The Right Coast

March 10, 2004
Yet still even more on the Passion
By Tom Smith

Generally speaking, I think James Carroll has made a career out of misrepresenting himself as a Catholic to non-Catholic and lapsed Catholic audiences. You're right; I don't like him. But this piece of his on The Passion is interesting, especially in how it ties into Gibson's appetite for violence in his movies. But on the other hand, critics such as Carroll are not really confronting the uncomfortable and even embarrassing fact that at the core of Christian doctrine is the idea that the suffering of Jesus was extraordinary and was redemptive. Carroll's claim that in the Catholic tradition the suffering of Jesus is meant to heard about and read about only is a ridiculous falsehood. Hasn't this guy ever heard of the stations of the cross? Didn't he go to Catholic school? Hasn't he ever seen a bleeding Jesus on a crucifix in his many tours of Europe? As a rule of thumb, whenever Carroll says anything about Catholicism, you can assume roughly the opposite is true.

Also, it starts to get hypocritical when those on the left strive to outdo each other in how much opprobrium they can pour on Gibson. It turns out, how could I ever guess, that somehow President Bush is responsible for the excesses of the movie, which are connected to our excesses in Iraq and Afghanistan, and blah blah blah. It is boring to listen to people just seething with hatred for America, and who by and large hate Israel too, and don't seem to get too upset if a few Jews get beaten up in France, either, blather on about how hateful we are all are because the movie is popular. As I have said here, I don't blame Jews for finding the movie offensive. If I were Jewish, I would find it offensive. I'm not Jewish, and I find its depiction of Jews problematic at best and at times downright offensive. I also think there are some beautiful moments in the movie. But I also think the violence is obscene, and wonder whether it serves any legitimate artistic or religious purpose. That being said, no children were blown up in making the movie. No Jews were murdered because they were Jews. No one connected with the movie that I know of is working secretly, ruthlessly and without mercy for the destruction of the Jewish state. Nobody connected with the movie is apologizing for terrorists who would leap for joy if every American were flayed alive as Jesus was, their being the sick bastards that they are. No one connected with the movie is finding every excuse they can for attacking Bush's attempts to keep the country safe from threats that would be even more frightening than they are if we knew all about them. On the other hand, support by the left for Israel had been, let us say, not as hearty as its willingness to pour scorn on Gibson. So when the American left goes off on the movie, you have to wonder, oh, please, when did you start caring about the Jews?