Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Prayer in the Mel Gibson Situation

About a year and a half ago now, the nation was ignited by the Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ", which turned out to be a much greater success than anyone expected. Part of the question beforehand on the success was the alleged anti-Semitism in the film, which many I think forgot about after the film's success. Since then, Gibson has been working on a very interesting looking film called "Apocalypto": "Moral failure comes before the fall of every great empire." A week ago, pior to a display of moral failure on Mel's part, many probably would have said that Gibson was one of the most powerful figures in the film industry. Suddenly, Michael Jackson's "publicist" is saying that his carreer is over!

I took a brief one-question online survey concerning the issue. The question went something like this: "Will you: 1) Write off any and all futuer Mel Gibson films, or 2) Judge them by their merits?" My answer was no. 2. That happened to be the answer of 76 percent of the folks who took the survey, so, honestly, I kind of wonder why the media is saying this is the end for Gibson.

My prayer, however, does not start with his carreer. I think this is a bit of a national test. "Christianity" is at center stage here. Many still hold the belief that we live in a "Christian" country. I wonder, then, what will be our reaction to Gibson? To say that forgiveness and reconciliation are far closer to the heart of Christ than the drama and hype of moral indignation I've seen in the media is an understatement. Will our "Christian" country re-accept and re-love the man again? Further, to say that the truth is closer to the heart of Christ than illusion is again an understatement. .12 is not that high of a blood alcohol level. Gibson was not babbling incoherently. If I imagine myself in that situation, I come to the conclusion that Gibson was saying things close to his heart. This war between Isreal and Lebanon is really affecting us all, and we all have opinions - AND reactions. Apparently Gibson's aren't so "Christian".

In my opinion that doesn't make him a "non-Christian". I was watching a news report on this very story last night, and a Christian sister of mine said, "But, I don't understand. I thought he was a believer!" My response, "Well, I'm pretty screwed up." It is my prayer that God would touch Gibson's heart at the very core, showing him again just how unconditionally and unstoppably he is LOVED. It is my prayer that through God's purifying flame of love, Gibson would "come clean" publicly (whatever exactly that might mean), bringing both the risk of shame and the possibility of recociliation. It is my prayer that through God's LOVE for us, and Gibson, that he would TRUST God enough to do that. It is my prayer that, through this display of LOVE, TRUST, and TRUTH in the midst of an obvious "moral failure", the world would see what "Christianity" is REALLY all about!

I would like to hear something like the following. "You know what, yeah, I did/do struggle with anger, bitterness and/or hatred toward Jewish people. But you know what, God loved me IN my hatred. And God loves the Jews too. He forgives me, I forgive them for what I percieved their wrong to be; and I know quite well that God loves and forgives the Jews in whatever their wrong might be too. And, trust tme, if in this situation God can forgive and LOVE me IN my blinded hatred, God forgives and loves you too."

At the very least, I pray that this display of "real" Christianity would be a test for this country that still thinks of itself as Christian. How many of it's Christians would call out such a courageous and trusting act of "coming clean" as foolish and impossible? How many "Christians", if Gibson were to do that, would think to themselves, "What the hell is he thinking!?" And how many "non-Christian" would think to themesleves, "Wow. I wouldn't do that. What force would push him to THAT!" And, an even more important question: How many of us would never even identify with Gibson in the first place? With regard to this situation, how many of us COULD have thoughts such as, "If I were in that situation (or one so messed up)..."? How many of us "Christians" think we are above such "moral failure"?

I'm not as surprised at Mel Gibson as I am at both his critics and "supporters" alike. To condemn a man, to the point of questioning his faith in Christ, based on a mistake (serious and consequential as it may have been) is to forget all that the gospel is about - grace and mercy in the midst of our sin. Especially post-"Crash", none can deny the universality of man's nature to include real yet too often denied prejudices and bigotry.

I must admit that I see my own depravity on a daily basis - sometimes in relation to this deep-seated and abominable racism/classism/sexism/etc. My only and proper response is to admit that I hold these beliefs even as I reject and despise them, and then to go to the cross where forgiveness and transformation wait. Mel's story to me doesn't bring shame as much as it elicits a personal reflection on my own vices, proclivities and sinful nature (and consummately, the response of God to love me despite it all).

