I’m not a Mel Gibson fan – I don’t hate him and I can see his appeal, but it was really never there for me the way it is for some. But his devotion to this project fascinates me, because you can see two important parts of him at work in it: his faith and his arrogance. Like it or not, in more cases than we like to admit, arrogance (or maybe what is perceived by outsiders as such), bravado and a desire to prove oneself are a vital ingredient in accomplishing Big Things – even in religion, in which humility is a virtue. Humility is a virtue, but in order to do anything substantial, that humility and realistic assessment of ourselves in relation to God and others can and must co-exist with a sense that I can do this thing, and I can do it in a way that no one else can.
But that wasn’t really my point. Here it is: We all know Gibson’s take on faith – at least we know part of it – he has never, to my knowledge, given an in-depth interview on the matter – he’s a Tridentine Catholic who has no truck with post VII Roman Catholicism (his father was deeply involved with these issues).
Now, I ask you – when you think of Tridentine, dissatisfied Catholics what do you think of? Well, I think of my mother, first, who was all of that, but secondly, I think of infighting, backbiting, nitpicking and more or less continual condemnation and defensiveness. I don’t, I’m sorry to say, think of an outward-looking commitment to bring the truth of Jesus to the world at large.
Maybe it’s a lesson for all of us. Churchy types of all stripes spend their hours and spill their ink and waste their bytes arguing over semantics, the niceties of ritual and the precise interpretation of papal bulls, encyclicals and footnotes.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Guy, who probably feels as strongly about those intricacies as any other who shares his ideology, has decided, instead of going inward, to bring the story of Jesus to a world that needs it, badly, instead.
Maybe Hollywood Guy has a lesson for the rest of us.