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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Christians quick to reject criticism

By Melanie Meinzer
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 19, 2004

While I agree with most of what is said in Byron Vierk's recent editorial "Gibson's film not anti-Semitic," I do not think we should be so quick to reject the opinions of those who think that the recent Passion film promotes anti-Semitism. It is impossible to tell the story of Jesus' final 12 hours without portraying some Jews in a negative light. That's just how the story goes. On the surface, I believe that Gibson handled the film quite admirably and was sensitive to possible anti-Semitic overtones. After a friend pointed out some more subtle aspects of the film, however, I noticed some basis for the critics' claims. All of the possibly anti-Semitic implications that were pointed out to me occur on a more subconscious level. For example, the attack on Judas by Jewish children hearkens back to blood libel claims and accusations of Jews using Christian blood in rituals. Another example is the character of the devil, who moves unhindered through Jewish mobs, indicating Jewish complicity with his evil deeds. To address a claim that I feel carries the most weight, I would like to quote a letter written by my friend, former president of the University of Illinois Hillel chapter, to the Daily Illini:

Gibson depicts angry crowds where people have very Ashkenazi features and wear tallitot (prayer shawls) that were not a part of Jewish observance at the time. Their physical features and dress are reminiscent of modern European-American Jewry, which helps the viewer relate modern Jews to the violent and animalistic mobs in the film." It is doubtful Gibson meant to be anti-Semitic in his depiction of the passion, but criticisms such as those mentioned above do have some merit. I give most people enough credit to not be influenced by such images, but I also think it is too easy as a Christian majority to dismiss claims of critics too quickly. Anti-Semitism is not an accusation to be made lightly, nor dismissed in the same manner. Instead of brushing critics of the film aside, or critics in general, be they feminist critiques brought up by the Vagina Monologues or accusations of political bias, we should take their criticism as an opportunity for self-reflection and, if necessary, positive change.


 Christopher Clark '05


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