Come on... let's pray for Mel. But most of all, let's pray for "Me"... because we're as guilty as he is.
Sorry folks. As a Jew I see this completely differently. The issue is my survival and the survival of my children. The kinds of words Mel Gibson used preceded my grandmother's family being grabbed from their homes, stuffed into trains and tortured and killed along with their children. Their infants. Against that, I don't forgive. I arm myself. As a people we tried forgiveness and pacifism for two entire millenia. That show closed in 1945. Again: sorry.

And please please don't tell me we spent those two thousand years paying for our role in the death of Jesus Christ. Please don't.
Here's a good piece of writing on the Gibson situation, not by me, in response to an article in The Jewish Journal:

Tom Tugend scolds Hollywood Jews for not taking a public position on Mel Gibson’s Jew hatred and in the LA Times this morning (August 4) a few of Gibson’s Hollywood Jewish friends say they’ve never heard him say anything anti-Semitic, which pretty much proves Tugend’s point, although both are missing something in the story. Gibson’s Hollywood defenders don’t understand the essence of Jew hatred, that it’s a projected fantasy, and that the Jews he hates are not real Jews or real people, they’re all the Jews he doesn’t know, or rather, the Jews he likes are exceptions to a fantastic image of the world around which his entire personality and perilous state of mental equilibrium is wrapped. That Gibson’s Jewish friends in Hollywood are nothing like the monster Jews of this exhausting fantasy has put the man in a psychological bind that only tequila can resolve. Some of his best friends are Jews, and one of their best friends is a Jew hater.

Mel Gibson, the son of a Holocaust denier, has said many times that his father never lied to him. I don’t believe that Gibson believes this. In fact, I think the opposite; on the evidence of the real Jews he works with and plays with, Gibson knows his father is a lying evil nightmare and is still afraid of being punished by him. This is kind of quaint, if you think about it, he’s got half a billion dollars and he’s still afraid that if he disagrees with Daddy, Daddy’s going to take off his belt and whomp on his butt. The evidence of the experience of sexualized brutality for standing up to power is all over his films, especially the execution scene in Braveheart and most of The Passion of The Christ, which wallow in torture and blood, so beyond the needs of story that these scenes become the justification for the story, which is a fair way to define porn. Separate these scenes from the films and you’ll see that Gibson’s fetish is all male BDSM with plenty of leather. Since Gibson fantasizes punishment, which expresses his deepest wish, Tom Tugend should consider that Hollywood did the right thing by not playing Rough Tough Daddy Bear. Let Mel Gibson beg for chastisement, let him call and beg to be told he’s been a bad boy, a very bad boy, who needs to be stripped in public and whipped. I’ll never give in. He can put on a maid’s costume and crawl on the floor while I’m watching nothing but Bruce Willis films, and that still won’t get me out of the chair.

The Jews who defended The Passion against those of us who, publicly, called him out for what he is, probably owe all Jews an apology, but if there was ever a time for the Jews to practice the suppression of squabble, this is it. We have more important things to talk about with each other, and it’s not easy. As for Mel Gibson, until he honestly faces the truth about the demented ravings of his pathetic father, nothing he says will be anything other than the orchestrations of his corrupted publicity machine. Since he believes in the most ornate and painful Hell, let him go there. Or let him work the steps of his recovery one day a time, for at least ten years, before he even thinks about amends.

Thank you for you honest and heartfelt words. I'm left feeling kinda speechless, to be honest. I will say, I feel the well-deserved anger, but I cannot say that I share it, at least not in the same way, as I am not a Jew. The Holocaust makes me angry, as does an ignorant denial of its very existence. What really makes me angry, however, is racial supremecy, the attitude and the movement(s). Again, I'm however not a Jew, so for me it's completely different (as you pointed out).

I will also say that forgiveness is still not only necessary but central in importance. At forgiveness we find who is God ("God cannot stop loving us"). One thing that helped me understand things like this, however, was when my Pastor explained that forgiveness is different from reconciliation. Repentence, or even chnage, is necessary for reconciliation. It actually sounds like that's similar to what the referenced writer in the second comment was saying, with a touch of well-deserved bitterness.

Grace, however, is "undeserved-kindness", and is evidence of God's Spirit. True Grace, however, doesn't happen without the truth of the wrong coming forth of what's going on.

