Mel Gibson’s new film The Passion has some concerned that the show based on a composite of Gospel stories will foster anti-Semitism. Gibson, a conservative Catholic, denies the charge. He has set-up special screenings of the film for clergy (mostly conservative evangelicals) who have only praised the film.
That’s because they had to.
It turns out everyone who has attended these special screenings has been forced to sign a Statement of Confidentiality that included a provision allowing clergy to speak to reporters about the film only if they would say good things about it.
John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, was one of those who attended. He wrote an essay for Beliefnet.com on the film:
What bothered me most about that Statement of Confidentiality's disjunction was not just its clear attempt at censorship or its even clearer attempt to promote interest by secrecy and conspiracy. What bothered me intensely was the way it contradicted the character and attitude of its own subject, that Jesus who spoke always openly and publicly, who received and accepted both loving support and lethal criticism. If the Gospel of the Christ was so publicly open, why is "The Passion of the Christ" open only to support but closed to criticism? If you cannot take criticism, Mr. Gibson, get out of the Passion.
So is the film anti-Semitic? Crossan won’t say. He’s forbidden from doing so.
However, Crossan provides a link to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith which infiltrated the screening and has this to say:
We were saddened and pained to find that "The Passion of the Christ" continues its unambiguous portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus. There is no question in this film about who is responsible. At every single opportunity, Gibson's film reinforces the notion that the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob are the ones ultimately responsible for the Crucifixion.