I was recently invited to a special screening of “The Passion of the Christ” in Dallas to make recommendations regarding the film. My agent-attorney, Tom Winters of Tulsa, my pastor, who is an Assemblies of God official, and 30 other leaders were also invited. At the end of the screening, Mr. Gibson humbly asked if we felt the film could incite anti-Semitism and, if so, what could be done to avoid it.
I explained to Mr. Gibson that the Crucifixion story has been used by anti-Semites to feed and fuel Jew-hatred throughout history, and that anti-Semitism has risen throughout the world to levels not seen since the days of Hitler. I further stated that the film, in its present form, could incite violence against Jews in the former USSR, Muslim countries and Europe, and could even result in Jews being killed.
I related to Mr. Gibson that the Christian church in Germany supported Hitler, and a major reason for that support was the belief that Jews were suffering for their sin of crucifying the Savior. Oswald J. Smith of the People’s Church in Toronto, who visited Germany in 1936, said: “Every true Christian in Germany is for Hitler. I know, for it was from the Christians that I got my information, and right or wrong they endorse Hitler.” I also told him that great numbers in the Muslim world teach Hitler’s evil myths to their children, even in the schools. This is the reason it is so very important to correct this. Purely and simply, the foundation of terrorism is firmly imbedded in bigotry!
Mr. Gibson listened intently, hung his head, and was deeply moved. “What can I do,” he asked? I responded, “When the last scene ends go to black, scroll these words across the screen: “During the Roman occupation, 250,000 Jews were crucified by the Romans, but only One rose from the dead.”
“By doing this,” I said, “instead of feeding Jew-hatred, you will be fighting it. You will be communicating the suffering of all Jews under Roman occupation. By simply inserting this statement, those who desire to use the film to incite hatred toward Jews will be deterred.
“Those who might use the movie to incite Jew-hatred would know that they would be doing just the opposite – challenging the evil myths (that Jews are cursed for crucifying Christ and are Christ-killers) taught throughout history, and still today. In addition, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ would be the first Jesus film produced to fight anti-Semitism by telling the true story of Jewish suffering during the time of Christ.”
Mel Gibson became very excited, and said, “Perfect! I will do it. Yes, I will do it. I needed something for that spot anyway. This is it. I will do it. Thank you.”
At the showing in Dallas, no one was given a legal form to sign, so I am not bound to a confidentiality agreement. Why am I speaking out now? Because the film was screened when I was in Orlando on Jan. 21 and 22. I realized that leaders in the Jewish community were still extremely worried about increased anti-Semitism because of the film.
I became convinced it was time to let the Jewish community know that Mr. Gibson is very concerned, and is making a historic contribution to combat anti-Semitism. Never before has any effort been made in any Jesus film to correct the myths and misinformation propagated by Jew-hatred.