The controversy that surrounded the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ
was bound to give birth to at least one nonfiction book. The War on Mel Gibson: The Media Versus the Passion
(by Gary North, 2004, ISBN 0-91815-47-8) will be of interest to anyone who has followed the battle played out by movie reviewers, actors, newscasters, and politicians. The book will appeal most, however, to evangelical Christians who have been irritated by the media attacks on Mel Gibson’s movie. It will likely do little to persuade the person who did not like The Passion
or who believes it to be a negative movie.
Combating Critics The author of The War on Mel Gibson spends a great deal of time quoting negative reviews of the movie, explaining the political and religious assumptions behind those reviews, and dismissing the arguments they contain. He does not mount a thorough artistic defense of the movie, or spend a great deal of time explaining why it is worthy of admiration (though there are scattered references to its virtues, including its powerful use of symbolism). The author also discusses Hollywood in general, the role of the boycott, and films of the past with positive or negative attitudes towards Christianity. Borrowing Arguments The book relies rather heavily on the writings of other religious and political thinkers, such as Rabbi Lapion and Michael Medved, and he quotes large portions of the latter’s Hollywood vs. America. In other words, the author largely regurgitates (often through direct quotation) the arguments of others who have already expressed similar ideas in better ways. Some Original Insights Although at times polemic, disjointed, and unoriginal, The War on Mel Gibson does contain some penetrating insights. For example, North make two rather interesting points in his conclusion. First, he demonstrates one example of the old Bible adage “you reap what you sow”: Hollywood has spent years pushing a message of moral relativism, and now it must contend with a generation that does not consider it wrong to download intellectual property (including music and movies) from the internet without paying. He also tells Christians that they have a “moral obligation before God to be the best” at every aspect of culture. The author points out that too many Christians have surrendered the realm of culture to the secular humanists, instead of producing great art and literature inspired by Christianity. Read and Decide Where do you weigh in on The Passion debate? For one point of view, read The War on Mel Gibson, and then draw your own conclusions.