Sunday, February 29, 2004

Random Thoughts on Religion and Politics

Mel Gibson loves Jews.  That's what he's telling all the interviewers when asked if he is anti-Semitic.  I'm relieved to hear it because I'd hate to even contemplate how he would treat history if the reverse were really true.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't seen Passion, but it's hard to escape either its tone or content in this media age.  And of course, it is precisely the media age that is making the film such a phenomenon.  Gibson and company have gone all out to promote this business venture.  I'm not suggesting that his work doesn't bespeak a heartfelt religious conviction and point of view, but let's not forget who will be taking the loot to the bank.  Indeed, that's the big difference between earlier Passion plays and even Hollywood Crucifixion flicks, Mel is making bundle.  They didn't.

The contrast between Gibson's bloody cinematic epic reading of Jesus' last days and the peaceful drama taking place in San Francisco is striking.  The young mayor of that city Gavin Newsom, like Gibson, is a Roman Catholic and a heterosexual.  His reading of his faith, undoubtedly rooted in the same Crucifixion, is one of peace, understanding, and love for his fellow human beings.  It would seem to me that we have enough blood in the name of religion these days and that the active promotion of respect for differences is the better course.

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York and the Times invited the two Johns to contribute Op Ed essays about a critical event that shaped their character early on.  Not surprisingly, John Kerry wrote movingly about 1968 and what drove him to transition from soldier to anti-War activist.  Equally touching in its way was John Edwards' account of the trust placed in him as a young lawyer by a badly crippled client in a malpractice case.  Without placing a value on them – we are where time takes us – the difference in these stories is telling.  It is why personally, while liking the Senator from North Carolina very much, I opt for John Kerry.  It all comes down to experience.  No doubt Edwards has that human touch, a deep understanding of the underdog, the individual.  These are qualities that I value almost above everything else.  But Kerry, who may lack the touchy feely, has faced and, more importantly, faced up to the kind of global issue that we know Presidents encounter.  His experience goes to the basic fabric of who we are as a nation.  Howard Dean may have been the prophetic voice to remind us of our contemporary connection with tragic and divisive times past, but John Kerry's experience is what may help us turn the corner.  I think that's why so many people have flocked to him, a reason that goes far beyond electability.

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