RESPONSE FROM WINOKUR
Editors, Daily Planet:
Morris Berger in his response (Letters, Daily Planet, April 13-15) to my April 9, Good Friday commentary on Jesus and the Jews (“Film Shows Need for Complex Interpretation of History,” Daily Planet, April 9-12), claims that it is the “excesses” in Mel Gibson’s The Passion that “demonstrate the persistence of the virus of anti-Semitism.” But anti-Semitism has been on the rise long before The Passion of the Christ hit the silver screen. As a matter of fact, indications are that the film may, in fact, be reducing such prejudice. After all, it spends most of its energy beating the daylights out of a poor Jewish man. Even hard-core Christian bigots might likely respond with some minimal empathy, as it is their guy, in all his Judaic glory, who takes it on for the sake of humanity.
In my article I made it clear (as he quotes) that when referring to the crucifixion I am speaking, historically, only of: “some of the Jews.” But with all due respect to the Jewish tradition and its spiritual establishments, I believe that mainstream Judaism has made a disingenuous omission by continuing to treat Jesus as if he were barely a footnote in their history. Fortunately, there are growing exceptions to this, demonstrated by such rapidly growing movements as Messianic Judaism and Jewish Renewal. Represented right here in Berkeley, by the burgeoning membership of Kehilla Synagogue, the Renewal movement, at least gives Christ the respect of an essential teacher in the tradition of such prophets as Baal ShemTov.
Meanwhile, let’s not obfuscate the issue by invoking uncertainty about details as a means of conveniently denying probability. When it all sifts out, sacrifice and resurrection aside, we are talking about a political execution. Of course, castigating all Jews for all time is draconian and unjust. But are repeating the old weary mantras of accusation and denial producing anything but insecurity and systemic suspicion? Bringing Jesus into the mainstream, ritual Jewish experience is the least we can do for our own legacy, and perhaps toward healing one of the monumental, inscrutable schisms in the history of religion.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Regarding Marc Winokur’s commentary on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ:
I would doubt the “uniqueness” of Jesus’ message. Jesus speaks with the same voice as the Old Testament prophets, and is supported by a great deal of earlier scripture. It is a principle known in the Orient as “parampara” or “disciplic succession.” Some of his sayings were Aramaic proverbs inserted into the Gospel narrative. To say that nobody ever spoke of peace, love, and forgiveness before Jesus would be ridiculous.
Jesus was a man of submission to God, not an “iconoclastic rebel.” If rebel, he certainly joined the Establishment in a hurry, becoming the whitewashed plaster Icon of the dominant order for 2000 years.
And of course the Jews killed him, and so what! Had he preached in Mongolia, the Mongolians would have killed him! They would have killed him wherever he preached! Since every Mother’s son of us is going to die, why make so much of the death of this one individual – there are many similar deaths, and, “Neither he who thinks the living entity the slayer nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the Self slays not nor is Slain.” (Gita 2:19)
It is not a simple matter of “complex interpretation of history” but of simple common sense and a little spiritual understanding to come to terms with Ol’ Jesus. Gibson’s Passion is a passion play. Passion plays have been popular for thousands of years—this is a particularly violent and bloody passion play—very Catholic. For those who like such things, good! I would not see it because I don’t like to see the spiritual master treated in such a manner. As far as the complaint of the Jews that they are painted as the bad guys—shouldn’t have done the first thing! Does political correctness indicate that we can’t blame the Germans for the deaths of so many Jews?
Clayton C. C. O’Claerach