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The following letters are considerably longer than the standard Voice letter guidelines allow, but they are so informative, well written, and well supported that I did not wish to edit them. I hope the Voice continues to receive such passionate and erudite responses and that you enjoy reading these letters. If you have an opinion on The Passion of The Christ, send it to email@example.com and I’ll include it in an upcoming Sounding Off column.
Another Response to Jody Waddle’s The Passion of the Christ, Another View.
I read with deep interest Jody Waddle’s article, written in response to my own review of Mel Gibson’s film. I cannot fault anyone for their religious faith, but I noted Waddle’s comment that the questions raised by the film have been met with “false, emotionally-loaded answers.” I expected to read some rather profound insights about theology and/or the historical Jesus, but instead found Waddle’s own “false, emotionally-loaded answers.”
How, for example, do we know that Gibson’s film is “historically accurate”? Well, because Waddle tells us that it is! An injury to the actor playing Jesus is offered as proof that the Romans scourged Jesus in the manner portrayed in the film. Sorry, but what happens to an actor on a film set does not prove the historical accuracy of first century torture and execution.
Waddle’s suggestion that I was unaware of (or deceptive about?) “the small post” where Jesus’ feet were nailed, or uninformed about how crucifixion killed its victims, was surprising, to say the least. I never suggested that Jesus would have bled to death! Clearly, I objected to Gibson’s inaccurate depiction of the nailing of the hands rather than the wrists. Gibson, even with “historians at his side” (according to Waddle), still managed to get it wrong.
There is much else that one could find fault with in Waddle’s article (the non-Biblical treatment of Jesus’ blood as a religious relic, Satan’s “baby”, the truncation and lack of context for the Gospel stories, to name just a few), but Waddle’s lack of knowledge about Jewish people is troubling. Yes, it is true that today “Israeli’s [sic] and Jews come in different colors,” but for almost two thousand years most Jews lived outside of Palestine, and intermarried with other ethnic groups. Jesus, in contrast to the diasporic (and often Europeanized) Jews who returned to Israel in the middle of the twentieth century, would have been Semitic. Once again, Gibson (and Waddle) got it wrong.
More troubling are Waddle’s apologetics for Christian, and particularly Catholic, anti-Semitism. Waddle’s opinion that various Christian groups didn’t persecute Jews is clearly uninformed. Apparently Waddle is unaware of Europe’s anti-Jewish pogroms, the confinement of Jews to ghettos in Catholic Rome, the execution of Jews by Christian Crusaders following the capture of Jerusalem, the Spanish Inquisition (in which Jewish converts to Catholicism were tortured and murdered), Martin Luther’s anti-Jewish polemics and the expulsion of Jews from many Christian countries at various points during the Middle Ages. Here, by the way, is another example, taken from one of the websites that Waddle provided (“Judaism and Christianity” by Dr. Warren Carroll):
“A decree of the Fourth Lateran Council required Jews to wear identifying dress. It was feared that Jews might infiltrate Christian groups and organizations without their religious identity being known, and
there were instances in Spain where this can be proved to have actually happened, though probably it was rare.”
This was obviously an anti-Jewish decree enacted by a paranoid Catholic Church, which later sought to reverse its anti-Semitism in the Second Vatican Council when the Church rejected the phrase “perfidious Jews” because it was so objectionable!
Mel Gibson’s film is not the “authentic” version of events that it claims to be. Gibson incorporates elements that are ahistorical as well as non-Biblical and the portrayal of Jews is particularly disturbing. The Passion reflects the values of Gibson’s regressive Catholic sect, which has rejected many of the progressive reforms of the modern Roman Catholic Church.
If you have an opinion on The Passion of The Christ, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll include it in an upcoming Sounding Off column.