RAPID RESPONSE REPORT
DEFENDING HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY IN A POSTMODERN WORLD
2/20/2003 Vol.2 #14
Editor: Bill Crouse Special Issue on The Passion
MORE ON THE PASSION AND ANTISEMITISM
It’s now called the “Passion Controversy,” and is it ever! I have been reading dozens of reports and reviews trying to understand what this is all about. Is it all about anti-Semitism? This issue concerns me a great deal. Even before the announcement of the movie I’ve been concerned about the incredible increase of anti-Semitism in Europe and here in the U.S., particularly among the media (NPR: the worst), on college campuses, and in the old mainline denominational churches. In the past, its source was most often the extreme right wing, but surprisingly, today the danger is coming from the left. For example, the nation of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is seen as an outpost of Western Imperialism. On the campus of Rutgers U. the ditty “Die Jew, die, die, die, die, die. Stop living, die, die, DIE! Do us all a favor and build yourself [an] oven,” was printed in a student newspaper. The Palestinians are the new cause celeb on campuses and liberal churches. It was fine as long as Israel was seen as a socialist experiment, but when they went toward free markets that changed to the point that even liberal Jews (Michael Lerner, N. Chomsky, N. Finkelstein, et, al.) began to oppose the state of Israel. In fact, they go so far as to compare the modern state of Israel with the Nazis.
For a more complete survey of anti-Semitism among the left see Murry Friedman’s article: The Left’s Threat to the Jews. For more background on the history of anti-Semitism see: A Rumor Among the Jews by Stephen Eric Bronner. We can assure you it is of major interest here. We are planning a major briefing paper entitled Conspiracies, AntiSemitism, and Biblical Prophecy. Feel free to share with us any good sources you might be are aware of.
So, will Mel Gibson’s movie fuel even more anti-Semitism? I personally don’t think so, but I do understand somewhat the concerns of Jewish Defense groups like the ADL. Even now as I write Arab propaganda outlets are proclaiming Mel Gibson their new hero! They are proudly announcing that they hope many Jews get killed as a result of the movie.
If you have ever watched the movies: The Pianist, or Schindler’s List, almost certainly you’ve asked the inevitable question: “What turned these Nazi soldiers into such animals? Yes, I believe the German Passion plays early in the 20th Century did make a contribution as has been charged, but as I have written before in RRR, I believe the major culprit was the fascist worldview, a worldview that still persists. Allow me to borrow from a previous briefing paper on fascism: Here are some of the major elements of that which has so captivated intellectuals worldwide:
Immanence. The reason the Nazis so hated the Jews was the belief that they had poisoned western civilization with the idea of a transcendent god who reveals a transcendent moral law. The fascists argued that such transcendence alienates human beings from nature and themselves. One writer defined fascism as "the practical and violent resistance to transcendence." (Eric Nolte). Fascists seek an organic, neo-mythological unity of nature, the community, and the self. Historic Christianity holds that God is (a) separate from His creation and not part of it (i.e., transcendent), and (b) within it (i.e., immanent) but without being a part of it. While the Nazi regime was adamantly opposed to confessional Christianity (those stressing biblical doctrine) they tolerated a modernist Christianity which stressed immanence, the here and now, a this-worldly agenda. Many liberal theologians sympathized with the Nazis and agreed to work to de-Hebraize Christianity. Isn’t it ironic: As the Nazi soldiers led the Jews to the ovens they shouted “Christ-killers.” but what they advocate themselves is death to the Judeo-Christian, transcendent God. This is still typical of fascist tactics, by the way. You accuse your opponents of what you are guilty of. It’s right out of the Goebbels’ manual.
Paganism: The goal was to purge the idea of a transcendent god and replace it with a form of pre-Christian consciousness. The Nazi spiritual leaders wanted to revive belief in the ancient Germanic tribal deities, e.g. Wotan. This accounts for the immense popularity of composers like Wagner with his pagan operas, and the music and ballet of Stravinsky. Hitler himself studied deeply in the occult and mystery religions (read Gnosticism). The German calendar was de-Christianized and holidays were replaced with the pagan cycles of nature. Pagan shrines and ancient ritual sites in Germany were officially recognized.
