Questions on Christian Anti-Semitism
by Lewis Loflin
Since the Holocaust of the 1930s-40s anti-Semitism in all its forms is a sensitive topic. Often many of those hostile to Christianity have claimed Christianity is to blame while many Christians blame it on humanism. The answer is both.
There is more to anti-Semitism then just religion. Other social and political factors play into the mix of hatred of Jews and these attacks are often an indication of serious problems and upheavals in western culture. In the case of Jews, anti-Semitism often takes on irrational tones be it religious superstition or secular conspiracy theories, or both.
Our focus here is Christianity. I'm neither a Christian nor a Jew but a freethinker with some ideas I accept and reject from both Judaism and Christianity. Thus I'm neutral in that respect. I spend a lot of time debunking conspiracy theories and Jews must be the favorite targets of the deluded and asinine. The claims against Jews, be it poisoning wells or mass conspiracy theories, are utter nonsense. Every claim sent to me over the years by various Jew bashers has proven false or unprovable nonsense bordering on insanity. So let's explore Christian anti-Semitism real and imagined. The central problem for Christians is simple: If Judaism is right, than Christianity must be wrong. It's more than who killed Jesus. See Did Jews Kill Jesus Christ?
What is anti-Semitism?
A Christian definition that attempts to distance Christianity:
Antisemitism is a form of racism. It is hatred of Jews as a race of people. Jews are defined by both race and religion. People who do not practice the religion of Judaism may still regard themselves as Jews by descent. And Antisemitism, certainly the Nazi variety, concentrated on descent. Jews who had abandoned Judaism were still likely to face discrimination, arrest, and even death, and many did.
But if anti-Semitism is secular and occurred after the Age of Reason, then Christian anti-Judaism played hand-in-hand with Nazis in places like Poland and the murder of three million Jews. Catholics were willing to help converts, but often turned their backs on those that wouldn't convert.
But the idea of race or blood predated the 19th century: In Spain anti-Semitism as well as anti-marranism grew alarmingly. The notion arose that hereditary Jewishness or mala sangre (bad blood) was the problem, a problem which not even baptism could alter. Spanish racism, the obsession with pure blood, was born. Similarly, racism was the basis of the Nazis' Nuremberg Laws, barring Jews from public office and denying them German citizenship.
The German political writer Wilhelm Marr coined word Antisemitismus in 1873, at a time when racial science was the rave in Germany, but religious prejudice wasn't. The term replaced the older German word Judenhass, meaning Jew-hating. In The Victory of Judaism over Germanicism (1879), Marr may have advocated secular racist ideas of Arthur de Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of Human Races. (1853) His book was very popular, and he founded the League of Anti-Semites (Antisemiten-Liga), an organization committed specifically to combating the alleged threat to Germany posed by the Jews. They demanded Jews be removed from the country. The 1870s were bad in Germany and much of Europe due to the October 1873 stock market crash. Conspiracy theories abounded.
In 1881 that year Marr published "Zwanglose Antisemitische Hefte," and Wilhelm Scherer used the term "Antisemiten" in the "Neue Freie Presse." (New Free Press) The word semitism was coined around 1885 which didn't Jews as was the term Palestinian to refer to the nation or people known as Jews, as distinct from the religion of Judaism. That is what the term was understood to mean until 1967. Arabs denied the existence of "Palestine" before that time.
Anti-Semitism has always referred to hatred against Jews alone, and not to other people who speak Semitic languages such as Arabs. Some have argued that the term anti-Semitism should be extended to include prejudice against Arabs, since Arabic is a Semitic language but is rejected for its political overtones.
It seems anti-Semitism is an invention of the 19th century but the foundation was Christian anti-Judaism. My definition of a Jew is the same Dr. Gerhard Falk: "There is no Jewish race. We are a religion and culture but we are not a biological subdivision of the human species." Thus those Jews that convert to Christian groups such as Jews for Jesus or renounce their faith for atheism are not Jews in my book. There seems to be a sizable number of self-hating Leftist Jews that are Jews in name only.
Is religious bigotry anti-Semitism?
While some today consider any criticism of Jews on any subject as anti-Semitism, how do we separate what is just religious bigotry from anti-Semitism? At what point does religion get associated with race?
Can we call the Inquisition anti-Semitism? This blot on Christianity terrorized Muslims as well as Jews and was just as happy burning Christian heretics at the stake. In 1481, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of Spain who financed Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World just a few years later in 1492, declared the Spanish Inquisition. All Jews (and Muslims) in their territory were compelled to convert to Christianity or flee the country.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) founded a new Christian faith, Protestantism, in the 16th century. He had been an ordained priest, but disputed Church policy with respect to the sale of indulgences (a partial remission of the punishment for a sin). Once a supporter of the Jews, he was frustrated by their unwillingness to embrace his own religion.
