Keith A Fournier's Review of Gibson's THE PASSION

February 1, 2004
My Internet sister, Dee Bower, sent me the following review of the Gibson movie, THE PASSION. No source of where this comes from is given so I can't vouch for its accuracy.


Keith A Fournier is a constitutional lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds degrees in Philosophy, theology and law. He has been a champion of religious liberty and appeared as co-counsel in major cases at the United States Supreme Court. He is the author of seven books and, along with his law practice, serves as the president of both the "Your Catholic Voice Foundation" and "Common Good".

"I really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," but I had also read all the cautious articles and spin.

I grew up in a Jewish town and owe much of my own faith journey to the influence. I have a life long, deeply held aversion to anything that might even indirectly encourage any form of anti-Semitic thought, language or actions.  I arrived at the private viewing for "The Passion", held in Washington D.C. and greeted some familiar faces. The environment was typically Washingtonian, with people greeting you with a smile but seeming to look beyond you, having an agenda beyond the words.

The film was very briefly introduced, without fanfare, and then the room darkened. From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the very human and tender portrayal of the earthly ministry of Jesus, through the betrayal, the arrest, the scourging, the way of the cross, the encounter with the thieves, the surrender on the Cross, until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced.

In addition to being a masterpiece of film-making and an artistic triumph, "The Passion" evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same. When the film concluded, this "invitation only" gathering of "movers and shakers" in Washington, D.C. were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth.

One scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized, wounded Jesus was soon to fall again under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Della Rosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said "Behold I make all things new." These are words taken from the last Book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelations. Suddenly, the purpose of the pain was so clear and the wounds, that earlier in the film had been so difficult to see in His face, His back, indeed all over His body, became intensely beautiful. They had been borne voluntarily for love.

At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. "Why is this film considered by some to be "anti-Semitic?" Frankly, having now experienced (you do not "view" this film) "the Passion" it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded "After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't." He continued "It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus" I agree.

There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way. Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations.

This is not a "Christian" film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art. Yes, its producer is a Catholic Christian and thankfully has remained faithful to the Gospel text; if that is no longer acceptable behavior than we are all in trouble. History demands that we remain faithful to the story and Christians have a right to tell it. After all, we believe that it is the greatest story ever told and that its message is for all men and women. The greatest right is the right to hear the truth.

We would all be well advised to remember that the Gospel narratives to which "The Passion" is so faithful were written by Jewish men who followed a Jewish Rabbi whose life and teaching have forever changed the history of the world. The problem is not the message but those who have distorted it and used it for hate rather than love. The solution is not to censor the message, but rather to promote the kind of gift of love that is Mel Gibson's filmmaking masterpiece, "The Passion". It should be seen by as many people as possible. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that is the case. I am passionate about "the Passion." You will be as well. Don't miss it!


To my Jewish and Christian Friends

Recently I forwarded to you an email I received from a friend of mine. It was a review of Mel Gibson's film, THE PASSION.

The review made several interesting points that I can agree with, the most important one being that Christians have the right to tell the story of the Passion of their messiah, whether the medium is film or some other way. There are several reasons that they have the right to do so but the most important one in 21st century America is that in this country we allow people to express their beliefs in art.

It is interesting that as I write this, the TV is on and I am watching the play, INHERIT THE WIND. You all know the story I assume. In case you don't, it's the fictionalized account of the Scopes Trial. A young man who is a school teacher in a southern town is arrested for teaching young students that the world has evolved and that man arose as a mutation of some now extinct primate type. He is ARRESTED for teaching his beliefs. That is something to consider when we hear people sighing about how God and religion are no longer allowed in the public school. I said that in America, people are allowed to express their religious beliefs in art. If the country becomes any more religious [Christian], will people be allowed to express their disbeliefs in art or will they be arrested for doing so? I have always believed that religion, Biblical Religion, contains much in it that has helped humanity. I also believe that it contains much that has harmed humanity. As an American, I believe that the Gibsons have every right to create and distribute their film.

The review also made another interesting point, namely, that the film is not in the least antisemitic or troubling for Jews.