Group identity: Individual worth and identity was another poisonous doctrine perpetrated by the Jews who believed man's worth was based on the IMAGO DEI. According to fascist ideology, individual identity comes only from the group, and since culture determines the individual, the needs of the culture have priority. Fascism opposes human autonomy. Culture, therefore, takes on a mystical, almost god-like status. Civilization, according to fascists was the result of Jewish abstraction and reason. Culture is everything--it is organic and ethnic. Civilization is mechanical and rational and brings on alienation. This glorification of culture and ethnicity of course led to virulent racism the Nazis have been most noted for.
Unity with nature: As with primitive and animistic cultures, fascism sees man as one with nature. What is generally not known is the fact that this doctrine led the fascists to hold a very zealous view of environmentalism. They enacted significant environmental protection programs. Health and physical fitness was stressed. The state not only was to bring about this unity (hence the tolerance of totalitarianism) but the state itself was conceived as the embodiment of culture. The state was to be a living organism in which each individual would find fulfillment and purpose like cells in the greater body. Its political and economic program grew out of this belief and was known as National Socialism. (Note: For those who don’t know, the word "Nazi" comes from a shortened form of the German word for "national socialism."
I implore, beseech, and yea, beg you to read the above description of fascism one more time, and then ask yourself: “Do I see any of these ideas today?” Let me help you answer the question with some of my own questions: Are the contemporary New Age gods immanent or transcendent? Do you sense that there is a gathering anti-Christian, anti-western movement and revival of paganism? Does a desire exist to de-Christianize the west? Do you see a denial of human worth and dignity (Remember the Imago Dei is a Jewish idea from the OT)? Is there an emphasis on groups and ethnicity, and majority rule as opposed to law? Is violence glorified in film? Is there a stress on the body beautiful? Do you ever hear much about seemingly irrational and crazy environmental groups? Gaia (Earth) worship, anyone? Is there a strong accent on health and fitness for the good of the system? Rumors of Gnosticism? Ever hear of a book called The DaVinci Code? An emphasis on the paternal (Whoops! Sorry, maternal) nature of government? Socialism everywhere? Do you hear of crazy things being done with language that would make Goebbels proud? If you answer yes, to these questions you passed the test! The final question, worth bonus points: Should we be worried about an increase in anti-Semitism?
More on The Movie: I digress
I confess to having watched Diane Sawyer’s (ABC) interview of Mel Gibson last Monday evening (2/16). Not much happened that I didn’t expect. I thought her body language was condescending. By the way she looked at him, cocked head and furrowed her brow, she seemed to be saying: “Mel, you poor man you really are whacked out.” Her questions and her responses to his answers were also what I expected. She could hardly wait to ask if he was anti-Semitic? She was also right in asking it, I guess, since it was an issue. This gave him a chance to clear the air. I thought he handled himself well, and that he ably defended his Christian beliefs. She was just credulous that he actually believed the Bible literally and that he even believed in a personal devil! She was astounded when he affirmed that real evil existed. But boy was she relieved when he affirmed that all (Jews and Muslims) would be saved. This, of course is a widely-held Catholic belief; the Pope himself has written as much. Christians are just on the fast track! (See also, George Neumayr’s comments on Diane Sawyer: Mel’s Maligner’s)
Here are the reasons I believe this movie is one of the most controversial of all time even before its release:
First, and maybe foremost, Mel Gibson, himself admitted that it was an evangelistic project. In a Postmodern (PM) world that is the most politically incorrect thing one could possibly say. Remember, awhile back we reported that the religious arm of the U.N. condemned all proselytizing. By trying to proselytize you are saying another’s viewpoint is not correct but yours is. The radical relativism of PM man can’t handle this. Brent Bozell, the media watchdog comments: “To the bad-taste specialists that dominate our culture, there is no dirtier word than ‘proselytize.’ That, to them, is a very ‘divisive’ act. To secularists, it is offensive to believe that one creed, one faith is absolutely correct, and therefore the others must be in error.”
Secondly, Gibson did not consult with the Jesus Seminar in the making of the movie. In interviews and articles in our collection, he is repeatedly asked why he didn’t consult this august body. Well, good for Mel Gibson, if he had consulted these demythologizers, and deconstructers of the NT it wouldn’t have been any different from documentaries we’ve already seen on the Discovery Channel. The Jesus Seminar scholars remind me of Freud: lots of theories but no experimental evidence. I get so sick of hearing the mantra “But the NT was written in the 2nd Century by those who were trying to perpetuate their ideology; it’s impossible to know the historical Jesus!” I guess it doesn’t matter that manuscript evidence indicates otherwise. So, in summary, Gibson’s movie is an insult to the intelligentsia. See the article in Newsweek as an example. Tom Piatak, writing in Chronicles says, “The scholar’s attacks on Gibson have been driven, in part by an academic arrogance bordering on Gnosticism, a belief that no layman or churchman outside of their coterie could possibly understand the Gospels. …Apparently, no one can understand anything about the Gospels unless they have been “fully briefed” about the scholars’ own --admittedly counterintuitive-- readings of sacred Scripture.”
