then admit that they themselves have no knowledge of the scripture. I will be the first to admit that I have never read the “Lord of the Rings” books and therefore I will not criticize the movies in regards to how they relate to the Tolkien novels.

Also, I watched a few Rabbis criticize the way the Sanhedrin was portrayed. On an MSNBC program hosted by Pat Buchanan, I heard a lady call “The Passion” the most anti-Semitic film since War World II Nazi propaganda. One critic said Gibson intentionally portrayed the Jewish leaders in the film as sinister. When I saw the film I noticed that the Jewish leaders were depicted as dark featured, sinister, bearded, and their heads were covered in several layers of cloth. I found that to be strikingly similar to the way Arabs are portrayed negatively in film. However, I haven’t heard Rabbis complaining about that.

The debate disintegrates into claims of anti-Semitism, which I still don’t really understand. It is not a movie about laying blame. It is not about Jews verse Christians. This is the retelling of the story of Jesus Christ. Yes, according to the scripture, leaders of the Jewish community actively perused the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That does not mean that every Jew did. In fact the 12 disciples and Jesus himself were Jews. The Virgin Mary was also a Jew. Joseph of Aremeah, whom Gibson neglects to include, asked for Jesus’ body; he too was Jewish.

Still to look at “The Passion” as an anti-Semitic film is to apply a modern day misunderstood phenomenon to a retelling of an ancient story.

However, the controversy that surrounded this film was very much fueled by such ridiculous claims. I believe that Gibson not only knew this, but he perpetuated it. He used the media to blow this way out of proportion, making his film one of the most anticipated films ever.

If this were just another Jesus movie no one would see it. Let’s not forget, there’s not going to be many surprises in a movie like this; we all know how it’s going to end. This is why Gibson hyped it up the way he did. He used every media outlet he could. In fact, with all the noise about anti-Semitism, he got many leaders in the Jewish community to be vocal about his film. Gibson, though indirectly, got leaders of the Jewish community to promote his movie about Jesus.

Mel Gibson wanted to deliver a message. If you watch his film and see Jew verse Christian you are missing the message. Christian scripture teaches that Christ knew he would die and predicted his death. Jesus dying was part of the plan so all of this finger pointing is just nonsense.

What was Gibson trying to get across? He wanted to produce a graphic, realistic portrayal of the death of Jesus Christ. I’m sure many people, like myself, had difficulty watching the lifelike onslaught. The images will surely be engraved in our minds. That is the message Mel Gibson is sending. He wants those who believe in Jesus Christ to remember that agony when they are confronted with decisions in life.

Scarier than these images though, is that many people, when confronted with such decisions, will still call out for Barabas.

Yousef Munayyer is a Collegian columnist.