Rod Dreher notes a John O’Sullivan column from two years ago, when The Passion first came out, making a point similar to the one I made in response to Jimmy Akin’s complaints about the “nuanced,” sympathetic Pilate and allegedly uncomplicated and unsympathetic Caiaphas.  O’Sullivan also adds this important point about how moderns’ own preoccupations and prejudices (shocking, I know) shape their viewing of the film:

Yet there is also a less admirable reason why the modern world finds Pilate sympathetic. He is the patron saint of doubt and thus attractive to an age that regards doubt itself as a virtue—or at least as a mark of sophistication in the face of certainties with which we happen to disagree, whether they are the certainties of the religious right, or of fundamentalist Moslems, or of political ideologies. Many intellectuals, academics and (generally liberal) politicians have come to see doubt in these modestly heroic terms.

The secular moderns, for whom “faith is the path of least resistance” (from Woody Allen’s Match Point), or the Christians of the Obama/Sullivan school, for whom doubt is the key to faith, see Gibson’s portrayal of Pilate as sympathetic because they are sympathetic to someone who does not know what truth is (and perhaps are not interesting in finding out!).  I will say more.  They find the depiction of Caiaphas and the other chief priests offensive and, therefore, probably anti-Semitic (what else could it be?) because they abhor religious certainty and the religious persecution that sometimes accompanies it, and so they assume that Gibson must especially hate Caiaphas and all his kind because they find themselves hating these characters when he shows them violently affirming their religious convictions.  They know that they are not really allowed to feel hatred for these characters, so it must be Gibson’s anti-Semitic visual trickery that has made them do it.  A stretch?  Maybe, but no more preposterous than the idea that telling the Passion story in all its essentials with few significant additions is either a subtle or overt attack on all Jews.  The movie does make one claim that, in certain circles, is truly unforgiveable: that Jesus truly was, and is, God and the Christ promised of old to Israel.  That is very simply the foundation of the Christian Faith, and it is this that really offends those who become so exercised about the alleged anti-Semitism in the film, because that claim carries with it certain negative implications about the claims of every other religion.  I think what a lot of the critics really hate about the movie, but which they are not foolish enough to say out loud, is not that it supposedly portrays Jewish characters in classically anti-Semitic ways (I remain entirely unconvinced on this score), but that it portrays the Gospel as true.  

Faced with this, like Pilate, many modern men feel uneasy and are obliged to find some excuse to wash their hands of the matter and put the burden of his discomfort on someone else under whatever pretext they can find.  Like Pilate, they ask, Quid est veritas?, and, when offered an answer, cannot stand  to hear it.