'Passion' Not Fueling Anti-Semitism
By Julia Duin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published March 17, 2004
Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the
Christ" may be reducing anti-Semitism, according to a new poll.
Not only is "The Passion" not producing the
much-feared anti-Semitic backlash, it has actually created an empathy
for Jews, according to a poll released by the San Francisco-based
Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR).
Among the 1,003 adults recently polled nationwide
about the film, 83 percent said it did not make them blame contemporary
Jews for Christ's death; only 2 percent said the film made them more
likely to hold today's Jews responsible; and 9 percent said the film
made them less likely to do so.
"I was surprised," IJCR President Gary Tobin
said yesterday. "I did not expect so many people would say that,
even if they believed Jews were responsible for the death of Christ
2,000 years ago, they don't hold Jews today responsible."
The movie, he said, "is clearly filled with anti-Semitic
views and images." For this reason, he said he "didn't
expect people to have a more favorable impression of Jews."
But Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), disagrees. "The
majority of American Christians long ago rejected as unbiblical the
idea of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus," he
said. "They have a far deeper and more nuanced understanding
of Scripture than many Jewish leaders give them credit for."
"The Passion" continues to mount blockbuster
ratings, earning $267 million after a 20-day run. Sixteen percent
of American adults have already seen the film and an additional 48
percent plan to see it, according to the survey. That would be a
total of 64 percent of all U.S. adults -- about 135 million people
-- not including millions of teenagers who have also viewed it.
Sixty-four percent of those polled by the IJCR said
the movie was thorough and accurate about the life of Jesus. Thirteen
Sixteen percent wished the film would have focused
more on Christ's life and teachings apart from His last 12 hours,
but 62 percent were satisfied with the film as it is. Sixty-two percent
said the film is true to the Gospels, whereas 19 percent said Mr.
Gibson inserted his own less-than-accurate interpretation of events.
A similar survey released by the Chicago-based International
Fellowship of Christians and Jews that polled 2,500 persons online
showed that only 1.7 percent of the respondents blamed Jews for Jesus'
death. Eighty-four percent blamed "mankind," and 8 percent
blamed "other" people.
About 85 percent of the respondents were evangelical
Despite the "near-hysterical" warnings
by some Jewish groups before the movie opened Feb. 25, "we must
remember that the danger for Jews does not lie in Christians believing
that certain Jewish authorities, acting to preserve their own power,
desired the death of Jesus," Mr. Eckstein said.
"In fact, this is consistent with the Gospels,
and does not necessarily represent a threat to Jews," he said. "The
potential danger lies in the abhorrent notion that Jews today have
blood on their hands because of the actions of a corrupt few 2,000
years ago. As our survey shows, it is precisely this belief that
the vast majority of Christians reject."
Copyright © 2004 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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