Thursday, August 03, 2006

I See His True Colors Glaring Through

There's been a lot of discussion in the media and on the Net about Mel Gibson's recent DUI arrest. The biggest question raised about it has probably been, Did he mean what he said about Jews?

Rabbi Schmuley Boteach proposes the following Talmudic test of someone's true beliefs: "What he says when he is drunk, what he says when he is angry, and what he spends his money on." Boteach argues that Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ and his recent drunken, angry tirade reveal his "true colors" clearly.

I think this may be a little simplistic. I'm inclined to subscribe to the notion that we are not one unitary person but a collection of subpersonalities, each with different attitudes and beliefs. I certainly think that one of Gibson's subpersonalities expressed its genuinely anti-Semitic views under the deinhibiting influence of alcohol, but I don't presume to know that Gibson wholly and completely embraces what his ranting self said that night. In the same way, there are parts of me that believe things about Islam and organized religion in general that I would not express publicly, hopefully not even under the influence of significant quantities of alcohol (which tends to make me cheerful rather than mean), but parts of me that I would like to think are more rational and wise do not subscribe to these beliefs.

In any case, it looks as though Gibson has wrought short-term if not long-term damage to his reputation and career, even if he's merely confirmed what many strongly suspected all along. However, Rabbi Boteach has a suggestion for how Gibson might help his cause before the Jewish community. In addition to the apologies he's already offered, he could re-release The Passion "with an important disclaimer at the very beginning of the film detailing the undisputed historical fact that the Romans killed Jesus, and that any of the Jewish leadership, like Caiaphas the High Priest, who called for Jesus’ death were all in the employ of Rome, and indeed served as the Roman police enforcers in Judea...Because claiming to love Jesus and simultaneously hating Jews are deeply contradictory, since Jesus was not a Catholic or a Christian, but a Jew."

Boteach has some more advice for Mel:

I have long been impressed by your devotion to your father, especially since he appears to have a screw loose. Even so, you stuck by him. But the Commandment that instructs us to honor our parents does not mean that we ought to honor their bigotry. On the contrary, we honor our parents by becoming better people than they and righting their wrongs.

I think this is very good advice.

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