I find Gibson's answer troubling. It conflates the death of millions during war with a genocide unique in human history. Stalin's crimes were barbaric, as were Mao's, Pol Pot's and any number of totalitarian tyrants of the 20th Century. But the Holocaust stands apart in the annals of inhumanity. Not to understand this borders on indifference. Atrocities don't "happen," they are the result not only of evil incarnate in those who commit them but of the indifference of those that do not resist them. What makes Gibson's views of more concern is that his father is a Holocaust denier.
But "The Passion of the Christ" stands on its own. And, in my view, nothing in the film supports the charge that it is anti-Semitic or will encourage anti-Semitism. From its opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane through the terrible scourging of Christ and the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the film is about sin and forgiveness.
To try to assign blame for Christ's death is to misunderstand Christian doctrine. "Not My will but Thine be done," Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before Judas betrays Him. Christ must freely choose to die, but He does so in order to fulfill God's will. That Christ must die to expiate man's sin is both the most difficult and most fundamental precept in Christianity.
Gibson clearly understands this doctrine, and faithfully conveys it. Whatever else Gibson gets wrong in his interpretation of Christ's last hours on earth -- and critics have nitpicked the historical accuracy of everything from the language used by the main characters in the film, Aramaic and Latin, to the length of Jesus' hair -- he gets this right.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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