<< Front page Commentary March 19, 2004

Passionate response to The Passion of Christ

To the Editors:

I know that you are all well aware of the hype, hoopla and accusations that have been railed against the current movie phenomenon, The Passion of the Christ. For more than a year now much has been said about the belief by some that the movie is anti-semitic (denigrating the descendants of Noah’s son Shem, who eventually became generally known as Jews).

I have also personally heard that it was negligent because it did not include people of African descent. Yet other criticisms have been that it is unnecessarily violent, even to the point of, if you will, shock and awe. These criticisms are probably not exhaustive. There are probably even more.

If there is one thing I have learned in life and continue to learn, it is that “where there is smoke” there is not necessarily fire. That is because what appears to be smoke is often just so much vapor or dust.

As a result of learning this, I have long ago learned the extreme importance of seeing for myself what all the commotion is about. I have learned that I need to walk into the so-called “smoke” to determine if there really is a fire or if there is
just so much commotion and upheaval that has caused the dust to fly high in the midst of it all. Or, could it be only the “hot air” of misinformed or uninformed discourse that has brought about the vapor that hovers over the crowd, over the noise, over the commotion?

I can tell you that, to date, I have so far seen this phenomenal movie twice and the impact that it has had on me lets me know that I shall ultimately see it many more times —each time with a guest. I will tell you that there is nothing “anti-Semitic,” anti-African or gratuitously violent about this work of history. Let me tell you why I so firmly make these statements.

I make the statement that it is not anti-Semitic because the Gospels are not anti-Semitic and neither is Isaiah 53:6 or John 3:16 or II Corinthians 5:21 or many other references to why Jesus died and whom he died for. I further say the movie is not anti-Semitic because it clearly shows culpability falling at the feet of all people, but at the same time, at no people.

First, all people are culpable because all people are represented at the event, Jew and Gentile alike and male and female alike. In fact, the movie shows the Jews clearly NOT being directly involved in the flogging, cross-bearing and crucifixion process. The Romans were clearly in charge of this, even though the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over to the Romans. However, it was the whole crowd who was shouting for and encouraging the crucifixion.

On the other hand, no one should be blamed for the death of Jesus if we believe that God the Father sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, as it says in John 3:16, Romans 3:25 or I John 2:2. I know this is not the Jewish theology and I apologize for any words that are antithetical to that theology. I am not here to offend, but rather to inform.

Finally, since people seem to want to place blame somewhere, it can also be argued that Jesus is to “blame.” He came to this earth for the purpose of becoming the sacrificial lamb to pay for the sins of the world, as it says in Matthew 20:28.

Bottom line, this movie is not written to denigrate or ridicule
Jews or Judaism. Jesus was a Jew and He did not denigrate Judaism. He simply came to complete or fulfill its mission as a system of faith. Interestingly, none of the so-called “fair” reporting that I have seen on the national media has included the viewpoints of those people known as Messianic or Completed Jews.

Of course, the hype about the movie being negligent of black actors is simply wrong. I saw three in the movie, particularly the man who played the role of Simon of Cyrene, the man who helped Jesus carry the Cross. By the way, Simon was a black Jew, which shows that the movie gave both blacks and Jews a positive stance as compassionate carriers of the burdens brought about by sin in the world — theirs and everyone else’s.

The criticism that there is too much violence is also misguided or misinformed. There is a distinct and necessary purpose for the violence. It is the fulfillment of Isaiah 52:14 53:2-5, Psalm 22:13-18, as well as each of the four Gospel accounts. If Jesus died for the sins of the world, sin is ugly and the punishment and stripes He took had to be equivalent to sin’s ugliness.

I support the boycotting of any movie that is sacrilegious or heretical, which is why I did not attend the showing of The Last Temptation of Christ. Its emphasis was clearly anti-scriptural, rather than extra-scriptural, as well as blasphemous, sacrilegious and heretical. The extra-scriptural artistic license that Mel Gibson took with this movie is not antithetical to scripture, but rather elucidative of what could easily have happened during the whole experience of the last 12-18 hours of Jesus’ life.

It simply is a fact that no one can come away from this movie without strong emotions. It is up to the individual to decide to channel those emotions honestly or otherwise it becomes necessary for the individual to somehow “force-fit” them into an area of response that is an attempt at avoiding the true and clear message of this epic work. What is that clear message?

Jesus loved the whole world so much that He chose to become the sacrificial lamb to die for the sins of the world and all we need to do to access that is to accept through prayer and openness of heart the gift of eternal salvation. In doing so, those of the human lineage of Jesus can experience lives of fullness greater than anything they have experienced before just as many of their Messianic Jewish relatives and a multiplicity of Gentiles are already doing.

–Sammie Davis-Dyson
Coordinator of Special Advising
Student Activity Services


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