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August 1, 2006
Mel Asks For Help And Forgiveness

Mel Gibson has extended his apology in a statement released earlier today, and this time he explicity acknowledges the anti-Semitic rant that has plunged one of Hollywood's most bankable stars into so much hot water. Not only has he apologized to the Jewish community, he has asked them for help in determining the source of his bigoted words:

There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge. ...

The tenets of what I profess to believe necessitate that I exercise charity and tolerance as a way of life. Every human being is God's child, and if I wish to honor my God I have to honor his children. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.

I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one on one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.

I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

The sentiment seems sincere, and he doesn't appear to be dodging any responsibility for his words and actions over the weekend. Some may see this as a publicity stunt, and it certainly could be just that. The question for his fans and foes is whether to accept Mel at his word and challenge him to atone for his hateful and asinine actions, or whether to write him off as a human being.

I'm not suggesting that Gibson get a pass for his outburst; far from it. In fact, the responses as noted in the New York Times sound perfectly reasonable under the circumstances:

On Monday, Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson. ...

She did not connect the project’s termination to Mr. Gibson’s remarks. But his statements had already attracted sharp criticism from some who argued that he should be disqualified from moving ahead with the series, despite having apologized for several anti-Jewish statements.

“I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had previously criticized what he saw as anti-Semitic overtones in Mr. Gibson’s hit, “The Passion of the Christ.” “It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”

I think Hier has that about right. If Gibson wants to produce some work on Jewish history, particularly on its history of suffering and displacement, then it should not be a for-profit endeavor. He needs to atone for his sin, and one does not profit from atonement. Besides, Gibson's words have opened up a huge credibility gap on any project involving Judaism in the near or moderate term, perhaps forever. He would do better by working with the Jewish community to really learn about Judaism and the journey of this ancient and wise people.

If he does, though, it seems that some people will still hold no possibility for forgiveness in their hearts. That's a choice each of us has to make, but we should ask ourselves whether we believe in redemption at all. The point of Christianity is that each of us, no matter our transgressions, have the ability to redeem ourselves and change for the better. If we believe that sinners can be forgiven, then Gibson -- if he sincerely repents and atones for his sins and accepts the consequences of them -- has that same possibility.

I have a particular interest in anti-Semitic rants, as my maternal grandfather was Jewish, although non-practicing. He was one of the sweetest men I ever knew, and loved his family more than anything else. His own family ostracized him, more or less, when he married my Roman Catholic grandmother. He died when I was eighteen, the first person to whom I was really close to pass away. I still miss him and his sense of humor, which my mother swears I inherited. (That doesn't make me Jewish or give me any moral superiority over anyone else opining on this topic, but in the interest of disclosure, CQ readers should understand my perspective.)

When people issue these disgusting insults and paranoid conspiracy theories, I think of my grandfather and the humble life he led, and it makes me angry. I expect it from the likes of Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and David Duke, but not from Mel Gibson, who has worked with enough Jews to know better. Still, my own faith tells me to judge a man's actions and not the state of his soul, and I think that is where we should leave it with Gibson, at least for now. We should challenge him to repent and atone, and this statement is a good step towards the former. We should pray that he enlightens himself rather than wallow in the kind of hatred and ignorance that produced those terrible comments. If he meets the challenge, we should welcome him back into our good graces and allow him to be an example that bigotry can be healed.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 1, 2006 12:49 PM

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