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« The Jewish Press This Week | Main | Postscript to A Mel Gibson Postscript »

August 25, 2006

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Brother Mel

Hi Rick,
(You and your readers may initially disagree with the comments I am about to make, but never-the-less, I pray they will be carefully considered).

Satire sometiems helps us to see what we would otherwise overlook. I think the fictional interview of Mel Gibson by Larry King drives home good points that any thinking person already knows: Jews are not behind all the wars.

Allow me to present a similar satirical scenario:

Mel Gibson is stopped for driving while intoxicated. Under the influence of alcohol, bombed out of his mind, Mel Gobson says: "Have you noticed the Jews? They have blessed mankind immeasurably for centuries. They have been the source of great philanthropic endeavors such as hospitals, museums, social programs, college scholarships, etc. Although horribly persecuted in the Holocaust, they have never the less remained largely a forgiving, loving, and generous people...Officer are you a Jew?...You aren't? Too bad! What a thrill it must be to be directly descended from Abraham, the friend of God."

Asked for a reply to Mel's statements about the Jews, one of his critics reply, "Eh!...He was DRUNK! Everybody knows you can't judge a man by what he says when he is drunk!"

True.

The only thing the real life incident with Mel proves is what those of us who have been around alcoholics already know: there are sad drunks, happy drunks, and angry drunks. Mel was exposed as an angry drunk--someone who when he gets under the influence of alcohol BECOMES a bitter, angry person.

My Uncle was an angry drunk. And he was drunk most of the time, so he was also angry and unreasonable most of the time. And like Mel, when he was drunk, he was also paranoid. My Uncle was convinced that various family members, and even strangers, were plotting against him. Were they? Of course not.

Towards the end of his life, my Uncle sobered up for a year or so. And of the very family members he had cursed at, screamed at, and threatened, while under the influence of alcohol, he now had nothing unkind to say. Absent the alcohol, my Uncle's true personality and feelings came to the surface: I can honestly say that he was as tender-hearted and as gentle as a lamb. I'm thankful I got to know this, my real Uncle, before he died of cirrhosis of the liver.

The comments Mel made hurt himself, hurt the Jewish poeple, and hurt me when I read them. But they were the ramblings of a drunk, not the statements of a lucid person injected with truth serum.

I read the comments of Rabbi David Wolpe, and I could not disagree more with them. I write this gently, and respectfully, so please read this in the spirit in which I offer it.

I find it curious that Rabbi Wolpe quotes a Jeish historian, a New Yorker article, and a Polish aphorist--whatever that is. But the Rabbi quotes not a single Scripture. Could it be because the Scriptures do not support his position, but rather refutes it?

Proverbs 20:1--"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." God warns us that alcohol will mock us--destroying perhaps even a lifetime of work and positive accomplishments--by leading us to make mocking fools of ourselves. Alcohol "is raging." It puts in us an unreasonable, paranoid anger, that boils over onto others. Further, "Whosoever is deceived thereby..."--alcohol does not expose deeply hidden truths from our hearts. On the contrary, alcohol DECEIVES us.

Those who argue that alcohol acted like a truth serum, exposing the prejudices of Mel Gibson's heart, I wonder what they would say of Lot? Lot's two daughters got him drunk, and slept with him, and bore children by him. Did alcohol expose the secret lust that lurked in the heart of this righteous man? Or did alcohol cause him to acquiesce to behavior that he would otherwise have deemed unthinkable? The Scriptures also tell us that alcohol left even righteous Noah drunk and naked. Alcohol deceived and mocked both Noah and Lot. Is Mel Gibson greater than they? Or did it mock and deceive him also?

I am nearly as disappointed in Rabbi Wolpe's comments as I was in Mel's. The Rabbi writes, "Forgiveness can begin only if he [Mel] publicly repudiates the teachings of his father, publicly repudiates his past statements, and says that he wishes to make atonement for the things that he has felt and said and done to the Jewish people."

Rabbi, Rabbi.

Have you not read what the Lord said through Ezekiel? "...Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?...The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son..." Ezek. 18:19,20.

