The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

The Passion of Saint Mel (Gibson that is)

August 3, 2010


To understand the lunatic rantings of Mel Gibson you need know only a few core characters of the man, starting with his first name, which comes from Saint Mel (or Moel), a fifth-century Irish saint who worked to evangelize Ireland in the name of the Papacy. Saint Mel is the patron saint of the Roman Catholic diocese of Ardagh, where Mel Gibson’s mother came of religious age.

The young (modern) Mel was brought up by his Traditionalist Catholic father, Hutton Gibson, where the doctrine of “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” (“Outside the Church there is no salvation”) was preached. Of course, what constitutes “the church” determines the circumference of the salvation circle, with religious liberals opting for those who accept Jesus as their savior as eligible for salvation, while religious fundamentalists, literalists, and apparently traditionalists holding to the strict dogma that if you are not Catholic you are not saved. Here is what Mel Gibson once said about his own (apparently long-suffering) wife Robyn, who is an Episcopalian: “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” The Chair. That’s refreshing. Here’s a bumper sticker for Saint Mel’s car: The Pope Said it, I believe it, That Settles it.


Portrait of Mel Gibson’s Father, Hutton Gibson. Photograph by Kylie Melinda Smith, Sun Herald

The intolerance of this dogma cannot be overstated, but to be fair the Papacy is merely channeling the gospel, in this case John 14:5-6: “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” And this means what for the Jews?

Speaking of the blood libel against the Jews, Saint Mel’s filmic opus, The Passion of the Christ, was one long argument (amplified with copious blood and raw flesh) for the justification of two millennia of anti-Semitism: the Jews killed our Lord. In point of fact it was the Romans who killed Jesus who, let’s not forget, was Jewish, so if the Jews were the perpetrators this would only mean that Jesus was killed by his own clan. (Do people really need to be reminded that before Christ there was no Christianity and there were no Christians? Apparently so.) And in any case, if the life of Jesus had to unfold as it did in order for him to transmogrify into the Christ (the Messiah)—which we are told had to happen for the atonement of original sin that would otherwise condemn all of us to eternity without God—then shouldn’t Christians be thanking the Jews for doing what, after all, they had to do? In any case, here is what the best extra-biblical source, the Roman historian Tacitus, said about it in chapter 15 of his Annals of Imperial Rome:

film still from The Passion of the Christ

Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started), but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capitol.

Skeptic magazine’s religion editor, Tim Callahan, concludes:

Here Tacitus, showing the same antagonism for Christianity evidenced in the Talmudic writers, says that it was temporarily checked when Pontius Pilate—not the Jewish authorities—executed Jesus. In summation, the trial before Ciaphas, the Barabbas episode, the reluctance of Pilate to condemn Jesus, and the Jewish mob demanding his death are, like every other aspect of the Passion and Resurrection narratives, pure fiction. The bare bones of the historical core of what is essentially grand myth is that Jesus was put to death by the Romans—not the Jews—for sedition.


Anti-Semitism has roots running deep, and Mel’s go back to his father. Although today we do not hold to the moral precept that the son should suffer for the sins of the father, the Ten Commandments insists otherwise: “I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. III. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Unfortunately for Mel, who claims to believe in all of the good book’s moral principles, his father had lots of doubts about the Holocaust but few doubts about the nefarious actions of the Learned Elders of Zion. Christopher Hitchens has read the Old Man’s anti-Semitic screeds, noting this gem from Hutton’s self-published book The Enemy is Still Here (the sequel to The Enemy is Here, just in case you didn’t get it the first time): “Our ‘civilization’ tolerates open sodomy and condones murder of the unborn, but shrinks in horror from burning incorrigible heretics—essentially a charitable act.” When Pope John Paul II said of the Jews in a conciliatory outreach across the theological divide, “You are our predilect brothers and, in a certain way, one could say our oldest brothers,” Gibson Senior penned this rejoinder: “Abel had an older brother.” Was he suggesting siblicide writ large?

This brings us to the Holocaust, which deniers publicly deny ever happened while privately wishing that it had (as in “Hitler didn’t implement the Holocaust but he should have”). Mel Gibson’s flirtations with Holocaust “revisionism” also stem from the Patriarch Hutton, who expressed his skepticism in a March, 2003 New York Times magazine article as to how the Nazis could have logistically exterminated six million Jews. “Go and ask an undertaker or the guy who operates the crematorium what it takes to get rid of a dead body. It takes one liter of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million?” From where did the six million figure come? “The entire catastrophe was manufactured” in a deal between Hitler and “financiers” to move Jews out of the Reich. Hitler “had this deal where he was supposed to make it rough on them so they would all get out and migrate to Israel because they needed people there to fight the Arabs.” Hutton’s wife added parenthetically: “There weren’t even that many Jews in all of Europe.” Hutton punctuated the point: “Anyway, there were more after the war than before.”

Here is what actually happened. In the 1930s the Nazis did try to get rid of the Jews by eliminating their civil liberties, then banning them from professions, then confiscating their property, then rounding them up into ghettos, then locking them up in concentration camps. In the early and successful (for the Nazis) years of the Second World War, the Third Reich grew in size with each territorial conquest, which meant that the number of Jews grew, along with the measures the Nazis were willing to take to reach their ultimate goal, which by 1942 had morphed from elimination to extermination.

To this combustionable cocktail of wrong-headed ideas and evil intent, add three more characteristics to bring Saint Mel into full light: a hot head temper with a hair trigger mouth and a propensity to drink.

This post originally appeared at TRUE/SLANT.


Comments are closed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how Akismet processes your comment data.