The Passion of Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson in Trouble? — it would appear so. Amy Welborn hosts the (largely Catholic) reaction to the tabloid reports on Open Book. Not to excuse Gibson’s remarks about the Jews, I daresay most of us have done or said things while inebriated we would surely have apologized for when sober. In “The inner darkness of the redeemed”: in defense of Mel Gibson, Hugo Schwyzer questions the common notion of in vino veritas — that what we say when drunk generally reflects our true feelings, and offers as a conclusion what I think is the best lesson we can take away from this tabloid feeding frenzy:

Above all, I’m angered at those who question Gibson’s faith. Those of us who walk with Christ are not instantly given the power to turn from all forms of sin. Though grace comes into our lives, our struggles will often remain with us for as long as we live in human flesh. Conversion is not an instant process, but rather a gradual, painful one filed with stories of temptations resisted — and temptations not. Walter Wink was right:

Christians have never dealt well with the inner darkness of the redeemed.

When we come to Christ, we become a new creation. But that creation is still in an earthen vessel, in mortal flesh, still subject to sin and to darkness. One of the great realities of the Christian journey is that many of us stumble, post-conversion. It isn’t all sweetness and light on the other side of being born-again. The inner darkness doesn’t always vanish even after we embrace Christ as our Savior. For Mel Gibson, as for many of us, the struggle to live in to our redemption can be a day to day battle. By grace and will together, we win that daily struggle most of the time. But at one time or another, most of us, in one way or another, will fall. The measure of a person’s faith is not whether she falls, but whether she repents in the aftermath of the fall, and redoubles the effort to live a Christian life.

Mark Shea comes to similar conclusions about Mel Gibson’s Bad Weekend:

And so, to Mel Gibson. Gibson tells us, “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.” It seems to me that we have a basic choice: to believe revelation or to believe Freud.

If you believe Freud, then Gibson is a liar when he says he does not believe what he said, because only the subrational outbursts of the drunk, the panicked, and enraged can be regarded as Truly Revelatory. We must see through the Mask of the “person” supposedly “made in the image of God” to the subrational beast composed of tangled desires, fears, hatreds, and appetites beneath. This is, of course, a measure we would not want anybody to apply to us, considering the horrible things we’ve caught ourselves thinking in unguarded moments (you know what I mean, don’t try to kid me). In our own lives, we are deeply grateful for the fact that nobody, including God, measures us by the chaotic and selfish impulses scrambling around down there in the id, but instead respects us enough to know that it is what we choose that matters. We’re even more grateful that they judge us by what we choose when we are at the top of our game.

But a good deal of our culture *does* believe Freud, and so for the rest of his days, nothing will wash away from many people’s minds that what Gibson (or whoever) says when he is dead drunk, or terrified, or enraged is what he “really” is.

And this from Rich Leonardi (Ten Reasons):

There are a handful of demons that, since my reversion to the Faith a half-dozen years ago, occasionally remind me it is by grace and not merely by my effort that they are kept at bay. Should one of them seize me, even temporarily, and especially publicly, I would hope that the reaction of my Christian brothers and sisters would be to pray for me and not experience satisfaction in what I let sin do to me.

Further Commentary

  • Some are presumably wondering if the outcry over Gibson’s remarks are influenced in any way by hostility towards the movie Passion of the Christ — David Klinghoffer, a Jewish columnist for the Forward who defended Gibson’s movie at the time it was released, reponds to Mel Gibson’s outburst.
  • Mel Gibson has released a second apology, this time addressing specifically — and repudiating — his anti-semitic comments.
  • Dale Price on Mel’s Der Sturmer moment: “the only thing we have learned about him is that he is an alcoholic in need of help. . . . Oh, and that he avoids passive-voice non-apologies for appalling conduct, too.”
  • Mel Gibson is a Human Being, by Stephen Hand:

    He should have taken a cab home. Heck, he could buy any whole fleet of cabs. But he didn’t and got into trouble. He’ll recover. To suggest his very expression of remorse was “unremorseful and insufficient” (ADL) is not helpful. Only the very malicious will attempt to exploit this against him as revenge for the Passion of the Christ in which Gibson listened to Jewish concerns, while staying true to history. To seek religious revenge would be foolish. As foolish as blaming all the Jews in Hollywood for whatever some of their own have done to insult Christianity in the movies, the arts, etc., over the decades. We all know how to forgive each other. It is time to do so.

I see it as reflecting not so much the influence of alcohol as the influence of his father, a man who has no qualms about dispensing his views on the Jews and skepticism towards the Holocaust. But I think this is more than a case of “Like Father, Like Son”, as ABCNews would have us believe. People will continue to debate the degree to which Gibson’s outburst reflects his childhood upbringing or an assertion of his own views — I find the latter hard to square with his present apology to the Jewish community.

In any case, let’s keep him in our prayers.

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