Mel Gibson is no more accountable for the sins of his father, than you are for your father, or I am for mine. The Scriptures do not back the Rabbi on his demand for Mel to be held somehow accountable for the sins of his father.

The Rabbi lists three conditions Mel must meet before he can be forgiven: "publicly repudiate..., publicly repudiate..., and say that he wishes to make atonement for..." Yet, when God forgives us, He sets no preconditions. He enumerates no hoops we have to jump through in order to EARN His forgiveness. Forgiveness can never be earned. Forgiveness is a quality of the heart. Either you have a forgiving heart, or you do not.

God's forgiveness is a FREE GIFT that He graciously offers us. That's why it is called "mercy." He gives His forgiveness in response to us saying three simple words: "God, I repent!" Or, "Please forgive me." Mel has already said far more than three words of repentance. Yet he is not to be forgiven until he has earned it by meeting the Rabbi's three additional conditions?

In the Law and the Prophets, I find hundreds of references to mercy, mercies, merciful; and to forgive, forgiveness, and forgiven. Strange, I find no example of the words "preconditions," or "publicly repudiate." Perhaps God has a different definition for forgiveness than does the Rabbi.

Respectfully, what the rabbi describes is not forgiveness. It is retribution. It is the settling of a grudge. It is payback time for perceived slights. Like an organ grinder's monkey, if Mel will dance hard enough as long as the music plays, then Mel can stick out his cup, and maybe, just maybe, someone will toss him a penny of forgiveness.

Maybe.

A harsh analogy? Yes, but not altogether inaccurate. And far less than the enemies of the Jewish people will say.

Anti-Semites, Islamic fascists, and other assorted kooks will--with Jewish help--tar the Children of Abraham with far uglier descriptions.

Yes, with Jewish help.

Far too often, Jewish leaders like Christian leaders have won some small battle somewhere, only to lose the larger PR war ragaing around them.

The Jew-haters will say, "See! I told you! The Jews control Hollywood. They are insidious little puppet-masters who quietly pull the strings behind various aspects of the business world. Mel Gibson will never make another movie, because he told the truth about the Jews!"

They portray Jews as miserly, self-centered, heartless manipulators; as unreasonable evil Merchants of Venice who milk the specter of anti-Semitism for as much as they possibly can, and collect their pound of flesh wherever they can get it. And by announcing all the preconditions Mel must meet before he is reluctantly, eventually, grudgingly forgiven, plays right into that stereotype.

For once, just once, why not turn your critics on their ear?

Do what they do not expect you to do.

Do something that doesn't play right into the stereotype.

Rather than standing aloof, and inviting Mel to come and personally, publicly, repeatedly, apologize; do just the opposite.

Show the world that the Jewish people truly are the magnanimous, forgiving people that history has shown them to be.

Forgive Mel Gibson.

No preconditions.

And send out the message, "We forgive you! We're praying for you! And when you complete rehab, we invite you to come!"

Then let invitations pour in to Mel from Temples and Synagogues all across this land.

"Please come! Not to give another apology, but to receive from your Jewish brethren the forgiveness you have asked for. Come and see first hand what Jews and Judaism are really about."

Then treat him shamefully!

Lavish so much unconditional love, and wonderful Jewish cooking, and readings from the Torah, and heart-warming meetings public and private, upon Mel that you shame his unkind and untrue comments, and your genuine enemies, to oblivion.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, when the son returned, the Father didn't greet the son with, "Well boy, you better have a mighty big apology for me! You better make an atonement for all you have done against me!"

No.

When the Father "saw the son afar off he RAN to meet him." He said nothing about the boy's transgression. Instead, he put a robe on his back, shoes on his feet, and a ring on his hand--symbolizing that all was forgiven. And he made the son a feast.

Now that the prodigal Mel Gibson is seeking to return, you can repeat his transgression over and over, and demand apology after apology, and publicly humiliate him on top of the humiliation he has already brought upon himself...OR...like the Father, you can say not a word about his fault, and embrace him.

That's what mercy would do.

