Judging by what people who aren’t Abe Foxman have taken away from Mel Gibson’s new movie, it seems to me it would better serve peace and understanding if Foxman would drop his campaign against The Passion of the Christ. The events surrounding the death of Christ are central to Christianity. To the extent the Gospels show the Jewish authorities and the people of Jerusalem in a bad light they’re no different from any number of passages in the Old Testament. To the extent they stand for a basic opposition between Christianity and post-Resurrection Judaism that’s accurate too, and it’s just something we have to recognize and live with. If non-Christians want to cultivate good relations they shouldn’t complain when someone presents the Gospel events in a straightforward way, letting the heros and villains be the heros and villains, as long as the evident intent is to say what Christianity is rather than what something else is.
It’s comforting to fight the last war or the war before that. It makes the characters and plot line obvious, and it becomes very easy to cast yourself as the hero. Nonethless, if I were a Jew worried about Jewish survival and well-being, I wouldn’t be concerned about Passion Plays. There are much more troubling things afoot today, radical Islam and advanced liberalism for example. How would Foxman respond if European Muslims demanded a veto over Passover celebrations? Such a demand might actually get some traction in the years to come. After all, all the stuff about oppression shows the Egyptians in a bad light, and it’s hardly PC to commemorate the death of thousands upon thousands of Egyptian children or the beginning of a movement ultimately directed toward occupation of Palestine through the extermination of its inhabitants. So why, in a PC and multicultural environment, should Passover be allowed?
When men differ, tolerance is the best hope for peace. Tolerance that is not stealth totalitarianism does not dissolve fundamental conflicts because it has no right to change fundamental views. It looks for practical ways in which men, with the fundamental beliefs they have, can live together. It appears that Abe Foxman is not doing that, and is thereby showing himself an enemy of tolerance.