Unless you have lived like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, in a shack in the woods somewhere, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming movie produced and directed by Mel Gibson. Originally titled The Passion, it is being released Wednesday, February 25 as The Passion of the Christ. While this certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last movie about the life and death of Jesus Christ, I believe this particular film has the most press surrounding it. Yes, The Last Temptation of Christ generated a lot of press at its 1988 release, but that has been eclipsed by the international press stir of Gibson’s movie. One common complaint by various Jewish groups and organizations is that this new movie will stir up anti-Semitic feeling in the viewers, or that it is anti-Semitic by its very nature.

The Passion of the Christ tells the story of the last few hours of Christ’s life as outlined in the four Gospels of the Bible’s New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Rather than write his own spin on how things might have happened, Gibson has stated his goal was to make this movie conform as closely as possible to the text of the Gospels. This is why the actors speak in Aramaic and “street Latin,” not English. Originally Gibson didn’t want any subtitles in the movie, trusting the audience to follow along based on the actions, but I am glad he decided to release it with full subtitles. I prefer the language of the King James Version of the Bible, so the dialog seems familiar but not exactly what I’m used to. Yet not everyone is as familiar or comfortable with the archaic language of the King James Version, so I understand using a more modern version of the text.

“My intention for this film was to create a lasting work of art and to stimulate serious thought and reflection among diverse audiences of all backgrounds,” says Gibson. “My ultimate hope is that this story’s message of tremendous courage and sacrifice might inspire tolerance, love and forgiveness. We’re definitely in need of those things in today’s world.” But The Passion of the Christ has not inspired tolerance, love, and forgiveness so far. Many critics have condemned the movie as anti-Semitic, but if Gibson has followed the Gospels as closely as he claims, then so is the New Testament.

But is the New Testament really anti-Semitic? Jesus himself was a Jew, as were His apostles and His earliest disciples. So whence comes this idea that a straight retelling of the last few hours of Christ’s life is anti-Semitic? Well, in Matthew 27:24-25, Pilate declares his lack of culpability in Christ’s death, and the multitude cries out, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Certain people have used this single verse as justification for calling the Jews “Christ killers” and blaming them for His death. But the only people who can be blamed for an evil act are the people who commit it, as explained in the 18th chapter of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel uses three generations as an example. The grandfather is righteous, his son is wicked, and his grandson is righteous. Do the grandfather or grandson bear the sins of the father? Not at all! Ezekiel sums this up in verse 20: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son…” So how could the descendants of Jews who were present at Christ’s crucifixion be blamed for His death? They can only be blamed by people who do not understand the Bible.

But who did kill Christ? It certainly wasn’t the Jews. They didn’t have the authority to execute prisoners. That right was reserved by the Romans, which is why the Sanhedrin brought Christ before Pilate. It was Pilate, the Roman governor, who issued the command for Christ’s crucifixion. So it must have been the Romans who killed Jesus, right? Wrong! Christ himself was the only one who could decide to lay down His life. He was a deity. Had He chosen to do so, He could have hung on the cross forever or removed Himself from it, rather than dying after only a few short hours. In the 10th chapter of John, Christ explained this as he spoke of his own life in the parable of the Good Shepherd: “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” So ultimately, we cannot blame either the Jews or the Romans for the death of Christ. He chose to lay His life down for our sins, and He took it up again within three days. This was His purpose in coming to Earth, and this is why I do not mourn at His crucifixion when I can praise Him for His resurrection.

Gibson spent over $50 million of his own money to make Passion. He tried to get backing for the project, but the studios balked at the idea. Eventually, the distributors who buckled under pressure and refused to aid Gibson will see the profits pass them by, and while I am no prophet, I predict Passion will be a big money-maker for Gibson–and rightly so! Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, also predicts that this movie will make “a great deal of money” for Gibson and Icon Productions, his movie studio. He also predicts that this movie will become famous “as the most serious and substantive Biblical movie ever made” and that the faith of Christians “will become more fervent as Passion uplifts and inspires them.” I hope Rabbi Lapin is right in each regard.

