Principalities & Powers

A Question of Power

Movies come and movies go, but probably never in the history of American film has more controversy greeted any movie than that which met Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ before and after its debut on Ash Wednesday.  We all know what the controversy was about.  It had nothing to do with the qualities of the film as film (it was average, as are all of Mr. Gibson’s movies), the acting (with the possible but minor exception of the fellow who played Pontius Pilate, there was no acting to speak of), the dialogue (who can possibly tell, except the handful of philologists who could follow the Latin and Aramaic?), or the plot (depending on your religious views, either there was none or it was the Greatest Story Ever Told).  The controversy had to do with whether Gibson’s film was really antisemitic, and, while a good many Christians and gentiles said it was, the principal accusers along these lines were Jewish.

The Jewish attacks on The Passion were (no pun intended) catholic in their universality—they included Jews of the political left and Jews of the political right (or the neoconservatism that nowadays is called “right-wing”), devout Jews and secular Jews, religiously liberal Jews and religiously Orthodox Jews.  One of the principal authors of the attacks was Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which is about as close...

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