SARASOTA - Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" drew much attention as the media was concerned of anti-Semitism. However a panel of experts meeting in Sarasota said the movie is also bringing Christians and Jews closer.
"Many churches are using 'The Passion of the Christ' as an evangelistic tool, but we wanted to get beyond that and discuss the movie," said the Rev. Bill Martin of Cornerstone Church, which co-sponsored a panel discussion Sunday at Covenant Life Presbyterian Church in Palmer Ranch. "We saw the possibility of a common dialogue between Christians and Jews. We realize that building a relationship allows us to work on common problems."
Attended by 330 people, the discussion featured Bruce Wertheimer, a member of the American Interfaith Institute, and David Miller, a professor of literature from Purdue University who now lives in Sarasota.
A third panelist was Justin S. Holcomb, a lecturer in religion and sociology at the University of Virginia.
"I think Christians and Jews have something to teach each other," said Bob Salyers of Cornerstone Church after the discussion group. "We all just have to get together."
Miller felt that Gibson's movie teaches a lesson.
"You can't be Christian and be anti-Semitic," Miller said.
The violence in the movie horrified the panel, but it was effective in getting a message across.
"I saw the image of a godless universe in the numbing, mindless, sickening bestial violence of the passion," Miller said. "I saw that without God, we take turns beating and being beaten."
Wertheimer said Jews accept that Christians regard Jesus as their Lord but want Christians to have fellowship with Jews.
"I hope they will make movies that heal us, not pull us apart," Wertheimer said. "We have so many divides in this country. But we are all children of God."