Would a Martian grant Diane Sawyer an interview?

Imagine the better sense of goodwill that might now extend to The Passion of the Christ if Mel Gibson had talked even two hours per week in recent months with print journalists who know how to ask thoughtful questions. Diane Sawyer did about as well as one might hope for from a TV celebrity who's famous for lobbing softball questions to people who are famous for being famous -- or, in the case of Gibson, asking skeptical but poorly formed questions in an effort at being a tough interviewer. For instance, confronting Gibson's famous remark that the Holy Spirit was really in charge during filming of The Passion, Sawyer asked, "Do you believe God wrote this film?" Did she really expect Gibson to offer an unqualified Yes? Coming from an interviewer who makes facile distinctions between gullible literalists and learned nonliteralists, this sort of literalism is breathtaking.

Similarly, her question of whether Gibson believes every word of the Bible literally -- to which Gibson did offer a surprising Yes -- reveals a poor understanding of the abilities that most laity bring to Bible study. It's on the order of asking What was the Prodigal Son's family name? or Why did Paul want his opponents to castrate themselves?

Sawyer did coax Gibson to say that his left hand is shown holding a nail in place before it's hammered into Jesus' hand. And she gave him some credit for making changes suggested by actress Maia Morgenstern, whose grandfather perished at Auschwitz. (Passion star Jim Caviezel told Newsweek last week that Gibson solicited advice from Morgenstern throughout filming.)

It should surprise no one that John Dominic Crossan objects to Gibson not depicting Jesus as a political revolutionary -- the only way Crossan can make sense of why Jesus died. Seeing Gibson's amused response to Crossan's advocacy on behalf of a theoretical Martian viewer of the film was worth the price of watching still another Diane Sawyer interview.

In fairness to my fellow journalists in the broadcasting arts, I should mention that Raymond Arroyo of EWTN's The World Over conducted this thoughtful interview {requires RealAudio} with Gibson while he was shooting the film in Italy. The World Over will show another exclusive Arroyo-Gibson interview beginning on Friday.

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