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Some conservative Christians want to blame the anti-Gibson, anti-Christian barrage on “liberals,” but this is silly. Two of the most vicious smears have come from the neoconservative columnists William Safire and Charles Krauthammer; Gertrude Himmelfarb, wife of Irving Kristol, has made a more reasonable case against the film, though she also calls it “sadistic” (without having seen it).

Safire, however, traces the Holocaust back to Christ Himself, who laid the groundwork for violent persecution with the words “I come to bring not peace, but a sword.” Safire neglects to explain that this is a metaphor; Jesus immediately goes on to explain that His teaching will set father against son, mother against daughter, and so forth. He also says (it’s in the movie) that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

So our Lord once again proves to be “a sign of contradiction” — this time for the conservative movement. The dispute goes far deeper than politics.

Krauthammer is slightly less absurd than Safire, but more adroit in his insinuations. He blames the Catholic Church for the “blood libel” the Gospels “affixed upon the Jewish people [that] had resulted in countless Christian massacres of Jews, and prepared Europe for the ultimate massacre — six million Jews systematically murdered within six years — in the heart, alas, of a Christian continent. It is no accident,” he goes on, “that Vatican II occurred just two decades after the Holocaust, indeed in its very shadow.” [bold mine-DL] 

Gibson, he writes, has committed “a singular act of interreligious aggression,” “openly rejects the Vatican II teaching,” and “gives us the pre-Vatican II story of the villainous Jews.” The council had tried to “unteach the lesson that had been taught for almost two millennia: that the Jews were Christ-killers.”

Note what Krauthammer is doing here: He is turning a goodwill gesture of Vatican II into a smear of almost two millennia of Christendom. Evidently the council was summoned, “in the shadow of the Holocaust” (a word not even in currency until years after the council), for the chief purpose of “unteaching” what the Church had always taught, causing “countless” Christian slaughters of Jews. ~Joseph Sobran

Mr. Sobran’s article points out an important element in Krauthammer’s screed against The Passionthat I did not stress enough in my earlier post.  To attack Gibson’s “pre-Vatican II” Catholicism, Krauthammer must necessarily indict, well, all of pre-Vatican II Catholicism and all those Christian confessions that have never made sufficiently satisfactory statements on interreligious attitudes.  Vatican II has to be made into some kind of consequence of and penance for the Holocaust, implying that all Catholics had done or believed something for which they should be repenting.  Where Krauthammer holds up evangelicals as a good example in all their Israel-supporting zeal, he seems to have no time for any other kind of Christian if such Christians were to consider The Passion as anything other than the crass anti-Semitic monstrosity that Krauthammer sees in it.  Christians are to be defended against ridicule when they are useful for other purposes, but their most important stories should otherwise be mocked and ridiculed and derided as expressions of utter hate and loathing for another people.  If that is not some kind of anti-Christian bigotry, I don’t know what you call it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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