The Virtual Scene: The Passion of the Christ as Seen Through Websites and
Prepared by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.
HUC-JIR Los Angeles campus
In an examination of public reaction even prior to the public release of the
Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ", significant anti-Jewish
sentiment has been uncovered. In a study of hundreds of websites, chat room
commentaries, and email correspondence covering the past six months, we have
found a heightened level of anger directed at Jews regarding their opposition
to the film, along an intense and renewed interest in their conversion to Christianity.
Other findings suggest that the production is evoking a significant "virtual"
theological discourse often carried on without critical insight or with regard
to historical accuracy. Much of this dialogue is expressed in rhetoric of simplistic
This survey found over 400 messages related to Jews and Judaism. These findings
would counter those voices that had argued that such a film would in fact not
create significant forms of religious backlash. The presence of anti-Jewish
themes and hostile religious messages combined with new initiatives directed
toward the conversion of Jews would provide evidence that Jews represent central
motif at least for some Americans when referencing this film.
Provided below are selected excerpts extracted from various chat-rooms, websites,
and email commentaries:
Expressions about Jews and Judaism:
"Jews squelch public expression."
"The Jews could not run anything today, if it were not for the people of
the 'city of man', we are to blame."
"They (the Jews) are attacking our God."
"I am tired of their (the Jews) complaining."
"Just as Jews today are seeking to destroy Palestinians, so they tried
to destroy Our Lord."
References to the Hollywood Scene and the Jews:
"Those in power know that this film will melt the hearts of many to true
"Why is it that when films are interpreted as anti-Semitic, there is a
great human outcry, but when movies are produced that are negative about the
Catholic Church, barely a voice is raised. There are so many more films that
are anti-Catholic than anti-Semitic."
Reflections on the "accuracy" of the Film:
"There can be no wrong in this film"
"Ignore the cries of the Jews, this film is about truth."
As more individuals have occasion to view the film, which opened this week,
it is likely that the level of this discourse will accelerate, sparking a significantly
wider array of commentaries focusing on Jews as depicted in the film and on
Jewish reaction to the film's release.