The Passion of the Christ scares Abraham Foxman. The Anti-Defamation League's national director, currently cast in the role of reluctant film critic, has spent months warning anyone and everyone that The Passion will dramatically strain Christian-Jewish relations and revive age-old Christian hatred for Jews. While most Christians in the West balk at this suggestion, Foxman cannot be dissuaded. He knows the grim history.
"For almost 2,000 years in Western civilization, four words legitimized, rationalized, and fueled anti-Semitism: 'The Jews killed Christ,'" Foxman told the ADL national executive committee during a February meeting. "For hundreds of years those four words—acted out, spoken out, sermonized out—inspired and legitimized pogroms, inquisitions and expulsions."
When Foxman envisions Christ's crucifixion, he does not think about love, forgiveness, or hope. He recalls the Holocaust and Hitler's chilling praise for the famed Oberammergau Passion Play in 1934. He does not weep with unexplainable sadness and joy at the sight of humanity's Savior suffering an undeserved death. He'll never forget the horrifying tales of czarist-era Russian Jews fleeing bloodthirsty gangs bent on Holy Week revenge.
"Read the e-mails, read the Web sites encouraging people to see the film," Foxman warned. "How fragile it is out there. What a reservoir of hatred!"
Hatred? Can we possibly be thinking of the same event? How can he watch Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, the ultimate triumph over death and evil, and think of hatred? The answer to this question is impossible for Christians to fully understand. Sadly, the history of Passion play depictions has been marred by shocking violence against Jews.
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