A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Some Thoughts on Mel Gibson�s Anti-Semitic Rant

Mel Gibson�s recent arrest under the influence and his drunken anti-Semitic tirade to the police have fallen off the headlines of the newspapers, but before commenting too quickly, I wanted to spend some time thinking through the event and what it means beyond Gibson�s own issues with alcohol and racist ideas.

In preparing my comments, I surfed the Internet for expert opinions on the motivating effects alcohol has on persons who are intoxicated. Did Gibson say what he said because it was the alcohol talking and he, therefore, did not know what he was saying, or did he believe what he said even though he was drunk?

The consensus among psychiatrists and psychologists is that when people are under the influence, alcohol does not put words in people�s mouths, it lowers their inhibitions making them willing to say publicly things they believe, but would dare not utter when sober. In other words, alcohol acts as truth serum.

Gibson has apologized to the Jewish community twice. It is not my place as a Christian to decide how Jews should respond. Some Jews are willing to speak with him and others are not. Considering that God�s chosen people have endured abuse and persecution for over two thousand years, often, sadly to say, at the hands of Christians, it is not my place nor is it any Christian�s place to advise them on how to respond.

People often hold racist views because they are taught such hate by their parents. Human beings are not born racists, they are not born anti-Semites, and they are not born sexist. Since such instruction usually takes place over a period of years, it is impossible simply to discard one�s views with a snap of the fingers. This is apparently the case with Gibson. He will not be schooled out of anti-Semitism overnight, but if he is willing, and if others, particularly those in the Jewish community are willing to work with him and build relationships with him, he can eventually embrace a different perspective.

The Christian community should not give Gibson a pass on his behavior just because he is a Christian and because he made a stirring movie about Jesus� Passion. Indeed, the fact that he is a Christian and a public figure is all the more reason to hold him accountable. His recent behavior diminishes the church�s ability to be credible in its proclamation of the gospel. This is serious business and if Gibson has not been informed of the damage he has done in reference to the mission of the church in the society, someone should do so. Frankly, Gibson should be asking his fellow Christians for forgiveness as well.

We human beings tend to go easy on the failings of those persons we like and whose views we embrace, and we are quick to pounce on the sins of those persons whose views we do not care for. We do this in politics all the time. We do not like it when someone questions the integrity of the senator who shares our party affiliation, but we are quick to malign the character of the senator whose politics are not ours. (As you read this, do not think about the persons who criticize your beloved public servants, think of those in public life whose character you impugn because they do not hold your views.) I find it quite disturbing that it has become common place for Democrats and Republicans not simply to disagree with each other on the issues and argue why (which is democracy), but to question without evidence each other�s integrity, accuse one another of lying and making things up, and suggesting that motives are shady (which is demagoguery). We cannot say such things in a court of law without proof, but such slander is business-as-usual in Washington.

When we stop to think about it, it is quite arrogant to judge someone�s character based on whether or not he or she agrees with our politics. In so doing we make our politics the moral standard by which the virtue of a person is judged. If you do not agree with me, you are a bad person. If you do agree with me, you are good. This is nothing more than self-centeredness at its worst. Mel Gibson should not be given a pass because he is liked; neither should he be made to pay for his sins for the rest of his life (particularly if he is repentant) because there are those who can�t stand him. If Gibson asks his fellow Christians for forgiveness we should embrace him, and his church community and other Christian friends should work with him to bring him to a more biblical view of the Jewish people. They should also support him as he battles his alcoholism.

Of all people, Christians should be concerned with the pervasive anti-Semitism that continues to exist to this day throughout the world. The New Testament reaffirms what the Old Testament claims: the Jews are God�s chosen people. Christians have a stake in the chosenness of Israel. If the Jews are not the chosen people of God, then Jesus cannot be the Messiah as he too is a son of Israel.

This does not mean that Christians should approve of everything Israel does. The people of God the Jews are no more perfect than the people of God the church. Neither does this mean we should be less concerned with racist comments and actions toward other ethnic groups that are not Jewish. In fact, anti-Semitism is a reminder that all racism is unacceptable; and considering that Jesus offered his love to all persons, and who in his ministry ignored ethnic boundaries between Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles, his followers can do no less.


Matthew D. Montonini said...

Well said-I could not agree more. In reading Romans 2 the other day I am once again reminded about how judgmental and intolerable I can be at times. If we as Christians would learn to choose our battles with more wisdom we would much better off. Anti-Semitism and racism in general is nothing more than idolatry guised falsely as superiority.Once we decide that we are better than someone else, we become a judge over that person,a position that is solely Gods',thus making it the worst arrogance possible-our need to replace God as judge. What arrogance!

Allan R. Bevere said...


Well said.

I hope you are doing well. I miss your insight in class.

Ted M. Gossard said...

A very fine post. Thanks. And I hope, somehow, Mel Gibson would read it. It would be good for us to lift up prayers for him, as we think of him.

Matthew, Thanks for your comment, as well. Great point.

Oloryn said...

Regarding the tendency to merely slam opponents rather than argue with them:

When C. S. Lewis first wrote about Bulverism(also known as the genetic fallacy), he noted how pervasive the technique was. I'm convinced that it has since come to dominate modern political discourse. It is much easier to assume some nefarious motivation on the part of your opponent and assert that their arguments come from that 'taint' than it is to actually try to refute their arguments, and it appears that our modern generations have decided to take the intellectually lazy way out.

To me the most frightening quote from the above link is "Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs." It would appear that that is being lived out daily in the political life of our nation.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Excellent point and said in an articulate fashion.

You are right; it is the lazy way out. If I can demonize my opponent, I do not have to take his/her views seriously, and then substantive discussion and debate is not necessary.

Thanks again for your comments!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Oloryn & Allan,

Isn't it a crying shame, too, that it appears that for politicians to thoughtfully debate, in a civil manner, the issues is not as effective as sound bites that oftentimes are mudslinging.

I lose most any enthusiasm I might have had for a politician, when they, seem to me, to resort to this! But it must seem like the jungle where you do what you have to do to make it there.

I appreciate this post much. And I'm glad we live in a society that still does hold politicians and actors to some sort of accountability.

Sally said...

much appreciated and thought provoking post, thank you