Mel Gibson's Passion

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This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 11, 2003. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In a Factor Follow-Up segment tonight, we received a ton of mail from Jewish viewers who say that, historically, even if some Jews were involved with the execution of Jesus, no good can come from rehashing that today. Case in point: Mel Gibson's upcoming movie The Passion (search).

Now you have to take that point seriously. If any film inflames hatred, no matter how worthy the subject, should the film be made?

With us now are Father Tom Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman who call themselves The God Squad. They host a television program and have written books on religion together. They're a two-man conglomerate of media moguls.

All right, Rabbi. I'll start with you. I take this very seriously. We debunked last week -- there were some revisionist historians, said the Jews had nothing to do with the crucifixion. That's crazy.

We know that there was a rivalry as anybody would have when a rebel, radical preacher comes into an establishment, the temple in Jerusalem. You're going to have some bad feelings.

However, the point that this movie may do more harm than good has to be taken seriously. How do you see it?

RABBI MARC GELLMAN, THE GOD SQUAD CO-HOST: Absolutely. It's not as if the story of The Passion happened last week. There have been 2,000 years of history, and that story, the story of the death of Jesus, has inflamed passions and caused not just theoretical anti-Semitism (search). It's caused deaths of thousands of Jews.

And so the question really has to be asked, just exactly as you did about the pornography case you had on earlier in the show, not does someone have the right to talk about that. Of course, they do.

The question is what harm does that conversation bring by having Jewish mobs say his blood be on us and our children and kill him, kill him, and ignoring the fact that crucifixion was against Jewish law...

O'REILLY: But they didn't ignore it in a movie. I mean it's quite clear in the film -- I didn't see it and "The God Squad" didn't either -- but it's quite clear that Rome took it over after Jesus was handed over, and they did everything. That's quite clear.

Now you see it a little bit differently, Father?

MSGR. THOMAS HARTMAN, THE GOD SQUAD CO-HOST: I do. I see Mel Gibson as a believer. I see him as an actor. I see him using modern means of communication to promote ideas that he thinks are important, one of which is Jesus. If the film were anti-Semitic, I would be against it.

But I think we live in different times. I think Pope John XXIII made it very clear that Jews in general are not responsible for the death of Jesus, while some Jews, as you said before, could have been responsible. We're living together. We're appreciating each other.

I think it's a form of art, and it should be seen.

O'REILLY: All right. Now you then have more confidence that today's society is more sophisticated not to go back and persecute Jews?

HARTMAN: I mean just our relationship couldn't have happened 30 years ago, but the fact is that people wherever we go appreciate the idea that there is a "God Squad" and, I think, appreciate the fact that we're all trying to figure out...

O'REILLY: Right, but you do know anti-Semitism still exists all over the place, and this might just give a little, you know, nudge to these people and they go, hey, look at that, you know, it might justify their neurosis.

GELLMAN: Particularly in Europe and particularly in the Arab world where this film could easily be misunderstood and easily be used for propaganda purposes.

O'REILLY: Yes, but I'm playing devil's advocate here, pardon the pun -- that those people are going to hate you no matter what you do, Rabbi, OK. Now here's my problem, Rabbi.

GELLMAN: Why give them ammo, Bill?

O'REILLY: Well, here's why.

HARTMAN: But why...

O'REILLY: I've got a reason, Father. Here's why you give them ammo. I know Gibson. I'm in business with Gibson, OK. Talk with him about this quite extensively. He believes that people seeing his movie will then become better people. They'll understand more why Jesus lived, why he died and what he stood for, which is -- as we all know -- love your neighbor as yourself, treat everyone equally.

If you see his movie -- Mel Gibson believes this firmly -- you will emerge from the movie theater a better, more compassionate person.

GELLMAN: OK. And my question to that is, if that's true, I think it's great, and the movie's a terrific success, and I'll be the first to say I'm glad he made it.

But what I worry about is this: Whether the message of compassion and tolerance can survive the sight of the cat-of-nine tails and of the spike going through the hand...

O'REILLY: It's Roman stuff, though.

GELLMAN: ... and of the blood -- right, but the visual impact of that blood and gore may drowned out the message of compassion.

O'REILLY: I don't know. I think you're connecting dots to too extreme an extent. I mean we might...

GELLMAN: Well, it's hard to say since we haven't seen the movie.

O'REILLY: After seeing this movie, we might all not want to go to Rome. I mean we might be mad at the Italians here. I mean he can't really do that.

You feel that this is a worthy enterprise, Father, why?

HARTMAN: Well, because I think exactly what Gibson said. Jesus was not expected to have to die this way, and three times he told his disciples, "I am going to die. I am going to give up my life for you."

When I look at a cross, I don't look at it as something which bashes Jews. I look at it as God coming on earth, living and dying for me, so that I'd have salvation. I think that that message will come across and be most favorably received.

O'REILLY: OK. But you know the best propagandists in the world always used emotion to get their message across. You know, when you have the most devout and the most sensitive of subjects, you can drive people with visual images, as the Rabbi mentioned, into almost a frenzy.

HARTMAN: It has happened historically, and I wouldn't want to return to those periods of time. Certainly, the Crusades were a weak point in our history.

And when priests, you know, spoke about the Jews killing Jesus -- in the past, that happened, and people were hurt. It happened in Marc's family. That nobody tolerates. I don't tolerate that at all.

However, the story of Jesus' life and the depth of his sacrifice and why he lived and what he came here to do, that hasn't been told enough.

O'REILLY: OK. Now, Rabbi, I'm going to close with you. I understand -- believe me, ladies and gentlemen -- I understand the argument that this could inflame passion, but isn't the greater good served by a dialogue like we're having here?


O'REILLY: All right. We live in a tremendously secular society. I mean all of our things tonight, all right, secularism intruding on our lives in every way, shape, and form.

Isn't it better for a guy like Mel Gibson to use his money and talent, OK, to drive across a theme that here was a man, all right, who gave up his life so you would respect other people?

Even if there's a little bit of controversy, isn't it better to have that in a forum?

GELLMAN: Yes. The one problem with that, Bill, is that a lot of us, particularly Tom and I who would be very open to seeing this film, haven't been able to see it because he has limited the number of people he can see it to people he thinks are supportive. That has made things worse.

O'REILLY: Hey, Rabbi, I've got a book coming out September 23. I don't send advanced copies of those books to people who hate me. I know people who will poison the well against me. I don't do it. When it comes out, everybody will be able to see it, and I'll try to get you guys a screening.

GELLMAN: That would be great.

O'REILLY: I would, all right. And then we'll have you back, get your impressions.

Thanks guys. These are good guys, by the way. These are honest guys, so I'll try to get you guys to see it.

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