An old Gospel song says, "Mercy came running, like a prisoner set free."

True mercy and forgiveness do not wait passively in the background for someone to earn their presence.

No.

True mercy and forgiveness actively, fervently look for any access they can find to a transgressor, to welcome the offender back in.

"Go and do Thou likewise."

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Kind Regards,
Mel Montgomery

RR

Mel -- Thank you for this extraordinary comment. It reflects a spirit of grace and humility that I have seen on many occasions with some evangelical Christian friends, and it always amazes me.

Nevertheless, I don't agree with everything in your comment, and I've put up another post to try to crystalize my thoughts. I guess I would say that, while I believe that Mel Gibson, like any other person, merits the unearned forgiveness that only a gracious God and a gracious people can bestow, he has additional responsibilities as a public figure that neither an apology nor forgiveness can fully discharge.

He is not simply an uncle or a friend, nor even simply an individual. He is a public figure whose words are now part of the public discourse in countries where they can lead to murder and genocide.

As a public figure, he needs to deal with that. It is not merely a matter of apologizing to friends, co-workers, Jews or God.

Brother Mel


I agree.

Mel Gibson must do all he can to undo the damage his words have done, and are still doing, as they reverberate through the religions/political realm.

But he needs to be allowed time.

He is crawling out of the darkness of alcoholism, and that won't be accomplished overnight. It is a tremendous struggle, and many people are not able to whip that particular demon. (No doubt Mel has tried and failed before). Right now he has the fight of his life on his hands.

Let him dry out, and collect his thoughts--perhaps for the first time in his adult life--without the influence of alcohol. When his thinking is clear, he can begin to see for himself the damage he has done to his wife, his children, his friends, and even to far-away strangers, while under its influence.

Then when he is sober and fully lucid, the words and deeds he offers will be those from a truly repentant heart, given because he genuinely wants to make amends--and those words too will reverberate, just as his previous words did.

And if he has the support, forgiveness, and goodwill of the Jewish community throughout the process, then when he appears on Al-Jazeera, or elsewhere, your enemies won't be able to say, "See, he had to back off his words, because the Jews would have destroyed him."

Again I would argue, do not play into your enemies' stereotype.

If the Jewish people will forgive Mel Gibson, now, and support him by wishing him well through the recovery process, then when he continues to disavow his Anti-Semitic statements in the future, it will be clear that he does so because he WANTS to, not because he was FORCED to.

Since my previous posting, another demand has arisen which I think is far more harmful than helpful to the Jewish people. Namely, demands by Rob Reiner that Mel Gibson disavow his film, The Passion of the Christ. Reiner argues that since Mel has made a drunken Anti-Semitic remark, all of his works are now suspect.

You are concerned, and so am I, about how Mel's words are used to misrepresent the Jewish people, particularly in the Middle East. But can Rob Reiner--with all his media experience and savvy--not see how his demand will be portrayed in the Middle East?

The Passion of the Christ may be seen by Rob Reiner, and a comparatively handful of others, as Anti-Semitic. But to the tens of millions of people who actually saw the movie, they (and I) see it not as a movie about hating Jews, but about forgiving your enemies. The Passion is seen world-wide as a movie about forgiveness.

Can you imagine the propaganda value of this to your enemies? I can hear it now: "The Jews now say that all of Mel Gibson's movies suspect. But they do not ask him to disvow Lethal Weapons I - IV, which were full of alcohol, foul language, adultery, and senseless violence. Adultery, violence, and profanity are fully approved of by the Jews. Nor do they require that Mel Gibson repudiate Braveheart, a movie full of graphic violence. Violence is the Jews' bread and butter. Their only demand is that Mel Gibson denounce his movie, The Passion of the Christ. This movie portrays the sufferings of the Prophet Jesus, and how he forgave his enemies. We too have suffered at the hands of the Jews, and we too know that forgiveness and peace with the Jews is impossible."

While it is true that hate-filled people don't need a reason to hate, it is also true that the Jewish people do not need to hand gift-wrapped ammunition to their enemies in the PR war.

Kind Regards,
Mel

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