Thirdly, I believe the most virulent critics real, deep down concern, is that the movie might be successful to a high degree, this after they’ve seen its artistic quality. PMs want to eliminate fundamentalism in the world, and a movie of this quality could lead to mass conversions—what we are praying will happen. As I listened to these complaints from Jewish organizations I get the distinct impression that they believe the New Testament itself is an anti-Semitic document. In their questions they repeatedly want certain passages repudiated. So what are the facts: Who killed Jesus? And how do you decide this question if the NT documents are not historical? If they are, then it is a no-brainer. The Romans carried out the execution at the instigation of the Jewish authorities who rejected His claim of being their promised Messiah. For this rejection a curse was pronounced on that generation of Jews by Jesus in Matthew 23. For this rejection the nation of Israel paid dearly. They were wiped out by the Roman armies and Jerusalem and the magnificent temple built by Herod were totally destroyed. Josephus says the city looked like a plowed field. Are the Jews today under a curse? Not any more than anyone else. Note carefully the status of Jews in Peter’s sermon in Acts. 2. And, for a deeper discussion of the Jews’ status: see Rom. 9-11.
Fourth, the anti-Semitic charge: This is the one getting the most publicity, and while it is a real concern, especially in some parts of the world, it may be working against them. The publicity may result in free advertising! Also, the whining of organizations like the ADL is probably causing more anti-Semitism then will the movie. Of late, even Foxman (head of the ADL) admits that the movie is not anti-Semitic. For more about this backlash see Rabbi Lapin’s article: Why Mel Owes One to the Jews.
In conclusion: In my opinion, Gibson’s movie is a sterling example of using PM methods (emotions, drama, images, etc.) to reach PMs with some powerful ideas. While I’m aware Mel Gibson is not a saint I’m thankful to God for his creative gifts. May his kind increase, and God be pleased to use this work of art for His glory.
If you do go to see the movie, keep in mind one thing: Gibson’s movie is only about the physical suffering of Jesus. In my slim file of sermons I have one which really goes into detail about the physical suffering of Jesus much as Gibson does, but I do it to illustrate a point by contrast: His spiritual suffering was far greater! The Romans were responsible for his death, the Jewish leaders, and all of us, but there is someone we are leaving out: the Father. The Prophet Isaiah says: “…he was stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted; crushed for our iniquities. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Ch. 53.) We all need to ask the question: Why? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die as He did to pay for our sins. Couldn’t God just proclaim us forgiven? It has something to do with God’s holy character. Contrary to a lot of contemporary beliefs God’s will is bound by His nature. The holiness of God may be one of the most neglected teachings today. When we study Christian cults and heretical theology here at CIM, it seems like 90% of the time they result from a deficient view of God’s holiness. When I’m at the movie next week (got a free ticket for opening day!) the most poignant moment for me will be when Our Lord Jesus cries out: “My god, my god why hast thou forsaken me? Because it is at that precise moment that my sin is imputed to Christ and the Father turns His back on the one He said of earlier in the Gospels: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. And when He shouts tetelestai (“It is Finished!” or maybe better, (Paid in full1) I’ll be weeping because my sins are paid for!
Correction: In the last issue (Vol.2, #13) we wrongly attributed a statement to Paul Harvey. It was actually Keith Fournier.
When Mel Gibson was asked, after one of his screenings, “What result do you expect from this movie?” He replied: “I hope they go home and read The Book.” It’s what I plan to do, but there are also some other books on the passion that have meant a lot to me. There are many good ones; here are a few classics:
The Cross of Christ, by John R. Stott.. My all time favorite; it’s always on my desk.
The Shadow of Calvary, by Hugh Martin.
The Suffering Savior, by F. W Krummacher.
A Crucifix, by Thomas Adams. A Sermon by a Puritan in1630. I try to read it once a year. It’s hard to find, but what a treasure!
Christ’s Agony, by Jonathan Edwards. Read this and you will never be the same again! You can find it on the web.
For Christ and His Kingdom