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August 7, 2006

I’ve got this theory —

“All things work out for the good for those who love God”

Have you ever heard that before? While it has its origin in faith (Rom 8:28), there’s lots of common sense-evidence to back it up. If we are willing to learn from the bad things that happen, including the bad things we do, life can turn even the worst nightmares into great blessings.

And it’s not just a Christian thing. The Talmud is full of stories of God bringing good out of evil. Do you remember this one?

“I am your brother Joseph whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.” — (Genesis)

With this in mind, we’ll take one more day to discuss Mel Gibson. This isn’t about tabloid fever. I think there’s more we can learn from a very unfortunate incident. I’ll let you take the lead, posting a few of your responses to last week’s blog.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I have just read your blog concerning the ordeal involving Mel Gibson. I want to commend you on the article. I felt it was well written and thoughtful.

I am Jewish and when the story came out I was enraged. I am 16 now, and I can still remember as a young child facing forms of anti-Semitism. So when Mel, a star, a public figure, and a role model for kids, says these verbal insults, it is not only painful, but sad considering the repercussions of his words. Now will the little child who looks up to him believe it is okay to say and believe these things?

Since Mel Gibson is not someone I personally know I am not going to judge whether he is anti-Semitic or not.

— Sophie

RESPONSE: Sophie, thanks for your very reasonable note regarding an emotional issue. And yes, I agree, there are consequences to our actions, even after apologies are given. I think Mel’s ulterior statements show he too is aware of this.

Father Jonathan,

I have never harbored any contempt for elves. Therefore, if my inhibitions were to be relaxed due to alcohol intoxication, no one would hear me make hateful comments about this minority. The hateful remarks made about Jews by Mel Gibson represent accurately the feelings of his heart, brought to the surface as the self-control of his mind was relaxed by his alcohol consumption.

The apologies he now offers are meaningless as they represent little more than an attempt to conceal his true feelings, which have recently come to the surface.

As to your experiences in dealing with Mr. Gibson during the making of his movie, be practical…most people are only going to let you see what they want you to see.

— Mike

RESPONSE: Mike, I am flabbergasted with those who consider meaningless his sober, reflective apologies. If the only things that really counted were the things people say while drunk, many of us would be in pretty bad shape. You and I agree, nonetheless, the words Mel uttered in his inebriated state are indicative of something evil that was on his heart and mind in the moment. He has stated publicly he will be taking time to examine where they came from, since he doesn’t believe or endorse the remarks he made.

Dear Father Jonathan,

Your column on Mel Gibson is, well, perfectly written!

So, I must thank you for now being a part of our everyday life. My husband and I read your columns as soon as they are posted and we are grateful to you for your clarity of thought and the gift God had given you in writing.

Peace, Christine

RESPONSE: Dear Christine and (?). Thanks for such an encouraging note — the kind that makes me want to keep writing!

Father Jonathan,

You do not have standing to “forgive” Mel Gibson. You are not a Jew. Mel did not insult Catholics. Indeed, the long, bigoted history of the Catholic Church may have inspired Gibson’s anti-Jewish attitudes. In brief, you are full of it, as usual.

— Geoffrey

RESPONSE: Geoffrey, as usual, you make a good point. I can’t forgive Mel for saying bad things about the Jewish people. As the next e-mailer points out, however, not just Jews were affected.

Father Jonathan,

I also was so disappointed about Mel's carrying-ons. His Passion was so inspired and so many of us Catholics held him in such high regard for making that movie. Much of it will in time blow over, but he sure gave ammunition to those who hate Catholics!

— Mary Ann (New Jersey)

RESPONSE: Mary Ann, I am confident we will see Mel make good on his statements of apology and his desire to make amends. By doing so, he will show the world he is a man still deserving of high regard.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I am so glad to see someone stand up for Mr. Gibson, instead of trying to tear down everything this man has ever done. I think there is so much jealousy of Mr. Gibson’s work, the “Passion,” that he was so successful in bringing this film to completion with his own money, and saw one of the most successful films of all time, in spite of all the hateful things that came out of Hollywood about this project. The very liberal crowd is so glad to see Mr. Gibson’s fall. They delight in his misery.

— Rita

RESPONSE: Rita, I don’t know the interior motives of those who have attacked him with such venom. I do know, however, he made some enemies in the making of “The Passion of the Christ.”

Father Jonathan,

How can you condemn Mel Gibson then forgive him? Who are you to condemn? You're sanctimonious and you annoy me.

— Karen (Portland, OR)

RESPONSE: When we say someone’s actions are wrong, we are not condemning the person. Does that help? Sorry for the annoyance.

Dear Father Jonathan,

Christians, indeed, anyone who believes in God we should be praying for Mel Gibson right now. I am not condoning his actions but the public and press should remember he has offered more than one apology without excusing his own behavior. This is very hard to do privately and takes tremendous courage to do so publicly.

As people of faith, we must remember “But for the grace of God, there go I.” So let’s all say some prayers for him and move on.

Thanks for listening.

— Susan

RESPONSE: Yes, Susan, but for the grace of God…

I just read your op-ed on forgiveness for Mel Gibson and why you believe him. I have one question and one observation for you.

Question: If Mel Gibson didn't mean what he said about Jews, then why did he say it?

Observation: Prejudice is a developed state of mind. No one (especially those who understand the state of mind of prejudice), can believe what you state you believe about Mel Gibson.

Thank you.

— Paul (Baltimore, MD)

RESPONSE: Paul, good question, good observation. What goes on inside of us is not always black or white, yes or no, good or bad. I think most of us have done things that don’t represent the totality of who we are. This is when we are glad when someone gives us another chance.

Dear Father Jonathan,

When I hear all of these people condemning Mel, all I can think of is the many horrible comments about Christianity that come out of Hollywood. Why isn’t anyone complaining about them? All I can say to people like Abraham Foxman is “take a chill pill.”

— Mary (Phoenix, AZ)

RESPONSE: Mary, I agree partially with your comment. There would have been much less of a fuss had his remarks been against the Christian faith. This being said, the Jewish people have good reason to be sensitive. In our century they have been persecuted more than any other ethnic or religious grouping, including an attempt by the Nazi’s to annihilate them. Anti-Semitism is still alive and well in many parts of Europe, and the President of Iran, among others, is making public calls for a second holocaust. This is the context of the outcry, even if sometimes we forget.

Dear Father Jonathan:

Your remarks regarding the recent news events about Mel Gibson were very appropriate and I couldn't agree with you more. A man's career should speak for itself, and he has a phenomenal background as an actor.

Last night, on cable television, the movie "Ransom" was on. Although I have seen it three times, I watched it again and enjoyed it for the fourth time. Hopefully, many others watched the movie just to give it good ratings.

He made a mistake, just like many other people, and God will forgive him, as He has forgiven everyone else who has repented.

— Connie

RESPONSE: Well said, Connie. Thanks for writing.

If Mel is not anti-Semitic, then I must be God.

— Edward (Springfield, MO)

RESPONSE: Speechless

Until Thursday,

God bless, Father Jonathan

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