Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Gibson's heart

Dennis Prager commented today about Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic remarks by stating, "There is no doubt that he has anti-Semitic beliefs." Mr. Prager reasoned that when drunk, a person's inhibitions are removed and his words reveal what's truly in his heart. With this I agree. But what of Gibson's interviews surrounding the release of The Passion of Christ where he claimed that he is not an anti-Semite? Also, in his most recent apology Gibson says, "But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot."

Some may think that Mel is being insincere when sober and secretly harbors hatred towards the Jewish people. His recent explosion confirms the fears of those who suspected The Passion was just another excuse for Christians to blame Jews for the death of Jesus.

But I don't think so. His inexcusable words don't necessarily reveal his deeply held beliefs, but merely his thoughts and feelings. (Perhaps Mr. Prager would agree if given the chance to clarify.) If we're honest with ourselves, each of us thinks and feels things of which we are ashamed. While these evil thoughts are temptations to sin, they are not sin themselves. It is possible to feel or think in a way contrary to one's beliefs. The path towards virtue involves rising above our fallen minds and hearts, and praying for God to purify them by the fire of his indwelling Spirit.

Mel Gibson's behavior was inexcusable. He is right to take responsibility for it, to repent and to seek reform. But his critics would do well to remember that, one way or the other, they can't know from this unfortunate episode the beliefs of his heart.

(Robert Gotcher has similar good thoughts over at Heart, Mind & Strength.)


Matt said...

What comes to my mind is that Mel almost certainly was exposed to anti-Semitic ideas from very early in his life. It's well known that his father Hutton Gibson denies the Holocaust (not to mention being a sedevacantist). And it can be hard to remove an idea from your subconscious, even if you have rejected it with your conscious.

I would be even more disposed to be sympathetic and supportive if Mel could be open enough to say, "This is how I was raised, and I'm trying to get away from it." But then, the natural bond with a parent can make such a thing very hard.

Dan said...

I recall an interview he gave where the interviewer pressed him about his father's statements and beliefs. He was adamantly opposed to even discussing his opinion of his father. He said something to the effect of, "You're not going to get me to speak against my father." I thought at the time that it was admirable of him.

Focusing on his own words and actions made for a more sincerely contrite public apology, I think.

Matt said...

Thank you, Dan, for reminding me of the importance of honoring one's father, no matter what. You are right to find that admirable.

Unfortunately, it does make it harder to counter the accusation that the anti-Semitic statements that came out of Mel's mouth also come from the current state of his heart.