Tuesday, October 12, 2004

James Carroll on The Passion and Anti-Semitism

I mention this not because it's well-observed or well-written (it isn't) but because it typifies what is problematic about so many of the overreactions to The Passion of the Christ. It is from today's Boston Globe:

A new anti-Semitism
By James Carroll
But this year, a startling manifestation of foundational hatred of the Jewish people has occurred in the very heart of well-intentioned Christian faith. When the blockbuster DVD of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was released a few weeks ago, the astounding appeal of an already hugely successful film was made clearer than ever. For many, this portrait of the suffering and death of Jesus is a powerful religious experience, despite its hyper-violence and despite a blatant portrayal of "the Jews" as Satan's allies in the murder of one revered as the Son of God.
There have been several examples of the same caricature in recent months, but it is still worth adding that it is incorrect and misleading to talk about "the Jews" in inverted commas in this way. The film never uses the term "the Jews" in its dialogue / subtitles (except in the phrase "king of the Jews"). Nor is it the case that the Satan figure is any more prominent among Jewish characters in the film than with non-Jewish. Indeed, it is striking that the most memorable of the Satan scenes, during the scourging, when the Satan carries an ugly baby, occurs at the moment of supreme human evil, when the sadistic Roman guards are flagellating Jesus. As I attempted to make clear in my article on the subject, there are concerns with this film, as there are with all of the Jesus films, but these concerns are not adequately addressed by misrepresentation.

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