At the root of the Anti-Defamation League’s fear regarding “The Passion of the Christ” is that the film “might actually inspire lapsed Christians to return to the faith,” said Catholic League president William Donahue in a press release issued this week.
Donahue said the ADL’s claim that Mel Gibson’s movie may incite violence against Jews after its release, Feb. 25, is unfounded, citing a recent interview he had with leading Passion Play scholar and Columbia University professor James Shapiro.
“No one has raised the specter of violence more than ADL director Abraham Foxman,” he said. Donahue cited several occasions in the press recently, in which Foxman has spoken about the dangers he perceives with the film and its marketing.
In the Feb. 7 issue of the Detroit Free Press, Foxman said historically Passion Plays “rationalized anti-Semitic behavior. We fear this [film] will, too.”
But Donahue said he asked James Shapiro, the nation’s leading scholar on Passion Plays, when was the last time Jews were beaten up after a Passion Play.
“Aside from one Catholic convert in Nazi Germany who was attacked, we have to go back to the Middle Ages to find examples,” Donahue recounted of his conversation with Shapiro. “And in the U.S., there is no record of violence against Jews following any Passion Play. In short, there is no need to call out the National Guard,” he said.
Donahue concluded by referring to the Feb. 7 issue of the Orlando Sentinel, in which Foxman said Gibson’s film “is not being sold as a movie. It’s being sold as a religious experience, as a pilgrimage, as a way back to faith.”
“So this is Foxman’s worst nightmare,” Donahue said. “Gibson’s film might actually inspire lapsed Christians to return to the faith. That says it all.”