The Talmud famously says that a man is known in three ways. What he says when he is drunk, what he says when he is angry, and what he spends his money on. On all three counts, it appears that Mel Gibson has sadly shown his true colors. Upon getting arrested for drunk driving, in his inebriated state, he allegedly said something to the effect that "F___king Jews are responsible for all the world’s wars." In his anger, he asked the arresting deputy if he himself was Jewish. And, of course, he spent $’5 million of his own money arguing that the Jews killed Jesus. Well, there you have it. Drink, anger, and money all lead Mel Gibson to alleged acting out of anti-Semitism.
Those of us who strongly opposed "The Passion of the Christ" as defamatory of Jews should feel no sense of vindication now that Gibson’s shown what he really thinks of Jews. On the contrary, this story is a tragedy all round. Who would have thought that in Hollywood, of all places, there could be personalities so filled with Jew-hatred? The tragedy is coupled by the fact that Mel Gibson largely established his career by warming all our hearts in the "Lethal Weapon" movies where he plays a white detective with the warmest possible relationship with his black partner. Turns out that all along good ole Mel was a bigot.
Not that we should have been all that surprised, given the Holocaust-denying remarks Gibson’s father has always publicly made, with Gibson defending his father saying, "My father never lied to me."
Still, there are a number of things to be learned from this sad event. First, all those who defended "The Passion of the Christ" as a benign movie about the death of Jesus ought to do some real soul-searching. This defamatory movie repeated the oldest and most destructive lie ever told, that the Jews killed God. Millions of Jews throughout history have been murdered because of this lie. And yet, when a modern movie portrayed the Jews as bloodthirsty and desperate to see a dead Jesus hit the big screen, it became one of the biggest box office successes of all time. Worse, so many of our evangelical brothers and sisters promoted the movie as a modern Christian triumph. Churches around the country that normally love and support Israel rushed to show the movie to their flocks, as if doing so were a sacrament. They defended Mel Gibson as having made a film that promoted Christianity rather than one that defamed Jews. I hope that they will now reconsider their attitude toward the film and stop showing it at churches, as it perpetuates the stereotype of Jews as perfidious Judases.
Similarly, I hope that the many Jewish conservatives who defended Mel Gibson and even heavily promoted the movie will rethink their support. I debated many of these colleagues on national TV, including my friends Michael Medved and Rabbi Daniel Lapin. I hope they too will now reconsider their inexplicable action of highlighting a film that was a grotesque distortion of the true historical record of how Jesus died. I do not write these lines to gloat with an "I-told-you-so." Lord knows, I have deep respect for both Medved and Lapin and have probably been wrong about far more things than they. Rather, I write this because the idea that committed Jews could have become defenders of Mel Gibson’s big-screen hatefest was always a shock and caused a deep and unnecessary division in the Jewish community.
But, finally, Mel Gibson has now apologized, and I am a great believer in apologies. So his apology ought to be accepted, even though it was not courageous enough to apologize to the Jewish community directly. For those who would say that his apology was not even sincere, I would answer that apologies should not be examined as to their sincerity. Rather, if a man apologizes, he should be taken at his word.
I honestly hope that Mel Gibson will find the healing that his body needs from alcoholism, and that his soul needs from bigotry. I honestly hold no ill will toward him. He is clearly a troubled man. Why someone that successful would need to hate a whole group for no reason is something that we will probably never understand. And I pity him, just as pity any man whose inexplicable hatred compromises his humanity.
Having said this, it is proper that Mel Gibson"s apology be coupled with action. He should make it up to the Jewish community by re-releasing "The Passion of the Christ" with an important disclaimer at the very beginning of the film detailing the undisputed historical fact that the Romans killed Jesus, and that any of the Jewish leadership, like Caiaphas the High Priest, who called for Jesus’ death were all in the employ of Rome, and indeed served as the Roman police enforcers in Judea.
Because, remember Mel, claiming to love Jesus, and simultaneously hating Jews, is deeply contradictory, since Jesus was not a Catholic or a Christian, but a Jew.
Finally, a word to Mel Gibson. I have long been impressed by your devotion to your father, especially since he appears to have a screw loose. Even so, you stuck by him. But the commandment that instructs us to honor our parents does not mean that we ought to honor their bigotry, to the extent that if your father is an anti-Semite, you have to be one as well. On the contrary, we honor our parents by becoming better people than them and righting their wrongs.