So far the prediction that this movie will make money seems to be accurate. Even though the movie opens tomorrow, people have been buying tickets well in advance. Some churches have bought out whole showings so the congregations can see this film. It is rated R for graphic violence, but that hasn’t stopped many pastors from encouraging young teenagers to attend. I plan to see this movie, but before I do, I will read the final chapters of the four Gospels. Then when I see the movie, I should be able to spot if Gibson has departed from the written word.

For several years now the tiny minority of homosexuals in this country has been clamoring for marriage. They line up outside of state capitals and shout that their right to marry whom they choose has been denied. So far, 38 states and the Federal government have passed Defense of Marriage acts (DOMA) that prohibit gay marriage and refuse to recognize it if other states or countries pass homosexual marriage laws. This issue has been clouded by harsh words on both sides, and it is often misunderstood. Senator John Edwards spouted the following in one of his debates: “But as I understand the Defense of Marriage Act, it would take away the power of some states to choose whether they would recognize or not recognize gay marriages. That’s my understanding of it.” Too bad his understanding is incorrect. The Defense of Marriage Act, as signed into law by President Clinton and passed by 76% of the states, says that the individual states are free to recognize or refuse to recognize gay marriage as they see fit. It is interesting to note that if the DOMA had been proposed as a Constitutional amendment, it would be ratified based on the number of states that have passed such laws. This would make heterosexual marriage the law of the land, and unless the Supreme Court proceeded to pull another ruling out of its collective behinds, homosexual marriage would not be allowed.

It is clear that the vast majority of this nation is against gay marriage, but this does not stop a tiny yet very vocal minority from trying to sway the rest of the nation despite its resistance. This is like the tail wagging the dog, and makes as much sense. Even though proponents of gay marriage are in the minority, they use very effective language to defend their views. For example, gays claim that marriage is their “right.” But since when did our government grant rights to the people? Rights are already vested in the people, and their free exercise is protected by government. Yet the institution of marriage is recognized and affirmed by government. Marriage is different from a right, because it requires someone with authority to ratify it. Can you think of any other right that requires some power or organization to authorize it?

One of the other problems with this issue is the name. Calling it “gay marriage” is to cast it as a concept that makes logical sense, but it does not. Since marriage is, by definition, the union of a man and a woman, “gay marriage” makes no sense. It is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp” or “airline food.” Some people argue that the legalization of gay marriage is equivalent to the abolishment of miscegenation laws. But this argument is disingenuous. Race has no bearing on the issue of marriage–it is irrelevant to the very nature of marriage. But both the sex and sexuality of the participants certainly has bearing on marriage. For centuries marriage has provided the societally-acceptable outlet for sex between two people. This is why marriage has been called a sexual union.

“But this is only your definition! You are so narrow-minded!” When confronted with the accusation that they want to change the definition of marriage, many gay marriage spokesmen claim they do not. They want to “broaden” or “expand” the definition, not change it. But as I see it, the goal is to destroy the very meaning of marriage and make it apply to anything they choose. Once they have changed the definition of “marriage” so it no longer refers only to the union between one man and one woman, what is there to stop other groups from further tinkering with the definition? It is a very valid question, one that is often dodged by defenders of gay marriage. On the Sean Hannity radio show, one spokeswoman dismissed this question outright. She refused to answer it, saying that she was only there to talk about gay marriage and nothing more.

But this is a valid concern. If the fundamental definition of a word has been altered once, who or what will stop it from being changed again–say, from the union of two people to the union of three or more? This would open the way for polygamists hiding out in Utah, Colorado, and other states to proclaim their marriages openly to multiple wives. And what would stop a woman from marrying multiple husbands? The North American Man/Boy Love Association is already championing the cause of breaking down the societal barriers to male-on-male pedophilia; surely some men would petition to “marry” underage boys. And if age, sex, and number no longer have a bearing on the definition of marriage, how long before a human being tries to effect a union with another species?

Marriage is far from meaningless. J. D. Unwin’s 1934 book Sex and Culture outlines 86 different cultures and their historical decline. None of these cultures lasted more than three generations after marriage fell out of favor with the people. Unwin wasn’t the only person to come up with this idea. Giambattista Vico concluded the same thing in 1725. He saw that marriage between a man and a woman was critical for the growth of civilization. It is the “seedbed” of society, and marriage between a man and a woman is the best environment for raising children. Anything that departs from this damages men, women, and most of all children.