As for the whole, "spent 2,000 years paying for your role in the death of Christ"...that to me sounds absurd and rediculous. I can't stand such thinking. Its idolotrous, untrue and based on an illusory God. I actually do get quite angry at such thinking, or rather that it becomes the world's perception of God's Truth and Christianity (for good reason). It is my belief that the Jews truly are the "chosen people of God" (in many ways), and I have been loved enough to have been "grafted onto the vine." The general and typical American attitude toward the Jews is a bit off to me, although I don't feel I'm old enough to really understand fully what's going on. But I do sense that something is very off.

I do feel like the history of the separation of the Christian church and the Jewish synagogue is one that is one of those just sorrowful parts of history that has lead to extreme misunderstandings, lack of willingness to communicate truly and fully, and just plain meanness.

I am also not down with the Christian responses to the Jewis responses to the Mel Gibson situation. I saw a video on "MSN video" where a "Christian" woman was pretty much attacking a Jewish rabbi in a very gossippy, mean-spirited way, saying that "Gibson is a sick man who just needs our love right now", and that the Jews were "bla bla bla" I don't even remember I just remember that it was very attack-moded and made me angry that, in the eyes of the world, THIS LADY was the representation of Christianity. Again, it was absurd and rediculous to me, and even made me a bit angry.

Tom, I hope this doesn not sound in any way like I am dismissing what you say. I actually feel like I identify with it more than I do not. I'm just not Jewish. And I wouldn't know about all the psychological stuff about his movies and his Dad. I don't know the guy (Gibson). That writer could easily know more than I. The gerneal thrust of Braveheart to its climactic ending has always struck me as a bit off. But I thought the offness was just a Greek hero-notion influnce. And the Passion was a bit overly violent (in terms of how one would choose to make a movie), but when I reflected myslef on that I thought that it was just because of the Hollywood penchant for "drama". But...???
Did Gibson direct "The Patriot"? Because, in the way that the writer from the Jewish Journal talks about in that article, that movie kind of freaked me out. Violence embedded in sexuality and family life - that one scene toward the beginning where he and his sons kill a whole hoard of British soldiers, which culminates in his endlessly and mercilessly hacking a soldier to death in the face with an axe. Yeah, that was kind wierd and freaked me out. Then the whole thing of his paying back the British guy for killing his own son, who himself almost killed the British guy...
I came across this article by a Jewish Rabbi on the situation, and enjoyed it:


I'm glad you've read Night. I only read it for the first time this year. As for people who say it never happened--and nobody ever says that who doesn't on some level wish it had not only happened but had succeeded--the question, for me, isn't forgiving. For my own sanity, the closest I can get is ignoring.
Those who are loved are not ignored. You, Tom, are not ignored. By God, I mean. Love is more complicated than a woman :)
The truth that the loved are not ignored is why I was taught not to stick a stair over in the corner of a room. It's why I was originally so drawn to Thoreau's Walden; minimize the sensory bomarbment, maximize the life of the senses. It's why I was originally repelled by "post-modern" architecture; its too busy (I have since realized, however, that I was ignoring it).

Anyway, hope things are well with your movie. Last night I watched "Capote" with some friends. I liked the directing and cinemotography. Just one complaint (but this complaint kind of killed it for me). It was clear that the film was going for the "cold" look. But it needed more warmth to bring out the cold. I mean, maybe just more red. The only red in the entire movie really, that I can remember, was the blood in the scenes that show violent images. Effective, but this isn't Schindler's list. I think it needed red to mirror Truman's "cold" in the same way that the red of the victims mirrored the "cold" of the murderer, since the murderer was a mirror for Capote. I mean, even if it would have shown Truman Capote nick himself shaving or something. The yellow of his hair wasn't "warm" enought to do the trick. Anwyay...
My last movie, made some years ago, involved a true story of a vigilante killing (of which I emphatically disapproved, but kind of let the viewer draw their own conclusions.) I told my various departments that nothing--no shirt, no belt buckle, no car, no prop, no piece of set dressing--could be red. The only red I wanted in the movie was the blood that sprayed from the killing onto the dress of the victim's attorney (the murder happened in a courtroom.) I hadn't noticed that they did the same in Capote--you have a very good eye. And I feel validated that I had the same idea as director of a movie that I think is a masterpiece.
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