Unfair Criticism?

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Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” (search) has been accused of everything from encouraging anti-Semitism to glorifying violence. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd tries to woo her Passion-hating audience with sarcasm, nicknaming the film "A Fistful of Nails," after Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western.

TV host Charlie Rose featured what passes for fair and balanced at PBS last night with one neutral observer and three hardened critics of “The Passion,” including The New Yorker’s David Denby, who blasted the film as a "sickening death trip." But the same David Denby once called “Pulp Fiction,” a film noted for its non-stop violence, “one of the great wild rides of recent cinema.” Gratuitous, cold-blooded murder is great cinema, but a wrenching portrait of the passion of Christ is deserving of sarcasm and derision.

As for charges that the film is anti-Semitic, Jewish mobs and Roman mobs are treated with equal shares of scorn. There is plenty of blame — and forgiveness to go around. But has Gibson molded the Gospels into his own vision of the “Passion?”

Rabbi Marc Gellman of the “God Squad” notes that the film does not seriously distort the Gospels. So if the film is anti-Semitic, says the Rabbi, the Gospels are anti-Semitic. And if the Gospels are anti-Semitic, all Christians who believe in the Gospels are anti-Semitic. Rabbi Gellman does not believe that. Nor do I.

And that’s the Asman Observer!