Tuesday, February 17, 2004
out damned spot, out!
(Preface: if you aren't the religious sort, this may bore you. However, I am not the religious sort either, so you may very well find it mildly interesting to watch me struggle to discuss a topic I'm not always comfortable with. Either way, let it be said this won't be a post about what fun things I did today, it will be a rather serious discussion, and I'm sure in the end, a serious debate as well. You are welcomed to join and share your views, but know that I demand respect for others, and if I find any comments bashing Christianity or Judaism I will delete them and ban the offender. Keep it intelligent and fair.)

Well, last night I watched as Diane Sawyer interviewed Mel Gibson about his upcoming film The Passion of the Christ, and I must say that I actually am more worried than ever. (if you happened to miss the first time I brought this topic up go back a few days to my post on Feb 13th and be sure to catch the colourful, if not lively, debate) In fact, I had one of the worst night's sleep in recent months as I tossed and turned and actually dreamt about it all night long! I know, that's sounds crazy, but sometimes my mind has a habit of not letting go of something; if I had half a brain at all I would have written this post last night before going to bed in an effort to get it out of my head, rather than composing it in my head all night in bed.

Before I (perhaps foolishly) dive into this topic again, I think it's important to clarify one thing. I don't think Mel is anti-semitic. I don't believe he did this in an effort to incite hate against Jews, I believe it may be a bi-product of what he has made. Intent DOES matter, and I don't believe that was his intent. However, this calls responsibility into question (he DID realize that there may be some who will take all this to say that Jews killed Jesus).

The whole crux of the debate is this: did Pontius Pilate willingly hand over Jesus to be crucified or was he blackmailed or afraid of the Jews and so handed Jesus over? I decided to look up some Catholic/Christian pages on the matter, since any Jewish pages on the matter would lean towards my bias.

According to Gibson's movie and much of the text in Catholicism, Pilate actually tried to save Jesus from being crucified but it was the throngs of "bloodthirsty Jews" who were screaming for his execution. Here is a quote I found from a bible study page to highlight this image:

"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor (Pilate). "Barabbas," they answered. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify Him!" "Why? What crime has He committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify Him!" When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" All the people answered, "Let His Blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified. Then the governor's soldiers [see Roman Legions] took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around Him." (Matthew 27:21-27)

And this is as the scene is shown in the movie. An "innocent" Pilate who is merely delivering Jesus to execution, as demanded by an angry crowd of Jews. You can see where Jews might object to this. In fact this same page goes on to say "For whatever it may be worth, Pilate did repeatedly try to have Jesus released because he knew that He was completely innocent of any crime. Pilate's wife also tried to get Jesus released. " Wow, that Pilate sounds like such a nice guy, doesn't he? Well, except that he was known to hate the Jews he ruled over, and killed them as he felt (on whims or for amusement). Oddly, this same bible study page admits: "Pilate was no friend of the Jews", so why would he try and barter for the life of one, let alone "the King of Jews" (what Pilate declared Jesus was, in a sign hung over the cross).

On a second page I found it describes Pilate as follows: "Pilate was a "typical Roman, not of the antique, simple stamp, but of the imperial period, a man not without some remains of the ancient Roman justice in his soul, yet pleasure-loving, imperious, and corrupt. He hated the Jews whom he ruled, and in times of irritation freely shed their blood." . Strangely enough, a few paragraphs later it goes on to say "After this Pilate seemed more resolved than ever to let Jesus go. ". What?? How does that add up?? He hated them, but suddenly felt bad for one particular Jew?? Oy, I'm confused.

So this is the point that becomes the bone of contention for Jews. As Jews see it Pilate was a murderer, a fact that is not denied in Christian liturgy, so to suggest that he suddenly had a heart of gold and was hesitant to kill is just plain unlikely. Jews feel that they are being used as a scapegoat in this story, in order to assign blame and to clear the Romans of their responsibility in the death of Jesus (coz would YOU want to be blamed for killing him?? but if someone else did it...). And if you know anything about Judaism, you would know that life is paramount to anything else, and is to be treasured. ALL life, and I mean above and beyond just the ole "thou shalt not kill". This fact can still be seen in the way Israelis deal with Palestinians now; they absolutely have the power to wipe the Palestinians off the map and remove them from Israel, but they would never just go and annihilate them. Life is precious, no matter who you are (or how many of our people you blow up on buses). So they continue to deal with the Palestinians rather than just remove them.

During the interview with Gibson, they showed clips of the movie and suddenly it became clear to me that it very graphically illustrates a mob of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus, no doubt about it. And accurate or not, this will anger some people. And I know my view confuses some people, but I am not so much concerned with the accuracy (because we will never truly know. either you believe or you don't) as much as I am concerned with how it will be understood and interpreted by viewers. In fact, I'm sure it will be an amazing movie and will move me (how can you watch someone's final torturous days and not be moved?), but if this movie means I have to worry about my safety more, then it has done damage. As it is, Jews in France have been advised to not wear any Star of David jewelry, or a kippah on their heads (instead, wear a baseball cap over it, was the suggestion). Already, Jews are being advised to hide who they are. Can you imagine, as a Catholic, being told you should not wear your cross around your neck, or hang it from your rearview mirror for fear that it could get you beaten up? It's hard to imagine here in North America where such behaviour is not tolerated and is reprimanded wherever possible, but what about in Europe where such thing is common place and laws aren't so strictly enforced?

I don't know...I don't know what else to say. I have never been a very religious person, and I have most certainly avoided any such debate all my life. Yet I am being dragged into this one because it has finally hit home and become personal for me. I am not blaming Catholics, and I'm not blaming Jews. I am merely expressing my concern......