Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Toward Tradition
Two weeks before Mel Gibson's Passion flashes onto two thousand screens, online ticket merchants are reporting that up to half their total sales are for advance purchases for Passion . One Dallas multiplex has reserved all twenty of its screens for The Passion . I am neither a prophet nor a movie critic. I am merely an Orthodox rabbi using ancient Jewish wisdom to make three predictions about The Passion .
One, Mel Gibson and Icon Productions will make a great deal of money. Those distributors who surrendered to pressure from Jewish organizations and passed on Passion will be kicking themselves, while Newmarket Films will laugh all the way to the bank. Theater owners are going to love this film.
Two, Passion will become famous as the most serious and substantive Biblical movie ever made. It will be one of the most talked-about entertainment events in history, it is currently on the cover of Newsweek and Vanity Fair .
My third prediction is that the faith of millions of Christians will become more fervent as Passion uplifts and inspires them. Passion will propel vast numbers of unreligious Americans to embrace Christianity. The movie will one day be seen as a harbinger of America's third great religious reawakening.
Those Jewish organizations that have squandered both time and money futilely protesting Passion , ostensibly in order to prevent pogroms in Pittsburgh, can hardly be proud of their performance. They failed at everything they attempted. They were hoping to ruin Gibson rather than enrich him. They were hoping to suppress Passion rather than promote it. Finally, they were hoping to help Jews rather than harm them.
Here I digress slightly to exercise the Jewish value of "giving the benefit of the doubt" by discounting cynical suggestions growing in popularity, that the very public nature of their attack on Gibson exposed their real purpose-fundraising. Apparently, frightening wealthy widows in Florida about anti-Semitic thugs prowling the streets of America causes them to open their pocketbooks and refill the coffers of groups with little other raison d'Ítre. But let's assume they were hoping to help Jews.
However, instead of helping the Jewish community, they have inflicted lasting harm. By selectively unleashing their fury only on wholesome entertainment that depicts Christianity, in a positive light, they have triggered anger, hurt, and resentment. Hosting the Toward Tradition Radio Show and speaking before many audiences nationwide, I enjoy extensive communication with Christian America and what I hear is troubling. Fearful of attracting the ire of Jewish groups that are so quick to hurl the "anti-Semite" epithet, some Christians are reluctant to speak out. Although one can bludgeon resentful people into silence, behind closed doors emotions continue to simmer.
I consider it crucially important for Christians to know that not all Jews are in agreement with their self-appointed spokesmen. Most American Jews, experiencing warm and gracious interactions each day with their Christian fellow-citizens, would feel awkward trying to explain why so many Jewish organizations seem focused on an agenda hostile to Judeo-Christian values. Many individual Jews have shared with me their embarrassment that groups, ostensibly representing them, attack Passion but are silent about depraved entertainment that encourages killing cops and brutalizing women. Citing artistic freedom, Jewish groups helped protect sacrilegious exhibits such as the anti-Christian feces extravaganza presented by the Brooklyn Museum four years ago. One can hardly blame Christians for assuming that Jews feel artistic freedom is important only when exercised by those hostile toward Christianity. However, this is not how all Jews feel.
From audiences around America, I am encountering bitterness at Jewish organizations insisting that belief in the New Testament is de facto evidence of anti-Semitism. Christians heard Jewish leaders denouncing Gibson for making a movie that follows Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion long before any of them had even seen the movie. Furthermore, Christians are hurt that Jewish groups are presuming to teach them what Christian Scripture "really means." Listen to a rabbi whom I debated on the Fox television show hosted by Bill O'Reilly last September. This is what he said, "We have a responsibility as Jews, as thinking Jews, as people of theology, to respond to our Christian brothers and to engage them, be it Protestants, be it Catholics, and say, look, this is not your history, this is not your theology, this does not represent what you believe in."
He happens to be a respected rabbi and a good one, but he too has bought into the preposterous proposition that Jews will reeducate Christians about Christian theology and history. Is it any wonder that this breathtaking arrogance spurs bitterness?
Many Christians who, with good reason, have considered themselves to be Jews' best (and perhaps, only) friends also feel bitter at Jews believing that Passion is revealing startling new information about the Crucifixion. They are incredulous at Jews thinking that exposure to the Gospels in visual form will instantly transform the most philo-Semitic gentiles of history into snarling, Jew-hating predators.
Christians are baffled by Jews who don't understand that President George Washington, who knew and revered every word of the Gospels, was still able to write that oft-quoted beautiful letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, offering friendship and full participation in America to the Jewish community.
One of the directors of the AJC recently warned that Passion "could undermine the sense of community between Christians and Jews that's going on in this country. We're not allowing the film to do that." No sir, it isn't the film that threatens the sense of community; it is the arrogant and intemperate response of Jewish organizations that does so.
Jewish organizations, hoping to help but failing so spectacularly, refutes all myths of Jewish intelligence. How could their plans have been so misguided and the execution so inept?
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that nothing confuses one's thinking more than being in the grip of the two powerful emotions, love and hate. The actions of these Jewish organizations sadly suggest that they are in the grip of a hatred for Christianity that is only harming Jews.
Today, peril threatens all Americans, both Jews and Christians. Many of the men and women in the front lines find great support in their Christian faith. It is strange that Jewish organizations, purporting to protect Jews, think that insulting allies is the preferred way to carry out that mandate.
A ferocious Rottweiler dog in your suburban home will quickly estrange your family from the neighborhood. For those of us in the Jewish community who cherish friendship with our neighbors, some Jewish organizations have become our Rottweilers. God help us.
Religious Freedom is for Everyone-Not just Minorities
With each passing year, secular
fundamentalism more successfully injects into American culture the notion that the word "Christmas" is deeply offensive. Well,
after watching this year's repeat of the annual "hate Christianity ritual" I think we may be mistaken in allowing this assault to go
Equal Earthquakes with Unequal Results
We ought to
acknowledge that each day, every American derives enormous benefit from the faith of our Founders and of their heirs. We
ought to acknowledge that our welfare is jeopardized by secular fundamentalism. Those many tragic and largely unnecessary
disasters around the world bring out the goodness of Americans in the form of mountains of humanitarian relief. They should
also remind us of the source of that goodness.