Cover Story

Caught in the middle

Issue: "Mel Gibson's passion," Feb. 28, 2004

WITH MEDIA REPORTS ON MEL Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, often focusing on criticism of the film by some Jewish organizations and defense of it by some Christians, one group is caught in the middle: Jewish Christians, who understand in their guts the history of oppression and in their hearts the truth of the Gospels.

At least two groups representing some Jewish Christians have issued statements about the film. The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations noted differences in perception: "Christians will tend to view the film through the lens of scriptural accuracy and impact ... Jews will view it through the lens of history, where similar passion plays have resulted in mass persecution."

Susan Perlman, associate executive director for Jews for Jesus, published an open letter to Mr. Gibson in Variety, the entertainment industry newspaper, that noted how "over the years, many so-called 'Christians' have blamed my Jewish people for Jesus' death. The hatred and persecution we've endured as a result is tragic, and that's made some Jews very defensive when it comes to the subject of the Passion."

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She closed the letter with a note of encouragement for Mr. Gibson: "There are lots of us Jewish people who are grateful that you made this film. Because of The Passion, this important topic is being discussed passionately-and that's a good thing."

Individual Jewish Christians also have been discussing the movie. Debbie Edwards of Woodbridge, Conn., did not expect any increase in anti-Semitism resulting from the film. Jack Sternberg, an Arkansas oncologist, is "prayerful that the way Mel Gibson has portrayed this is accurate and sensitive, so people will come out and say, 'We are all responsible for Jesus' death.'" c

-Dean Abbott is a New Hampshire journalist

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