However one assesses Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the film has drawn attention to the death of Jesus in a way that preachers and teachers, who annually labor to place Good Friday before their people, can only envy. One could scarcely have imagined that the crucifixion would become a topic for movie reviewers and talk show hosts.
Gerard Sloyan’s book comes as a welcome resource for reflecting on some of the difficult questions surrounding the Gibson film. This slim volume excerpts three chapters from Sloyan’s The Crucifixion of Jesus: History, Myth, Faith (1995); the first addresses historical questions about the crucifixion, the second the interpretation of Jesus’ death as redemptive and the third the lodging of blame for Jesus’ death on the Jews.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).