In the dozens and dozens of panic-stricken articles the New York Times has run on Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," the unavoidable conclusion is that liberals haven't the vaguest idea what Christianity is. The Times may have loopy ideas about a lot of things, but at least when they write about gay bathhouses and abortion clinics, you get the sense they know what they're talking about.
But Christianity just doesn't ring a bell. The religion that has transformed Western civilization for two millennia is a blank slate for liberals. Their closest reference point is "conservative Christians," meaning people you're not supposed to hire. And these are the people who carp about George Bush's alleged lack of "intellectual curiosity."
The most amazing complaint, championed by the Times and repeated by all the know-nothing secularists on television, is that Gibson insisted on "rubbing our faces in the grisly reality of Jesus' death." The Times was irked that Gibson "relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours" ? at the expense of showing us the Happy Jesus. Yes, Gibson's movie is crying out for a car chase, a sex scene or maybe a wise-cracking orangutan.
The Times ought to send one of its crack investigative reporters to St. Patrick's Cathedral at 3 p.m. on Good Friday before leaping to the conclusion that "The Passion" is Gibson's idiosyncratic take on Christianity. In a standard ritual, Christians routinely eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, aka "the Lamb of God." The really serious Catholics do that blood- and flesh-eating thing every day, the sickos. The Times has just discovered the tip of a 2,000-year-old iceberg.
But the loony-left is testy with Gibson for spending so much time on Jesus' suffering and death while giving "short shrift to Jesus' ministry and ideas" ? as another Times reviewer put it. According to liberals, the message of Jesus, which somehow Gibson missed, is something along the lines of "be nice to people" (which to them means "raise taxes on the productive").
You don't need a religion like Christianity, which is a rather large and complex endeavor, in order to flag that message. All you need is a moron driving around in a Volvo with a bumper sticker that says "be nice to people." Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of "kill everyone who doesn't smell bad and doesn't answer to the name Mohammed"). But to call it the "message" of Jesus requires ... well, the brain of Maureen Dowd.
In fact, Jesus' distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.
The other complaint from the know-nothing crowd is that "The Passion" will inspire anti-Semitic violence. If nothing else comes out of this movie, at least we finally have liberals on record opposing anti-Semitic violence. Perhaps they should broach that topic with their Muslim friends.
One Times review of "The Passion" said: "To be a Christian is to face the responsibility for one's own most treasured sacred texts being used to justify the deaths of innocents." At best, this is like blaming Jodie Foster for the shooting of Ronald Reagan. But the reviewer somberly warned that a Christian should "not take the risk that one's life or work might contribute to the continuation of a horror." So the only thing Christians can do is shut up about their religion. (And no more Jodie Foster movies!)
By contrast, in the weeks after 9-11, the Times was rushing to assure its readers that "prominent Islamic scholars and theologians in the West say unequivocally that nothing in Islam countenances the Sept. 11 actions." (That's if you set aside Muhammad's many specific instructions to kill non-believers whenever possible.) Times columnists repeatedly extolled "the great majority of peaceful Muslims." Only a religion with millions of practitioners trying to kill Americans and Jews is axiomatically described as "peaceful" by liberals.
As I understand it, the dangerous religion is the one whose messiah instructs: "[I]f one strikes thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" and "Love your enemies ... do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you." The peaceful religion instructs: "Slay the enemy where you find him." (Surah 9:92).
Imitating the ostrich-like posture of certain German Jews who ignored the growing danger during Hitler's rise to power, today's liberals are deliberately blind to the real threats of violence that surround us. Their narcissistic self-image requires absolute solicitude toward angry savages plotting acts of terrorism. The only people who scare them are the ones who worship a Jew.