Topic: Sports & Entertainment

“The Passion of the Christ”: Father and Son

The controversy over actor/director Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” (there has never been a movie about the life and death of Jesus that did not cause a controversy) has gotten nasty. As debate rages over whether or not the film is anti-Semitic, too violent, or historically inaccurate, opponents of the film are impugning Gibson’s predisposition regarding Jews by circulating an interview with Gibson’s father. Mad Max’s dear old Dad, you see, appears to be a Holocaust denier, although a creative one: he makes the novel, if idiotic, argument that there are too many Holocaust survivors around for the massacre to have really taken place. The elder Gibson also spices up his discussion of the matter with enough anti-Jewish bile that nobody can miss the general thrust of his remarks: he doesn’t like, believe, or respect Jews. The media, being the media, has widely publicized this ugly commentary, inviting Gibson to make an impossible choice: accept the proposition that he was raised to be a Jew-hating bigot, or reject his father.

Foul, in both senses of the word, and in multiple ways.

1) Gibson’s father, who is a non-celebrity, did not deserve to be sought out, exposed, and held up to public condemnation because of his son’s work. This is akin to Connie Chung’s infamous baiting of Newt Gingrich’s mother, but much, much worse. Mr. Gibson’s views, revolting and ignorant as they are, are private, and he has a right to them. (Yes, in America you have a right to hate whoever you want, for whatever crack-brained reason you want.) He is not a tool to be manipulated for political or ideological purposes. This is, in fact, how the Nazis treated the Jews. Opponents of anti-Semitism should recognize the technique, not adopt it.

2) We do not choose our parents. Gibson is not responsible for his father’s views, nor does he have to account for them. Nobody has a right to extrapolate Mel Gibson’s beliefs or biases from what his father says now. “Cheers” actor Woody Harrelson’s father was a hit man. Jack and Bobby Kennedy’s father was, among other things, a pro-Nazi bootlegger. All of which proves nothing.

3) Attempting to place Mel Gibson in a position where he has to choose between his relationship with father and his credibility as an artist is wrong. In fact, attempting to place anybody…an actor, a politician, or the local plumber…in such a position is unconscionable.

The critics of “The Passion of the Christ” have treated Gibson and his family in a manner that they would never accept or tolerate themselves. Thus, most appropriately for a situation sparked by the life of Jesus Christ, the Golden Rule applies, and they need to practice it.

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