Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel, Anti-Semitism, and Alcohol

Mel Gibson has released a second statement regarding the anti-semitic statements he made during a DUI arrest near Los Angeles. While I can't say he could or should be able to undo the damage done to both his finished work (notably "The Passion of the Christ) and his ongoing ability to make art, (ABC has apparently dropped his planned TV-movie on the Holocaust), Gibson's apparent willingness to go the extra step and meet with Jewish leaders sure can't hurt.

I did have a chat with a friend about the whole thing. His assertion was that Mel was drunk, and that alcohol, not actual anti-semitism, was the cause of Mel's outburst. While it isn't my job to pass judgement on why or how another human being does things (I figure that's God's role), I do believe personally that drunkenness explains only part of why anyone would say such things. The human heart is a place where racial hatred always seems to find fertile soil, whether it is much of the western world's historical abuse of Jews or whether it is current Israeli abuse of Lebanese. Alcohol may allow the genie out of the bottle, but it did have to be there in the first place.

Perhaps one reason I've always feared alcohol myself is the lack of control it creates. Research done years ago for an article on alcohol in Cornerstone magazine, "Liberty, License, and Liquor," further convinced me that alcohol consumption has almost no up side to it. While I cannot (as the article indicates) say drinking is unbiblical, I do believe any Christian who indulges in alcohol consumption should be aware of the risks, public example set for others, and familial example / effects.

I suppose the two lessons I walk away with are these:

1. Continually scour my own heart for signs of any person or class of persons I have begun to revile, disdain, blame, name-call, or dismiss as worthless / less than human. Then fall on my face and repent if I find one/any.

2. Avoid alcohol or other substances which might lead to me not only abusing myself but also abusing (verbally, physically, or via accidents of various kinds) others.

Lord bless Mel in his recovery. And Lord bless the Jews who, not unreasonably, feel the sting of those old anti-semitic ghosts once again.

Here's what Gibson said today in a press release:

There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge.

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.

The tenets of what I profess to believe necessitate that I exercise charity and tolerance as a way of life. Every human being is God's child, and if I wish to honor my God I have to honor his children. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.

I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one on one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.

I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help.

I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

This is not about a film. Nor is it about artistic license. This is about real life and recognizing the consequences hurtful words can have. Its about existing in harmony in a world that seems to have gone mad.

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