A Passion for Prejudice

Or: I'm going to say it one more time. I did not kill Jesus Christ
By Art Buchwald
2004 The Washington Post Company
Tuesday, March 2, 2004; Page C02

Okay, I'm going to say it one more time. I did not kill Jesus Christ. I might not even have mentioned it, except that Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" has become a happening. The picture deals with the last 12 hours of Jesus's life and is based on the Gospels.

According to the Gospels, the Jewish priests were responsible for his death, even though Christ was Jewish. Everyone is entitled to interpret the Bible as he sees it -- and even make a movie of it -- but, unfortunately, "The Passion" has once again stirred up the old prejudices on the subject.

For centuries, the word was out that the Jews had killed Jesus because they wouldn't accept him as the Son of God. All sorts of attacks have been made on them through the ages because of this. Ever since I was a boy, I have had to defend the fact that I did not have anything to do with it. In the schoolyard, Italian kids, Irish kids and choirboys from Our Lady of Mercy School accused me of the crime.

Most of them were bigger than I was. The daily conversation went like this:

"Who killed Christ?"

"I don't know."

"Yes, you do. You killed Christ."

"Did not."

"Did too. If you don't admit you did, we'll break your nose."

"Okay, I killed Christ. Now will you get off me and let me go home?"

Sometimes the confession was enough. Other times I got a bloody nose -- if I was lucky.

It got no better as I grew up. I have to admit that everyone believed I was at the Crucifixion, particularly at Christmas and Easter. Those are the times when the churchgoers mentioned it and I had to defend myself against the charges.

I was always on guard because at any time someone could call me a Christ-killer.

I didn't realize how virulent the subject was until I grew up. Everywhere I went, people eventually let their real feelings out.

At a dinner party the other evening, someone said, "Why haven't the Jews accepted our Lord as their savior?"

I replied, "I really don't know. I can't think of a people who have suffered so much because of not accepting Him as the Messiah."

"I am going to ask you once again. Did you kill Christ?"

"I have been saying it all my life. No! I wasn't even there."

"Well, if you didn't, who did?"

"It could have been anybody. Look, I thought Jesus was a great man -- a man who preached love and forgiveness. His teachings have been passed down through the generations. But people have used his crucifixion as an excuse to kill other people. That isn't what Christ had in mind."

"Do you think Mel Gibson should have made his movie?"

"Why not? As long as people don't walk away from it saying I killed Christ."

"They won't. We live in modern times and we know that the Passion took place long, long ago."

"I hope you're right."

"But that doesn't mean you can join our country club."

"It's no big deal because I don't play golf."

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2004 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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