Teen concerned with film's message

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Editor's note:

Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" was given a flurry of publicity after critics declared it to be anti-Semitic. The most controversial scene was based on the verse Matthew 27:25.

In the scene that eventually was cut from the movie, Jewish high priest Caiapha declares a curse on the Jewish people for the crucifixion by saying, "His blood be on us and on our children."

Until they renounced the belief at the Second Vatican Council held from 1962 through 1965, the Catholic Church taught that every Jew had "blood guilt" for the death of Christ. According to an article in Newsweek, Gibson is an ultraconservative Catholic, a traditionalist who does not acknowledge many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. "He favors the Latin Mass, does not eat meat on Fridays and adheres to an unusually strict interpretation of the scriptures," the article read.

Despite the removal of the scene, Gibson's portrayal of the Jews, many say, still smells of the "blood guilt" teaching.

Hallie van Straaten, a 15-year-old student at Lowell Whiteman School, felt frustration when she tried to talk to her peers about the issue. "They didn't seem to care," she said.

In the following editorial, she explains her feelings about "The Passion of the Christ."

Hallie van Straaten

Teen Style Staff

sophomore at Lowell Whiteman School

I sat down wanting to write something powerful to present my opinion, but the more I researched, the more I realized I would not be able to change anyone's mind. Therefore, I decided to simply present why it is I have concerns about "The Passion of the Christ" being shown in theaters, especially in this town.

Let me start by saying, I am Jewish. I am not going to hide that fact, but that is not the reason I am against the movie. I have listened to many interviews of people with different perspectives who have seen the movie, and I have come to one conclusion: The movie may not come straight out and say, "Let's blame the Jews," but it also doesn't avoid saying that, even in its final edited version.

Mel Gibson has been quoted many times saying that he wanted to make this movie in order to recruit people to become born-again Christians. My main concern with this movie is that our society in general already has anti-Semitic sentiments, and this might be the thing that puts it over the edge.

You probably are saying to yourself "anti-Semitic? Not me."

Well, maybe not you, but your children, and maybe not your children, but their friends. It is out there and I see it every day, and it hurts, and it instills a large amount of fear in me for the future of my life and the future of other minorities. I see people my age raising their hands and saying "Heil Hitler" without even thinking twice. There are people saying, "We got Jewed" or "That's a real Jew thing" -- and when I confront them, they don't say anything to the effect of, "Oh, why does that offend you?" They say, "Oh, sorry, I forgot there was a Jew around here."

They aren't naÃive. In my history book the other day, I read about the turn of the 20th century with a bunch of swastikas staring me in the face, drawn over the text by a previous student.

When someone asked me what a swastika was, I could answer from years of talking about the Holocaust with my family and other close friends, but all I could think was "that's the reason there is so much hatred."

I read a very chilling article in New York Magazine the other day. The cover story was all about how "hating Jews" is now politically correct because of the crisis in Israel and the Middle East.

Just because I am Jewish does not mean I am the same as the other Jewish person across the road or across the country or the world. I am just like every other American teenager: I have 10 fingers, 10 toes, a nose, two eyes, arms and legs. I listen to Eminem. I mess up sometimes, just like every other American, in my own unique way, and I just don't understand how other people can't see that.

This movie, even after being edited, has ways of bringing up the 2,000-year-old sentiment that Jews are sentenced to eternal guilt because they "killed" Christ. Jews have been going through persecution since as far as history goes back. Though in the eyes of some it has stopped, it really has just begun to recede, and this movie can kill all of the progress our society has made. All the work over the past hundreds of years gone in a few hours. Some people who don't know history may walk away from Mel Gibson's film blaming the Jews all over again.

One-third of Americans are evangelical Christians -- the people holding private sessions and group trips to see this movie. How many of those one-third of Americans are going to walk away from this and think like the kids I see in school every day, the prejudices I see in school every day, except on a much deeper level?

How can we, as a country, make any progress when even our president talks about God and faith in every other sentence in his State of the Union address? I am not saying get rid of religion, I am just saying figure out a way that all people, alike and different, can co-exist without subjecting each other to their personal religious beliefs.

A person once told me the three things you should never talk about with someone else are money, politics, and religion.

It's not how the world should work.

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