No link between Gibson's anti-Semitism and 'Christ' film, evangelicals say
The Christian evangelical community remained conspicuously silent in the wake of the Hollywood star's recent outburst of anti-Semitism.
The Christian evangelical community that so firmly supported Mel Gibson's blockbuster movie, "The Passion of the Christ," has remained conspicuously silent in the wake of the Hollywood star's recent outburst of anti-Semitism, Anti Defamation League national chairman Abraham Foxman charged.
"People are unlikely to admit that they made a mistake," he told a press conference in Jerusalem this week. "They [evangelical Christians] believe that they possess the truth."
Foxman said that the religious community's support for Israel was not an excuse for anti-Jewish sentiment. "Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism, whether you embrace Israel or not," he said.
Several evangelical leaders have rebuked Gibson for his recent drunken tirade, but so far none has repudiated his 2004 blockbuster, "The Passion of the Christ," which the evangelical community firmly backed.
The Hollywood star was arrested for drunk driving on July 28 along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. During the arrest, Gibson reportedly said, "F****** Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." He then asked the police officer, "Are you a Jew?"
Almost two days later, Gibson issued an apology through his publicist, Alan Neirob, saying that he was "ashamed" of his behavior. "There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark," Gibson said. "Please know from my heart I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith."
But Foxman this week called the actor's recent outburst further proof that he is a "bigot and an anti-Semite."
A conservative Catholic, Gibson, 50, first sparked controversy ahead of the 2004 release of "The Passion of the Christ," a movie dealing with the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, which some Jewish groups believed could fan anti-Semitism.
Foxman emerged as one of the film's most vocal critics, but many evangelical Christians hailed it as a powerful outreach opportunity to spread the gospel. "The Passion of the Christ" is one of the highest grossing films of all time.
Evangelical leaders say Gibson's anti-Semitism is not relevant to their continued support of his film.
"Gibson's personal problems are one thing and the question is if the movie contained his personal anti-Semitic views and from what I heard, it did not," said Susan Michael, the national director of the U.S. headquarters of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a pro-Israel evangelical organization. "Evangelicals came out in the hundreds of thousands to see the film, but [Foxman] was wrong. There was no anti-Semitic backlash."
"Gibson is not even an evangelical," she added.
Other prominent evangelicals like James Dobson, chair of the Colorado-based organization Focus on the Family, condemned Gibson's anti-Semitic comments as "very hurtful and unfortunate." But in a statement on the organization's Web site, he also said, "Mel has apologized profusely for the incident and there the matter should rest. Mel has also indicated his willingness to seek help to overcome his alcoholism, and has asked the Jewish community for forgiveness. What more can he do?"
Dobson added that the outburst was irrelevant to "The Passion of the Christ," which is "one of the finest films of this era. Our endorsement of it stands as originally stated. We did not believe it was anti-Semitic in 2004, and our views have not changed since then."
Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, echoed a similar sentiment. "My view of alcohol is that it lowers inhibitions, and I think when people are drunk their inhibitions are removed and they say what they really think," he told the Washington Post.
"High-quality films, books and sermons are made, written and preached by severely imperfect people. The film stands on its own. It's a classic piece. People are going to watch it for the next 1,000 years, unless Christ returns first," Haggard added.
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