Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The Passion

Which is the title of the film by Mel Gibson that is creating a fair amount of fuss. According to this BBC article the Anti-Defamation League has weighed in on it.

In a statement, the group said the film showed Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as being responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus.

Now, maybe it was just me, but I seem to recall the Bible quite clearly gives that impression. The mob kept crying 'Crucify! Crucify!'. That is the story told in churches of all denominations every Easter. Is it anti-Semetic? Well, we'll have to wait for the film to come out to see. The Passion Story has certainly been used to fuel anti-Semetic propaganda in the past. However, I think it is a simple fact that Jews and Christians will have to live with: that Christ was killed at the urgings of the Jewish priestly hierarchy and by a the demands of a Jewish mob. (Or perhaps, more accurately, that that covers a couple of the facts of the Christian tale).

By saying that am I anti-Semite? Of course not. Just because I went to a boarding school that was founded on slave money does not mean that I am a slaver or support slavery. The same logic broadly follows here. Jewish-Christian relations can only improve if people accept the basic difficulties of our common heritage.

On a slightly related note I read somewhere something from a UK correspond based in the US sharing his thoughts on Independence Day. He said something like this: "While I admire the USA, and can appreciate the pagentry of July 4th, I cannot help but feel that I am on the other side of all that makes the day sacred." In certain aspects of Christian public life I am afraid that the Jewish people are just that - in some ways on the 'other' side, historically, of what makes the events sacred. Perhaps they might reflect that despite July 4th the UK and US have formed one of the most stable and prosperous partnerships in both economic (and later political) spheres the world has seen. Current events alone should show that poor beginnings do not stand in the way of firm friendships. I believe a similar friendship can be formed between Judaism and Christianity (and, incidentally, with Islam). But it requires recognition that some facts of history cannot be altered.

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