Phone Message Transcript: February 28th, 2004
[appearing on Anne's fan phone line]
"Urgent: Feb. 28, 2004
Gay Marriage, John Kerry, and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Phone Message Corrected for the Web
This is nearing the end of February 2004. This is an extemporaneous message and probably won't appear in this form on my website. I will correct this in the near future with a longer message after I've had a chance to correct my thoughts in writing, but I felt it was important to make these two statements now. First I want to thank you for all of your messages and I want to thank you for the letters that I've been getting about Blood Canticle and the book, all of that is very much appreciated. Now, let me go on to the issues at hand. I think that the President of the United States has made a dreadful mistake in asking for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. This is a terrible error and should be protested in letters to your congressmen and letters to the White House. Gay marriage, or marriage between people of the same gender, is part of the civil rights revolution that has been going on for almost 200 years. That revolution has seen an end to slavery, it has seen the end of segregation in this country, it has seen the accomplishment of the vote for women, it has seen equal rights for women, and now we are moving on to see equal rights for gay people. This is inevitable and this is important and this is the most important revolution of our time. We cannot have a step backwards by having an amendment to the constitution that discriminates against people and denies them their rights. The idea that gay marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage is preposterous. The problem just doesn't exist, and better people than I have made that statement and it is really true. Once we accepted gay people, once we accepted the fact that they can be teachers, they can be soldiers, they can be part of our community, they can be bishops, they can be part of us, as I've said, the die was cast, they have to have equal rights. We have to realize that we have accepted them, that we have opened our arms to them as a community, that we recognize now that they want to be part of the community. How in the world can we say that they cannot sanctify their unions? These people want to step up before God and the tribe, before their kith and their kin and they want to take vows. This is a good thing and should be rewarded. Heterosexuals have made a mockery of marriage anyway. They have done it with rapid-fire divorces in Las Vegas and Mexico, they have done it with TV shows that focus on marriage as commercial entertainment, they have done it with no-fault divorce, they have done it with people who get married three and four and five times, they have done it in every conceivable way. To act as if heterosexual marriage was some sort of sacrosanct institution that has not already been weakened from all sides is utterly preposterous and these gay people are good people. We as Christians, as Jews, as Buddhists, as Hindus, as Islamic's, we have to open our arms to them, we have to recognize that they want to be full-fledged members of our community. We have to do this and again it is part of the civil rights revolution that has been going on for a long time. We are certainly not going to be able to take backwards steps in this. We have to realize that what is being done in San Francisco is a laudable thing. We have to remember the antisegregation days and how people spoke-out against the segregation laws and did things that became part of history. The same is happening now with regard to gay marriage and gay rights. It's very significant. - - Now, the second statement that I have regards THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, the Mel Gibson movie. I have seen the movie and I urge you to see it. I think it is magnificent. I think it is absolutely a great film. It is completely and utterly, with very few exceptions, very minor exceptions, in tune with the four gospels. It is a once in a lifetime experience to see somebody with Mel Gibson's genius, Mel Gibson's commitment, and Mel Gibson's power bring together the production values that he has in this film. The acting, the cinematography, the sheer scope, the expense that was put into the seeming verisimilitude, and yet the artistic refinement of this film. It is just wonderful and I strongly urge you to see it. I will go back to see it again and again myself. It is a haunting and wonderful film. I certainly think that children could see it. I mean children in our culture right now are bombarded with sadistic violence from all sides. They are seeing it in motion pictures, they are seeing it in prime-time television, they are seeing all kinds of irresponsible, motivationless, stupid violence from everywhere. There is no reason why they cannot see THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST in which violence is over and over again framed and put into context by the compassionate faces of those who view what is happening to Jesus Christ in these scenes. Also, even for those who do not believe in Christ, who do not accept his message, this is a film about the events that changed Western Civilization. There is no man who affected Western Civilization the way Jesus Christ did and no matter how you feel about it, it is important to see this rendering of the core story of what happened to him. For Catholics, there is nothing in this movie that is going to surprise you. It's what we meditated on in Lent, it's what we meditated on when we went through the Stations of the Cross. Yes it's bloody and yes it's awful, but it's probably, absolutely dead-on to what execution was like in the first century. Roman soldiers did this outside of every city in the empire and yes they laughed at death and yes they were cruel. The portrait of Pilate in the movie has been criticized by so many as a whitewash, but that portrait of Pilate is rooted in the four Gospels and it is not incompatible with what historians tell us about Pilate. The inference that I draw from the Gospels, and have for a long time, is that Christ made an impression upon Pilate. That's what the evangelists were trying to tell us in the portrait of Pilate. Christ made an impression on him. That's why he wavered. That's why he was uncertain. His statement, "what is truth" which is said to Christ, appears in the Gospel of John. It's right there. With regard to Mel Gibson's portrayal of the priests, I agree that he overdoes it. It's more operatic than it is probably true to what happened. The priests behave like the priests in the opera Aida who condemn Rodames. Something is very operatic about the whole way that they are presented, but this is not out of the logic of the Gospels entirely. I mean, the Gospels tell us that Jesus went against the Jewish authorities, the Jewish authorities handed him over to Pilate. I did not come out of this film feeling it was anti-Semitic. I came out wanting to love everyone. I came out particularly wanting to love my Jewish brothers and sisters because I knew they were concerned about this. My own personal feeling, and let me affirm it, is the Jews are the chosen people of God and God will never, never forget his commitment to them. The fact that they have survived two-thousand years since the fall of the temple in Jerusalem, since the death of Christ, since the institution of Christianity as a national religion in three hundred plus A.D., the fact that they have survived is a tribute to the fact they are the chosen people of God. It's one of the great stories of history and we must now acknowledge them as our teachers. We must love them and we must love them for everything they have preserved before Christ and after. We need to reaffirm that to them and we need to reaffirm it publicly to assuage their fears regarding this film. But, the film is beautiful. Go see it. Don't miss it on the big screen. It'll be wonderful on DVD, but don't miss it in the theaters. James Caviezel is perfect as Jesus. He is perfect in bringing together devotional conceptions of Jesus in encompassing or incorporating what we need to feel toward a character of Jesus in a film and yet being true to history in that he has dark eyes and dark hair and does look Semitic enough to be playing Jesus the Jew, Jesus the circumcised Jew, in the first century. That is only one of the outstanding features of this film. It's really magnificent as I've said, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Let me close this message by saying that I am very much for John Kerry for President of the United States. I hope you guys will go out and vote for him in your primaries and I hope you will vote for him in the presidential election. I think it's absolutely crucial that we bring Democrats back into the White House. I think it's crucial that we beat George W.. I think Kerry is the man. I think in these times with the war on terror we need Kerry's wisdom, we need his experience, we need everything about that man. We need him in the White House. He is the man who can lead us. I am thanking heaven that we have Kerry and I'm going to support him and work for his campaign. Thank you guys for bearing with me. I know some of you don't want this kind of message from me, you want me to talk about writing and you want me to talk about my books, but I feel I had to speak out on these important issues. I love you. Keep the faith. Take care and let me know your responses. "