- a. two teenage girls gossping about who did what Saturday night
- b. the "Kill the Beast!" scene from Beauty & the Beast... or, if your tastes run more to old Hollywood, the villagers pursuing Frankenstein's monster into the windmill
- c. one more chance to dredge up the anti-Semitic brouha that surrounded the release of The Passion of the Christ
- d. all of the above
- Covering the Sins of Mel Gibson (from GetReligion - a blog/site that focuses on media coverage of religious issues)
- Mel Gibson Sins, Confesses, Repents (this & the following links are from FilmChat - a blog by Peter Chattaway)
- The Mel Gibson Controversy, Part Deux
- Mel Gibson Asks the Jewish Community For Help
- Time For A 2nd Look At The Passion?
- Reporting the Mel Gibson Arrest (from Retrieving the Tradition - a blog that mixes pop culture commentary & outlines from church history doctoral work... and this time, manages to put a rather nifty Daily Show clip from YouTube)
So... welcome back. Let me break down what I've been thinking into easy to argue with bite-size pieces.
DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
I can not adequately express to you how much I hate drunk people driving. When I was in high school theater, one of the best actors I've ever met managed to ruin not only his own life but the life of his best friend in a drunk driving hood-surfing stunt. I've got a family member who is lucky he didn't kill himself (or someone else) last fall when he crashed into a highway median. The son of one of my church members is currently facing real jail time for a DUI accident that put someone else in the hospital.
So Mel does NOT get a pass on the drunk driving charge with me. The man is wealthy enough to have someone drive him around - yank his license. You lose the right to operate a motor vehicle when you do so under the influence of a substance that impairs your ability to operate said vehicle safely - in other words, when you threaten the safety of the rest of the community with the ripple effect of your own choices.
(For those interested, I've talked more about my Biblical perspective on alcohol in the post Say it With Me: "Non-Binding Resolution.)Words Mean Something
Language has power - it helps define the tone & direction of a conversation. The words you choose frame the terms of a debate & predispose your listeners to a particular mindset. (Not to open a second can of worms, but take the difference between the use of "anti-abortion" and "pro-life" in newspaper coverage - same position, wildly different connotations. Try using "anti-fetus" instead of "pro-choice" and see what happens in the editorial column. I repeat: I'm not trying to start an abortion debate here... simply pointing out the power of the rightly or wrongly chosen word.) Thus, to make racist statements (regardless of what race they impugn) is not simply to be morally wrong, but also carries with it the devastating power of language. If you are able to define your opponent in crass & dehumanizing terms (example: the tendency of white Southerners to call all African-American men "boy", no matter what their age), you take an important step toward marginalizing them. So, Mel's outburst is not only Biblically wrong (1 Peter 3:10) but also brings the danger of redefining the role of a racial minority in our society. Be it the drunken ravings of a Hollywood director, the overwrought speechs of a neo-Nazi hatemonger, or the late-night bull session musings of a college student, you are fooling with powerful junk when you stereotype a group of people. BTW, I've focused here on the racial nature of Mr. Gibson's remarks - but he also managed to make lewd & sexist comments as well. Much of the same logic applies... Owning Your Own Crap With all that said, I want to be very clear that I am amazed, stunned, and a bit in awe of the response from Mel Gibson. In a world where victimization & blame are commonplace, someone who says: I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena. As a result, I must assume personal responsibility for my words and apologize directly to those who have been hurt and offended by those words. ...is either seriously over the edge - or, just maybe, is walking to the beat of a different drummer. Just maybe, what Mel says he believes (a devout Catholic faith) and how he deals with his addictions & stupidity are connected. Let me say this once again, in case some of you haven't been reading carefully - no apology/plea for forgiveness should take away the legal consequences of Mel Gibson's actions. In the same vein, however, no series of actions, no matter how stupid and/or reprehensible, should take away the possibility of forgiveness & grace. Forgiving someone does not mean you ignore their sin against you; it does not mean that you pretend they never did anything wrong. It is not a whitewash or a cover-up. It does not mean that you agree with and/or tolerate the actions of the person you forgive. But it does mean that you choose to go beyond the hurt, past the incident(s), and see each person as created by God & in need of grace. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting... A wounded person cannot--indeed, should not--think that a faded memory can provide an expiation of the past. To forgive, one must remember the past, put it into perspective, and move beyond it. Without remembrance, no wound can be transcended." Beverly Flanigan
So What? I end most of my sermons with a final point - "So what? Why should all of this stuff I've said this morning concern us at all?" (This is a particularly important question in church, where some of us have gotten used to intaking information rather than asking God for transformation.) For my friends who are religiously and/or culturally Jewish, I ask you to forgive in a way that honors your faith. What Mr. Gibson ranted about is hurtful & wrong... and specifically aimed at your cultural/ethnic background. I do not in any way want to minimize the pain... yet I don't want you to minimize the tradition you come from, either - the tradition that is at the root of my own Christian faith. For my friends who are female, Mr. Gibson's remarks are no surprise to you. You have endured years of leers, catcalls, and outright lewd remarks. If not, you live on a deserted island alone(yes, thank you, Dept. of Redundancy Department.) I urge you to forgive as well - not just Mel Gibson, but others who choose to objectify you. At the same time, please remember that forgiveness does not require you to just "stand there & take it" - you are created by God in His image (Genesis 1:27) and do not deserve to be treated as the sum total of your body parts. For my friends who are followers of Christ, we need to process our emotions Biblically & thoughtfully. In the process of acknowledging repentance, we should not undercut justice. In the process of calling for justice, we should not ignore mercy. A lot of deep thoughts spent on the guy who made Lethal Weapon 3, right?! A final note: I am leaving on vacation tomorrow - and will not actually see the blog and/or the comments until Wednesday. Please keep the discussion civil & on-topic. (I feel like I'm "Dad-in-training"... "Don't make me come back there!" He he he...)