Finally, I am against gay marriage because God has stated it is not acceptable to Him. Homosexuality, along with all other acts of sex outside the bonds of marriage, is forbidden in the Bible. In addition to ancient scriptures, modern prophets and men of God have affirmed the sanctity of marriage in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”:

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

I do not hate homosexuals, nor do I wish them ill. But I recognize that the current push for gay marriage is only a means to an end. The ultimate goal is not just tolerance of homosexuality as a valid alternative lifestyle, but full acceptance and societal support of it. And this I cannot accept.

Addendum: My sister-in-law got a free subscription to YM magazine shortly after she applied to university. Most of this magazine is girly fluff-stuff, but in the June issue there’s a four-page propaganda piece titled “my parents are gay.” While the article is mostly politically low-key, things really get blatant on the last page. Here, under the title of “help stop the hate,” the liberal political agenda rears its ugly head.

“Being gay isn’t a choice — being homophobic is.” This trite and untrue stinger appears right under the main title. The problem? Being actively gay is a choice because it involves choosing how to act. While a person may not be able to help having same-sex attraction, acting on that attraction is a choice. Now to be really nit-picky, if being gay means having feelings for the same sex, and being homophobic means having feelings about people who are gay, why is one set of feelings controllable while the other is not? After all, a phobia is an irrational fear of something. A phobic person doesn’t rationally choose to be afraid, so how can he or she choose to stop feeling a particular way? Our society values being able to keep one’s feelings under control — unless, of course, one happens to be gay.

This section has a picture of two lesbians kissing while holding up a sign saying, “We all deserve the freedom to marry.” The sign is disingenuous since these two people already have the freedom to marry. All they need do is find a willing man and propose. What they really want is marriage redefined on their own terms. But I have already written about why this isn’t a good idea.

One paragraph starts “President Bush is pushing for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It would be the first time the Constitution has been amended in order to restrict civil rights rather than expand them.” I guess the writer forgot the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol, or the 22nd Amendment limiting the number of times an individual can be elected President. Both amendments restrict civil rights, rather than expanding them. But I’m not all that surprised that the writer of this article was unfamiliar with the U.S. Constitution.

Finally comes the inevitable poll. The summarized question is: “Do you think gay couples should be allowed to marry?” The numbers break down as follows:

  • 44% say “Yes, I do.”
  • 27% say “No, I don’t.”
  • 21% say “No, I don’t, but civil unions are OK.”
  • 8% have no interest in the subject.

At first glance, you’d probably assume the largest percentage of respondents support same-sex marriage. But the second and third responses are both against gay marriage. When combined, they total 48% — a larger percentage of respondents against gay marriage than those in favor of it. But the raw data doesn’t fit the agenda, so the pollsters split up the negative responses to minimize their impact. All this is targeted to shape the future political responses of a specific market — teenage girls who are too unsophisticated to notice the way the data is being spun, and whose obsession with conformity is currently at its peak.

Once again proving there are lies, damned lies, and push polls.

How are Canadians different from Americans? Here’s one aspect.

The city of Toronto has suffered from a lack of tourism because of the SARS outbreak there last year. In an attempt to show tourists around the world that they are really nice people, and that folks are coughing because of a cold and not SARS, the national, provincial and city governments ponied up $1 million Canadian dollars of taxpayer money to bring late-night comedian and talk-show host Conan O’Brien to their city.

For those of you who don’t watch Conan’s show, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is a recurring character–a cigar-chomping puppet that, well, insults people. One of his key phrases is to say that something is “for me to poop on!” Toilet humor, to be sure. You can go Amazon to buy a DVD of his acts. The episode of “Triumph Visits the ‘Star Wars’ Nerds” had me crying with laughter at times. Maybe it is because I’m such a nerd myself.

