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Roger Ebert is not someone who tends to display any religious affections or allegiances, to my knowledge. I read his reviews regularly, even for movies I have no intention of seeing. I told myself that I was not going to read reviews of the movie before I saw it, but I couldn't resist hearing what he had to say about it. After all, I know the story, so I wasn't too concerned with finding "spoilers," and his four star rating made me curious. I was pleased to read the following statement in the review, displaying both his understanding of the story in context, and an empathy for those who have experienced anti-Semitism. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST / **** (R): "My own feeling is that Gibson's film is not anti-Semitic, but reflects a range of behavior on the part of its Jewish characters, on balance favorably. The Jews who seem to desire Jesus' death are in the priesthood, and have political as well as theological reasons for acting; like today's Catholic bishops who were slow to condemn abusive priests, Protestant TV preachers who confuse religion with politics, or Muslim clerics who are silent on terrorism, they have an investment in their positions and authority. The other Jews seen in the film are viewed positively; Simon helps Jesus to carry the cross, Veronica brings a cloth to wipe his face, Jews in the crowd cry out against his torture. A reasonable person, I believe, will reflect that in this story set in a Jewish land, there are many characters with many motives, some good, some not, each one representing himself, none representing his religion. The story involves a Jew who tried no less than to replace the established religion and set himself up as the Messiah. He was understandably greeted with a jaundiced eye by the Jewish establishment while at the same time finding his support, his disciples and the founders of his church entirely among his fellow Jews. The libel that the Jews 'killed Christ' involves a willful misreading of testament and teaching: Jesus was made man and came to Earth in order to suffer and die in reparation for our sins. No race, no man, no priest, no governor, no executioner killed Jesus; he died by God's will to fulfill his purpose, and with our sins we all killed him. That some Christian churches have historically been guilty of the sin of anti-Semitism is undeniable, but in committing it they violated their own beliefs."

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