WashPost Headline Suggests Evangelicals Didn't 'Judge' Mel Gibson's Drunken Rant

August 14th, 2006 6:12 AM

The Washington Post continues to display enthusiasm to wring the last drop out of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic drunken rant at a cop in Malibu. But the headline over the story on the front of today's Style section is misleading: "Evangelical Clergy on Mel Gibson: Judging Not." A reader might think evangelicals excused Gibson's rant. The story which follows by religion specialist Alan Cooperman makes it very clear from the beginning that the evangelical leaders all denounced his outburst to police, but none of them had re-evaluated whether there was anti-Semitism in his movie "The Passion of the Christ." (A listing of most popular articles on washingtonpost.com suggests it used to have a more accurate headline: "Evangelicals Hate Gibson's Sin But Love His 'Passion'.")

Cooperman's story is true: 'Passion' fans both Protestant and Catholic have worried that Gibson haters in Hollywood and the news media would use the Malibu arrest to denounce the film all over again. It allows the evangelicals to defend the film, and doesn't balance it out with people who still contend the film is anti-Semitic. Cooperman ends with a different note: that Gibson was pleased by the film causing Jewish conversions to Christianity, as filmmaker Jody Eldred told the Post:

One scene in the documentary concerns a couple who credit the film with inspiring prayers that saved their baby daughter from drowning. Another concerns a Jewish man in Florida who became a Christian after seeing "The Passion." Eldred said he considers the latter scene a strong answer to the charge of anti-Semitism.

"How can it be anti-Semitic if a Jewish man saw it, and it drew him into becoming a Christian?" Eldred asked. "In fact, Mel saw the documentary and that was one of his more favorite stories. He called me and we talked about it. Of course Mel was very pleased with that."

The front page of the Post news section also has a worrisome headline, about Hezbollah: "'The Best Guerrilla Force in the World': Analysts Attribute Hezbollah's Resilience to Zeal, Secrecy, and Iranian Funding." What's discouraging about this headline -- aside from the fact that it sounds like someone should accept a golden statue -- is that this evaluation comes from an anonymous source, whom reporters Edward Cody and Molly Moore promise "strongly opposes the militant Shiite Muslim movement."

This displays a Western media tendency: they do not feel they can praise terrorist groups for what they do, but they certainly do not feel constrained from praising terrorist groups for their "efficiency" or "resilience," which also often carries the implication that the anti-terrorist fighters are inefficient or incompetent.