You know, many of us have been brought up in an atmosphere of "mixed neighborhoods", and we are used to being around people who differ from us in attitude, beliefs, ethnic expressions, etc, and we just take differences for granted, and many of us have been taught that as good Americans we have to respect the other fellow's church or temple and that we are all God's children, and that basically if we are good guys, well, we'll all end up in the same place because, after all, God appears to each of us within the background of the faith in which we were raised. And after all, isn't it a Judeo-Christian environment and don't we all revere the same Bible and the same God?

Well, to those of you raised like that, guess what? There is a whole other sector of America that was NOT raised like that. THEY were raised in a "neighborhood" where EVERYONE goes to the same church, has the same belief, speaks the same language, eats the same food, listens to the same music, understands the same art. The age of the computer and the Internet has not made serious inroads into the visceral sameness of people in those "neighborhoods". They are so sure of their own beliefs that it is inconceivable to them that anyone would hold religious beliefs opposite to those of their own.

When our good old, American buddy feelings are stripped away, and we get down to the core of the SERIOUS differences between faith communities, we get raw! Across this wide land, children are going to Sunday school and learning about the King of the Jews whose subjects don't show him any homage. What are THEY thinking? Their Biblical superheroes are persons who come from a People who say that the messiah has NOT come, and the Christians be damned!

Not only that. Beneathe the civilized and polite American exterior lies the idea that there are the King's people who CONTINUE to reject him -actually, WORSE! To IGNORE him! To ignore is better than to remember the 2000 years of being made to suffer for rejecting.

The King is rejected and ignored, and the Book says that the king's subject's yelled out Crucify Him! And may his blood be upon us and our children forever.

In America, in heterogenious areas, we have friends and lovers whose personae over-ride inherited beliefs. When we think of them, we feel good feelings. In most of America, friends and lovers don't need to rely on who they are in that way. The homeogeniety of shared beliefs is sufficient.

Jews and Christians are people separated by a common Bible, to paraphrase.

Each religion is a denial and rejection of the other. That's the bare and raw and simple truth. We live with and love each other and don't think about it.

But when we are confronted by a Passion story on the Big Screen, we're back to Square One! We're back to the Nitty Gritty! We're back to the Greatest Death Ever Died! And which Jew even cares about all that blood and suffering and death? Not one! I modify that. I am concerned about it insofar as Jesus represents, for me, one Jew among many killed by the Romans for being a Jew. So from an HISTORICAL perspective, I care about it. From an eschatological and supernatural perspective, it moves me not. I don't need to think about how I killed Christ by my sins. I need to think about how this THEME is going to play out on the screen and how it will affect those who see it. I am willing to bet that not all people who go to the movies are as urbane as the friend who sent me the review.

I am imagining making a film that shows historically that the messiah has NOT come. I am imagining all the outcries from religious people. I am imagining that in the context of a more constitutionally Christian America.

Everything about, not only the Passion, but the ENTIRE Christ story, is Jewish! How can this film NOT be antisemtic when it says that the messiah came and died for me and you, and the Jews be damned?

I personally will not boycott the film but I won't sit still and say how wonderful a religious experience, how universal it is either.

For believing Christians, on a scale of one to ten, it gets TEN! For Jews, it gets less than ONE!


Having NOT seen the film yet, I cannot make an honest intepretation of it's presentation. I commend Mel Gibson for bringing it out in order for people to at least QUESTION their OWN interpretations and perhaps instill a new interest in Christians and Jews. I have also been taught that the KENNITES (descendants of Cain) were the ones who instilled the "crucify him" shouts at the trial. THEY were the ones who chose to let Barrabas go and crucify Jesus. So many Christians have been taught incorrectly (i.e., not to even READ the Old Testament, let alone be taught it) that we have a nation of Biblically-illiterate people who (mostly through no fault of their own) NEED to get back into the Bible from the BEGINNING, to truly be able to understand how the prophesies were fulfilled and how the crucifixion of Jesus was prophesied in many places hundreds of years before he was even born.

Being a Christian, I cannot relate to how it must be to live as a Jew. My main focus in my life is to try to live as a good person, not one who has submitted to the "ways of the world" and who doesn't want to live their life walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting "Man's" interpretation of the Bible. I'll stick to my viewpoint and my beliefs and I will respect the rights of others to stick to theirs. That doesn't mean I have to agree with them, though. In the end, God has the final sayso, doesn't He?

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