Christian Anti-Semitism – Is It Still Relevant? – by Jim
The question of Christian Jew-hatred comes up semi-frequently in discussions about Christianity. The Christian wonders how this topic relates to the conversation about whether or not one should accept Jesus or not. The Christian may acknowledge that the Church did persecute the Jewish people, but does not see why this is pertinent. He may even adopt a wounded attitude: “Geez Louise, we said we’re sorry already. Get over it, willya?” One poster on this thread summed up this attitude by calling the Jew (i.e. the victim of 2,000 years of persecution) that brings up the history of persecution one who stirs up hatred, adding that “[t]he rest of us are moving on.” The Christian sees himself as taking the high road by avoiding the discussion of Christian Jew-hatred, while the Jew that mentions it is hateful. It is too bad that the irony is lost on him and is likely to remain so. But the question is not whether Christian Jew-hatred exists or has existed; the question is why talking about Christian Jew-hatred is relevant to discussions about Jesus. At least a few reasons can be given why this topic is relevant.
Perhaps the most obvious reason that the topic is relevant is that Christians claim that Jesus has greatly improved the moral quality of the lives of millions of people throughout history. One of the ways in which this grandiose claim can be examined is to review the history of the Church. Of course, it is a bloody history. The Church has perpetrated great crimes against the Jewish people. They have evicted them from their homes, creating the wandering Jew. They have burned their works. They have killed them in large numbers. It is reasonable that a Jew—or anybody really—should answer that this does not seem to be much of an improvement in the moral quality of these people’s lives. The faith of these Christians did not keep them from being murderers, oppressors, thieves, or destroyers. Moreover, it is the Jew who carries the scars that serve as proof that belief in Jesus failed to improve millions.
The Christian answer to this is rather Orwellian. All of those people do not count; those were not real Christians. Their history is not the history of the true believers. Etc. But even if the Christian had a good answer, that would not mean that the topic would be irrelevant. Because the Christian claims that Jesus has improved the lives of so many people, it is relevant to examine the history of believers.
It is also relevant because Christians frequently mischaracterize Jews as having a phobia of Jesus. Often this is attributed to spiritual blindness. Also, Christians will make it sound that the rabbis fear that if people really knew about Jesus, then they would turn in large numbers to Jesus, so the rabbis to preserve their power have created a stigma around him. In this context, it is relevant to point out that the Jewish people wish little to do with Jesus because in his name terrible crimes were perpetrated against the Jewish people. The aversion comes not from a fear of losing control but from 2,000 years of Jewish suffering at the hands of the Church. In this case, the Jew is answering a charge from the Christian. Unfortunately, too frequently the Christian attempts to bind the hands of the Jew, telling him that this answer is off limits.
Nevertheless many Christians will argue that because Jew-hatred has been greatly diminished in the past 80 years, it is unfair to bring it up. But the crimes of the Church against the Jewish people continue. The Church still continues to make itself the interpreter of the meaning of the Jewish scriptures. Not only that, it borrows from the rabbis what it can make use of to prop up its theology and castigate the rabbis with whom they disagree. They redefine the Jewish scriptures and the words of its interpreters, a great cultural theft and continue to malign the Jew. Too often, the modern acceptance of the Jew is not motivated from justice or kindness but a grab at legitimacy. That Jesus was a Jew is put forward as a reason to cease oppressing the Jew, yes, but it is not left there. It is also a weapon to show the Jew that Christianity is Jewish, the true Judaism. It is a tool to legitimize Christian interpretation of the Jewish scriptures.
So, one will read that Jesus was a student of Hillel. This makes Jesus a rabbi, a legitimate interpreter of the Jewish religion. And the Christian will praise Hillel as one of the good rabbis, making a pretense to knowledge of the rabbis that they do not actually have. What the Christian does not note is that the Jewish community preserved the words of Hillel. They did not preserve the words of Jesus. He does not notice it, because it does not matter to him. He never cared to read Hillel anyway. Hillel was just a tool to establish the bona fides of Jesus and Christianity. He wants to borrow Hillel’s authority, not learn at his feet.
Christian Jew-hatred may have largely ceased, but Christian aggression against the Jewish people has not. The Christian continues to insist that the Jew hear the Christian. He insists that he understands the Jewish tradition better than the Jew. He knows the Jewish scriptures better than the Jew. He is more Jewish than the Jew.
For these reasons, and perhaps more, Christian persecution of the Jew remains relevant. The Christian cannot claim moral superiority by ignoring the moral failures of the Church. It cannot pretend that the aversion to Jesus is rooted in a fear of the Church and not the bloody history of Jewish suffering in the name of Jesus. Nor can it ignore that, while physical persecution has ceased, Christian aggression against the Jew has continued. Missionary efforts continue. Christians misrepresent the Jewish scriptures and the rabbis. Jew-hatred may have lessened, but Christian aggression has taken another form.
P.S. For more on Orwell Christian talk see here:
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal