To a lot of Christians, the worst happened this weekend when their great crusader for faith in Hollywood took a very public, very appalling tumble from grace.
To many others (read: rabid secularists and the press) Mel Gibson’s arrest was the best thing that could happen, proving what they’ve suspected all along—that all those Jesus freak bible-thumpers (even those who support Israel) are a bunch snarling anti-Semites.
But what does Gibson’s DUI arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade really signify? Perhaps less about Gibson than it does about the rest of us.
To wit: The first comment most evangelicals I know made after hearing about the incident was, “Okay, so he probably was driving drunk, but gosh, I really hope he didn’t say anything racist.” Forget the fact that he might have killed someone, he made nasty remarks about another group of people! Years of pistol whipping from the politically-correct police have taught the public to value feelings above everything, including life, so that bigotry alone is the unforgivable sin.
This is not to discount the seriousness of racism--the very existence of Hezbollah demonstrates where such thought patterns can lead--but alcoholics (particularly alcoholics in the process of being arrested) have been known to say hideous things while drunk that they wouldn’t even think in their right minds. Once sober, Gibson issued an apology, saying, “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed…” In a later statement he specifically expressed his regret to the Jewish community: “There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said,” stated Gibson.
America has witnessed countless scandals from its public figures over the years, but it has seen few apologies as filled with remorse and acknowledgement of wrong doing as this one. Unlike another well-known individual recently caught driving while intoxicated, Gibson hasn’t hidden behind lawyers or tried to attribute his behavior to some other cause like sleeping medication. The day after the incident, he commented simply, “After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong.” He didn’t say, “I don’t remember doing wrong things, but I’ve been told that I did.” Nor did anyone have to track down bartenders to confirm he’d been imbibing. He acted like a man and admitted it.
Gibson also hasn’t taken a cue from a certain Congresswoman and blamed the police for his lack of self control. Said Gibson on Saturday, “The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person… I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself.”
But neither his apologies nor his clear understanding of the gravity of his crime will stop certain groups from reveling in his shame. Thank Heaven Gibson's God is one who offers forgiveness and second chances---because when it comes to Catholic moviemakers, the American media sure won’t.
The Anti-Defamation League wasted no time passing the sternest judgment, insisting that the Oscar winner’s apology is “unremorseful” and asking the entertainment industry to, “Distance themselves from this anti-Semite." They probably will, and it’s strange to think that Gibson won’t fare as well in this scandal as fellow filmmakers who have committed far more horrifying acts. Last time I checked child rapist Roman Polanski and child molester Woody Allen were not only working, but winning impressive accolades from their peers.
When Hollywood insiders like Nora Ephron write on The Huffington Post, “Let's just stop to savor the moment when there's finally proof positive about how Mel really feels,’ the public should question their motivation for calling an end to his career. Would a person who is truly offended and concerned over what influence Gibson's behavior may have say, 'Let's just stop to savor the moment...'?
This is not to suggest that Gibson shouldn’t experience some professional fallout for his actions and remarks, but reports have it that the ADL is urging the police to investigate whether any hate speech laws were violated. Gibson’s remarks were horrendous, but are they criminal? More criminal than, say, drugging a 13-year-old girl in order to have sex with her? Where was the entertainment industry outrage when such a man won an Oscar in 2002 for “The Pianist”?
Finally, Christian fans who are already expressing devastation and dismay over the incident should remember, we do not know what Christ is doing in Gibson’s life right now, but we do know what we are called to do…up to seventy times seven. Whatever details may come to light, no one need fear what they will do to Jesus’ reputation—surely the Holy Lord of the universe is secure in his P.R. And perhaps this should stand as a reminder that it is Christ and not some A-list actor/director, who is the head of the church. Anyone putting their faith in a mere mortal can be assured, eventually, in some way or another, they will be disappointed.