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Interview with Marvin Hier, Ted Haggard

Aired June 30, 2003 - 19:34   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A big star, a well known topic and heated controversy. Mel Gibson's $25 million movie "The Passion" is supposed to depict the last 12 hours of the life of Christ. Gibson, an academy award winning director, says his personal faith led him to make this movie. But some religious groups say the films message will fuel anti-Semitism. Some religious leaders have seen "The Passion" others have not.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, is founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He joins now from L.A. And Pastor Ted Haggard is pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. And president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the largest evangelical group in the U.S.

Both of you, appreciate you joining us.

Rabbi, let me start with you.

What is your objection so what you know about this film?

RABBI MARVIN HIER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Well, my objection, first of all, is the sources. In an interview with the "Wall Street Journal", Mel Gibson said his three principle sources were the New Testament and two 18th century nuns, Mary of Agreta (ph), and Catherine Hererui (ph). Mary of Agreta, subscribed collective guilt to all Jews in her writings. Catherine Hemerui believes that Jews, right into the 18th century, were strangling Christian children in order to practice their rituals from their blood. That is outright anti-Semitism and to have a script based on those two sources is an area of concern by itself.

On top of that, Mel Gibson has said he doesn't believe in the accomplishments of Vatican II. He belongs to a church that doesn't believe the accomplishments of Vatican II. And Vatican II to Jews is very important because it exonerated Jews from the charge of deside for which millions of Jews have been murdered through the ages.

Let's bring in pastor Haggard.

Pastor Haggard, you heard what the rabbi has to say, your thoughts?

PASTOR TED HAGGARD, NEW LIFE CHURCH: Yes, well, I have seen the movie. And Mel Gibson was here himself and he spoke in our church to a group of about 900 Christian leaders. Then we came to another studio and about 30 of us who are evangelical leaders watched the movie. Now, I didn't know about the other sources, but I do know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the reason Mel Gibson was here is he wanted to know if we thought the movie was consistent with the account in Matthew, Mark, Luke And John. And I can tell you it is a beautiful, wonderful account. It stays very closely to the scripture you tell Mel Gibson is an incredible artist. He's done a wonderful job communicating a great story.

COOPER: What about particularly the issues the rabbi brought up?

Do your response to those particular issues?

HAGGARD: There was nothing...

COOPER: Do you feel this is a form of anti-Semitism?

HAGGARD: Not at all. It communicates the last day of Jesus' live here on the earth. And no different than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do and no different than 350,000 churches across America celebrate Easter. And in the midst of the Easter celebration they have to tell the story of the crucifixion and everything associated with that.

COOPER: And rabbi, I suppose it is the particular story of the crucifixion or interpretation that has you most concerned.

HIER: Absolutely. Nine scholars, four Catholic and five Jewish scholars, have seen the draft of the script and their conclusions were it is a matter of grave concern to all of them. There was not a single dissent among the nine who viewed that script. If he's made changes since then, which is only a couple of weeks ago that will be terrific. That will show the criticism drove the point home.

HAGGARD: Rabbi, the story is the story. Certainly the Jewish people know the importance of embracing history and in making sure that in our generation we don't repeat mistakes of the past. We don't want revisionist history. We don't want the gospel accounts changed. We don't want the historical accounts change. So, this is a beautiful portrayal of what happened in the life of the Lord Jesus.

COOPER: Wait. So Pastor, you think the rabbi is basically trying to rewrite history, is that what you're saying?

HAGGARD: I don't know what we can do with the biblical accounts. We have been reading them for 2,000 years. And they are respected by 2 billion Christians all over the earth. I must say that the rabbi's fears might be ill-founded. There is the Christian groups that love Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and love the Lord Jesus are very, supportive of the state of Israel. We're advocates of civil liberties. We try to be as protective as we can of minorities every opportunity we get. There's not been a history in the last 100 years of any gospel.


COOPER: I want to read a statement now -- I'd like to read a statement now from Mel Gibson. Before you continue, rabbi, I'll read the statement who says "To be certain, neither I nor my film are anti- semitic. Nor do I hate anyone, certainly not the Jews. They are my friends and associates, both in my work and social life."

Rabbi, final thought.

HIER: I'm not saying Mel Gibson is an anti-semite. What I am saying is that four Catholic scholars representing the Catholic bishops, joined five Jewish scholars, unanimously felt there was a great deal of anti-Semitism in the script. Not only Jews, but Catholics as well, who believed after they read that script, that that was the case.

COOPER: Well, this is no doubt not the last we have heard of this. Pastor Ted Haggard and Rabbi Marvin Hier, I appreciate both you've joining us tonight. Thanks very much.


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