Back on July 28, actor/director Mel Gibson said some truly awful things when he was stopped for driving under the influence. Gibson has since apologized, directly, fully, and humbly, for his words.
The question now, is what do we make of this? Some people have rejected Mel’s apology, even though it was far more humble than most we see these days. Other people want to pretend the incident never happened, even though the words used by Gibson were every bit as “reprehensible” as he himself admitted. And in either case, it’s impossible for us on the outside to really know which Mel Gibson is the real article? Well, I stand with Mel, and here’s why.
First off, while it is true that Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” was controversial, there is no evidence that Gibson meant the film as a slur against Jews. The Gospel accounts are all generally harsh in their judgment of the Sanhedrin and especially the High Priest Caiaphas, so any film which is faithful to a literal reading of those books would be controversial in that respect. I will not go further in discussing that film here, since I neither agree totally nor disagree completely with the film, and because I do not believe the film in any way demonstrates any hostility against Jews by Gibson. I am also aware of the many donations made by Gibson to Jewish charities and foundations, and the significant fact of Gibson’s close friendship with a number of observant Jews. From what I can tell, the evidence of Gibson’s actual work demonstrates that he is not a bigot.
If that is true, then, what do we make of Gibson’s rant? One can hardly say he was misquoted or simply phrased a thought in a bad way. But since I do not believe that rant represents Gibson’s true spirit, where did it come from?
To answer that, and to further explain why I support Gibson, I want to share something from my own life. My parents have always been good, God-fearing people who want to live in imitation of Christ. To love and forgive and be good to everyone To that end, my parents always instructed me to judge people by their character, never by just their appearance or superficial things like race or culture. Because of this, I have many friends from many cultures and backgrounds, and I consider myself much better-rounded and more fully developed as a person. And it happens that my wife is a different race than I am. And it is that fact which led to a great surprise.
When I announced to my parents that I had asked my girlfriend to marry me, I expected them to be surprised – after all, I was in my mid thirties and everyone had pretty much decided I would never marry. But I was stunned when my mother gave me a stony look, and my father sat me down and lectured me to consider whether I knew what I was getting into, if I insisted on marrying “one of those people”.
That was the closest I ever came to physically striking my own father. In time, however, he and my mom came to appreciate my wife better, and to show her respect. The funny thing is, my parents were not being hypocritical – they meant what they taught me about judging people by character only, but they had not prepared themselves for the cultural shock which came from a logical extension of those beliefs. In their generation, no one they knew married outside their race, and they simply never expected their son might not walk the expected path.
Mel’s dad, well, what I have read is not at all complimentary about the man, especially in the matter of Jews. I have no doubt that when he was growing up, Mel heard a lot of things which were just like what he said last Friday night, and somehow the liquor brought it out from Mel. Maybe it was something Mel used to believe but does not anymore. Maybe it was something he never believed, but heard so often the phrases were in his brain, ready to roll out at bad times. Or maybe part of Mel was brought up to believe that crap, and he’s been fighting that demon for a long time now.
I know this. Mel has done himself some very bad damage, and he knows that. His actions up to now are not those of an anti-Semite, and I for one found his apology contrite and honest. He wants to fight his alcoholism, and to make reparation for the hurt his words caused. A lot of famous people wouldn’t, and have not, done or said as much as Mel has.
Give him a chance.