So anyway, Conan visits Canada, and Triumph runs riot with the natives, with comments like, “So you’re French and Canadian, yes? So you’re obnoxious and dull.” Or when confronting some French-speaking Canadians, “You’re in North America! Learn the language!” After learning that a couple supported Quebec leaving Canada, he said, “Listen closely. Hear that? It’s the sound of no one giving a [BEEP]!” And finally, “You’re French, you’re obnoxious and you no speekay English!” See the trend? And speaking of seeing, you can see a video of Triumph at YouTube until it’s gone.

This skit has stirred up a firestorm of anger from Canadian politicians. They are up in arms about having funded this program in the first place. The president of the Quebec nationalist Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, Jean Dorion, said, “It’s wrong to spread the worst possible ethnic prejudices about Quebecers, which already exist in Canada.” Personally, I think “Quebecers” sounds so much better than “Quebecois.” Not to be outdone, the leftist New Democrats legislator Alexa McDonough had several things to say about Triumph: “There may be those who would say, ‘Isn’t this interfering with freedom of expression?’ It’s not interfering to say we will not publicly fund this kind of vile, vicious hatemongering.” McDonough added, “The whole point of trying to help deal with the devastation of the SARS crisis on the city of Toronto was to attract tourists. How it got morphed into this kind of garbage I don’t know.”

If the Canadian politicians had a clue, they would have realized that Conan O’Brien is a comedian with a specific target audience: drunken frat boys. Expecting anything other that what they got shows their political stupidity, or at least a serious lack of research on their part. I must agree with the people up in arms about the Canadian government funding this show. If the U.S. had publicly funded such a show, I would be just as upset as they are. I’ve read our Constitution, and I don’t see anything in there about funding television programs. This is one reason why I feel PBS should be cut off from the American government’s purse strings.

But I digress.

Quebec has long been a sensitive spot for Canadians. Several times now French-speaking Quebec has tried to secede from Canada, and nearly succeeded in a 1995 referendum on the matter. However, French-speaking Quebec has long forced its ways on the rest of Canada. Canada is both an English- and French-speaking country because of the Quebecers. Everything must be posted in both languages, which leads to Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese Dinners with two front covers: one in French, one in English. But this mandated government use of two languages doesn’t apply in French-dominated Quebec. A reader named Mori, in a reaction post to Triumph, sums it up this way:

I am an English Quebecer WITHOUT the same rights as French Quebecers though we’re all Canadian and pay the same amount of taxes. We English Quebecers have experienced many insults in our life from Quebecers — including public service workers and government agencies — based on our mother tongue. Many have … expressed … their disdain of English speakers. If people can dish out insults or not speak up as loudly against the lack of equal rights and respect of English Quebecers, then surely an eight-minute sketch comedy featuring a puppet dog, geared towards adults, should not cause such great emotional bruising.

Stephen Harper of Quebec City said, “We can all make jokes about each other but you don’t start telling people in Quebec they have to speak another language. That’s completely unacceptable.” But Stephen, that’s what the French-speaking Quebecers have been saying all along!

Here in the good old U.S. of A., we have something called the First Amendment that protects our freedom of speech, and it has long protected humorous expression. This is why we don’t arrest Jay Leno for saying something that isn’t true, but sure is funny. Likewise, Triumph’s speech–or rather the speech of the puppeteer–is protected here in America. In addition to this protection, there is another tried-and-true defense of potentially offensive and insulting speech: you are free to say it if it is true. So I could stand up and call a prominent politician a sheep pimp, and if said politician were to take me to court for defamation of character, I would only have to produce evidence proving that the politician is, in fact, a pimper of sheep.

But this defense is no longer valid in Canada. You could make a factual statement that someone is a sheep pimp and wave the documents and photos to prove it, but that wouldn’t matter. If the other person were insulted or embarrassed by your comments, he or she could sue you for defamation of character, even though what you said was true, and win. The truth is not a defense in Canada any more.

The sad thing is the way many liberals want to make the U.S. more like Canada. I prefer to have us stay different from the Canadians in at least this way. I prefer my Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech over the now-vanished “freedom” of Canadians.

