Plano Hell: “While Jesus Christ descended into hell for only three days, Kendall Harmon, it seems, has spent a lifetime there. The canon theologian and communications coordinator in the Diocese of South Carolina immersed himself in the topic during his academic endeavors, producing a Ph.D. thesis on the doctrine of hell in 1993 and a redacted article, ?Nothingness and Human Destiny: Hell in the Thought of C.S. Lewis,? which appeared in The Pilgrim?s Guide: C.S. Lewis and the Art of Witness (Eerdmans, 1998)”
FT June/July 2004: Conciliating Hatred: “These days, if you announce that the Supreme Court is doing politics rather than law you will provoke more yawns than protests. But what sort of politics is the Court doing? Justice Antonin Scalia frequently charges the Court with stepping out of its judicial role and taking sides in the culture wars. That is eminently plausible. Still, we are admonished to have charity, and a more charitable interpretation is at least possible. Some of the Justices, including some who are most centrally placed on the Court, seem to have a very different self-understanding. They seem to see themselves as performing the political function of national conciliation. “
What are we to make of l’affaire Gibson now that his film has turned out to be a huge box-office success? Those who, like me, were deeply moved by The Passion of the Christ and judged it to be not anti-Semitic have no reason to gloat. The cultural clashes over the film opened wounds we thought had healed, and they exposed currents of hostility toward Christianity that one would have hoped had disappeared. The freewheeling commentary in the general media, with a few notable exceptions, was pitched at too low a level to call this a teaching moment. But it certainly was a moment to listen and learn–and, at times, to laugh.
Last summer, it should be recalled, Gibson’s project was on very shaky legs. He had not as yet found a distributor for a film in which he had invested twenty-five million dollars of his own money. After reading a “received” copy of the script, a self-selected group of six scholars, most of them veterans of Jewish-Christian dialogue, complained of un-Biblical and anti-Semitic stereotypes. One of the group, Paula Fredriksen of Boston University, wrote a long and fearful essay, “Mad Mel,” in the New Republic, predicting that “violence” would break out upon the film?s release. Immediately, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, orchestrated a campaign to label the film anti-Semitic. That really got Mel mad, and he responded by showing nearly finished versions of the movie to selected audiences, most of which consisted of politically conservative pundits and evangelical Christians. None of them seemed to find the film anti-Semitic–but then few of them were Jews. To columnists such as Frank Rich of the New York Times, Gibson’s screening strategy was part of a “political-cultural” war pitting Jews against Christians, including the Bush White House and the whole conservative wing of the chattering classes.