Rev. George McLean, a Methodist, invited me in this morning to the New York Theological Seminary to address the D. Min students on the topic of Mel Gibson's The Passion. It was a challenging speech - and some of the students, a Catholic priest among them, spoke with admiration of Gibson's work. But he was receptive to my perspective, which I appreciated. My gist was this:
1) I, like many Jews, view the film through two lenses: The exile and persecution of Jews that began with the first destruction of the Temple and the legacy of Christian anti-semitism that lead up to the Shoah. To me Gibson's film is focused on a Jew being tortured by governmental authorities and I can't help but link it to Shoah films.
2) Suffering and violence in film is neccesary at times to depict human cruelty, but the drawn out torture of this film is itself brutalizing and I was horrified to see young children in the audience.
3) While I think that the charges of anti-semitism are only drawing more attention to the film, I am concerned about the depiction of old Jewish men in this film. They are heartless.
We had a lovely heart-to-heart discussion after my remarks. I'm hoping that the reporter from the Jewish Week, Jonathan Mark, will capture the vibe of the room in his piece. It felt that our collective response made the controversy worthwhile.