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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Interpreting Gibson's 'Passion'

March 05, 2004

Re "A Passion for Hatred That Mocks Christ's Message," Commentary, March 2: Methinks Robert Scheer's predisposition to criticize any "conservative" religious thinker shows through with his initial comments on New York hooligans and Nazis (all of yesteryear) and his open distaste for Mel Gibson's family. His commentary on what "The Passion of the Christ" actually shows does not mesh with the movie I saw. He says he saw "a blood libel against the Jewish people." There were no venal mobs, but just a handful of common folk, with most crowd scenes showing more soldiers, Judaic leaders and followers of Jesus than other people.

Scheer would have you believe that the sadistic Roman guards flayed Jesus to appease the rabbis, when the film actually showed that it was not them but Pilate who called for the whipping, and that the priests actually departed the scene in abhorrence at the beating that took place.

And he contradicts his own allusion to the film's flashback reminder of Jesus' teaching about love, while himself ignoring the other flashbacks to his teachings, with the remark that this was an "exploitation flick ... ignoring his life and thoughts." The film, after all, was meant to reflect only the suffering that Jesus went through in those final hours. It did that wonderfully, and you had to really stretch to think it in any way blamed any Jews other than those priests and leaders who saw a threat to their power.

Mel Wolf

Burbank

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I grieve and feel anger along with Scheer over thugs who would inflict violence against anyone in the name of Christ. However, Scheer, like all of those who claim the essence of Christ's message of love and mercy is lost in Gibson's violent movie, badly misses the target that sits right in front of his face. Anyone can teach about sacrificial love. The most amazing thing about Christ is that he, by his own choice, laid his life down. That is the whole point of the movie, that knowing what was about to befall him, he chose to die for the sins of the world.

Rob Morris

Oklahoma City, Okla.

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Is anyone else sick, sick, sick and tired of hearing about Gibson, et al?

Melinda Levinson

Los Angeles

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Perhaps those engaged in the moral/theological discussion over Gibson's "The Passion" ought to take a look at EBay's site devoted to the film. Ads there suggest that Gibson has seen fit to license souvenirs to promote the film, such as a crucifixion nail necklace (sans blood but with a reassuring quote from Isaiah). Other EBay items: a Jesus Christ hip flask (which a friend noted brings new meaning to the phrase, "Christ, I need a drink," and, my personal favorite, a Jesus Christ money clip (Pharisees notwithstanding, do you suppose the Lord would carry 10s, 20s or 100s as his "walking-around money"?).

That his film is controversial is undeniable, but Gibson's licensing of tasteless merchandise robs him of any moral high ground in the debate over the merits of the movie. How much money is this man making off the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?

Jim Mallon

San Luis Obispo

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