There is a basic truth in life: you get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you punish. We have subsidized poverty by providing food stamps, WIC, and dozens of other programs to the poor in our decades-long war against poverty. The end result is more poor people. Granted, our poor are the richest poor in the world, but they are still here. On the other hand, if you punish people for an action, they will do it less often. This is the basic idea behind jail time and other just punishments for breaking the law. Taxes work in much the same way. The current progressive tax rates take an increasingly larger percentage of your money the more you earn. In effect, government punishes people for being successful. Is it no wonder that people work harder and make more money, and the economy soars, as the top tax rates are dropped? As the taxes are reduced, the government stops punishing those who produce.

Seems pretty common sense, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how many people fail to understand this. The state of Oregon has no sales tax, but Washington, its neighbor to the north, does. The Columbia River separates the city of Vancouver, Washington from the greater Portland area of Oregon. Businesses, especially large-item businesses, are not doing well in Vancouver. They operate at a handicap of over 9% because of sales tax. This means large goods are more expensive in Washington, and it is no wonder that people regularly cross the I-5 bridge into Portland to go shopping. The sales tax in Washington is a disincentive to shoppers. People living in Seattle, on the other hand, don’t have easy access to Portland. So if a family has budgeted $500 for purchases that month, they are only able to buy about $450 worth of actual goods. The extra $50 goes to the government, not to the businesses in the form of extra goods sold, or to the family as $50 worth of extra goods purchased for the home.

“But Captain! Government needs money to pay for the services they provide!” At this point, I’m not going to argue over the merit of any government programs. The merit (or lack thereof) of a government program doesn’t change the fact that taxing a good or service effectively discourages purchase of that good or service. Don’t believe me? Whenever the cost of gas goes up, people adjust their lifestyles accordingly. The last time gas broke the $2 per gallon mark, there were news stories about gas stations seeing a drop in sales (duh!), and people making plans to take vacations locally rather than driving long distances (duh!). These aren’t news stories; this is simply a common-sense reaction to rising prices. We saw exactly the same thing during the gas crisis of the late ’70s.

Let’s imagine a state with a flat income tax of 10%, and a nearby state with a flat income tax of 90%. Do you think people would move from the second state to the first just to keep more of their hard-earned money? You bet they would, faster than you could say “1040EZ!” Why? Because people want to keep more of their own money. So what happens when the entire nation adopts a flat tax of 90%? Some people will doubtless leave the country. But since not every American wants to leave the U.S., people will stop working so hard. Why should these hard-working people bust their butts every week just to see the government scrape 90 cents off every dollar they make? Oh, sure, some people will still make millions even with an income tax rate in the 90s, but a high tax rate does tend to suppress the natural incentive to work hard. Or if it doesn’t suppress the desire to work hard, it certainly inspires people to hide their money from the government as best they can through tax loopholes and shelters.

When taxes are high, lobbyists put greater pressure on the government to create special loopholes for their rich clients. But when tax rates are low, people don’t feel the need to hide their money as much. Why should they spend the time and money hiring tax lawyers and professionals to shelter their money when the rates are low? Each time the tax rates have dropped, the end result is an increase in government tax revenue.

This whole discussion of taxes can be confusing since people use the terms “tax cut” and “tax rate cut” interchangeably. In most of this comment I have been talking about a tax rate cut. This is what President Reagan did when he proposed dropping the top rate from 70% down to the 20s. When a tax rate is lowered, the actual amount of taxes received by the government goes up. This seems counterintuitive, but it has worked every time it has been tried. When the government lowers tax rates, this repressive weight is lifted, and the people are rewarded better for their work. Since people can keep more of what they make, they will be more inclined to work harder and increase their incomes. The government may be taking a smaller percentage of the economic pie, but since the overall pie has grown, the government’s slice is bigger than before. Additionally, the government will get more taxes from people who don’t mind paying a smaller percentage of their overall income. When the tax rates are low, you won’t hear radio ads like the one I heard this morning while driving to work. A tax preparation company claimed to reduce income tax as low as possible, and it signed off with the jingle, “When you care enough not to send your very best.” Can you imagine a world where it wouldn’t be necessary to hire people to do your taxes, and there were not entire industries centered around trying to pay the government as little as legally possible? Imagine what could be done if all these efforts could be harnessed to create something useful!

I find it ironic that the United States has a progressive tax similar to that recommended in the Communist Manifesto, and the former Soviet Union has adopted Steve Forbes’ flat tax.