Luther's violent tirades came after most Jews refused to convert, but his rages weren't directed at just Jews but all forms of religious dissent. He was directly involved in the death of 100,000 Anabaptists and advocated the murder of heretics such as the Unitarians. John Calvin, the other leading Protestant figure of that era, was just as bad as Luther. But Luther's negative writings on Jews would be the bread and butter of later anti-Semitism, in particular non-Christian Nazism.
While Luther was a primitive superstitious brute, he never thought of Jews in racial terms as we know it. His ranting on the Anabaptists have been forgotten but those on Jews influenced German Protestantism and the Nazis.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the U.S., has rejected suggestions that it stop seeking to convert Jews, a position some call anti-Semitic. The SBC (as do most Evangelicals) see this as consistent with their view that salvation is found solely though faith in Christ.
By contrast, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Canada and the Roman Catholic Church have ended their efforts to convert Jews. Most Jews see evangelism directed specifically at Jews as anti-Semitic. At the same time, some more liberal churches are among the most anti-Israel which some claim is a cover for anti-Semitism.
But things have changed at the Presbyterian Church (USA). This declining liberal mainline church might be falling apart over issues such as homosexuality, but has time to waste attacking Israel by divestment of the church's $7 billion portfolio from multi-national companies conducting business with Israel. This is due mainly to Leftist antisemitism (hatred of Israel in particular) which infects many liberal churches. And while ignoring the multitudes of "unchurched" across the nation, decides to operate controversial Messianic congregation outside of Philadelphia. This is another form of "Jews for Jesus" fraud to target Jews for conversion.
Would being anti-Israel (anti-Zionism) be the same as anti-Semitism? Most of the anti-Israel crowd does include cults such as Christian Identity which is also racist and not orthodox Christian to begin with. We also have the Left for the most part strongly anti-Israel where the "rights" of the so-called "Palestinians" (Arabs) have taken on an air of religious obsession. (Often a cover for larger political agenda.)
It seems to me anti-Semitism was a product of the 19th century, but the foundations were laid with Christian anti-Judaism. As Europe became much more secular following the Age of Enlightenment, irrational Christian dogma became replaced with pseudo-science and irrational conspiracy theories. We should note at this point the Enlightenment produced different reactions in different societies.
Christian "Self Defence"
When Jews resist conversion to Christianity, too often the reaction is that of Martin Luther. We also have to consider another fact that Jews unlike pagans and heretics were allowed to survive by Christians while all others were slaughtered. The Jews could have easily gone the way of the Arians, Gnostics, Ebionites, etc. Just another extinct belief system we read about in the history books.
But seeking converts is what Christians do to everyone. They prey on non-Christians and they prey on each other all the time. No matter how twisted they are in their thinking, they really think they are doing the rest of us a favor. But why is a religion based on claims of God's so-called "love" of humanity that further claims that same God sent His "only begotten Son" to die a horrible death on a cross for the sake people that so often disobey the very teachings of that Son? How can they justify violence when they fail to convince others to follow?
Christianity claims that all people must know God as revealed only through Jesus Christ. That's the only way one can avoid damnation and obtain life in Heaven. After Christianity merged with the Roman Empire, Jesus took second place to the Church. The secular state became a new instrument of judgment (and punishment) outside God. They further argued that those who take away the possibility of eternal life should be prevented by all means including force and terror.
Because of this, no public displays of any non-Christian religion were allowed, and proselytizing to convert people away from Christianity was also forbidden, because this threatened the power and authority of the Church. In the end all thinking of any kind was forbidden or limited to the clergy. Not only did this apply to other faiths and heretics, but any science or philosophy that threatened the Church. Millions of books went up in flames and even owning or reading a Bible at times was outlawed. Salvation wasn't through Christ so much as through the institution of the Church itself, Christ' earthly representative.
The Early Church
Pauline Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) is mainly what survives today. Most of what survives as Judaism is Rabbinic Judaism descended from the Pharisees. But by the second century C.E., both Judaism and Christianity were trying to distinguish themselves from the other in the eyes of Rome and define themselves as well. There in fact were several Christian churches and two broad forms of Judaism: Hellenistic Judaism (the vast majority in the Roman Empire that didn't revolt) and the Pharisees that survived from the Jewish revolts.
Judaism had attained legal status in the Roman world as a religion and did not want Christianity, with its loyalty to a King other than Caesar to be associated with it. The now largely Gentile church also wanted to obtain the same legal status in the eyes of Rome so that it would not be identified with the Jewish rebels who had revolted under Bar Kochba. (135 CE?) It was clear to Rome that Christianity wasn't a sect of Judaism, thus was no longer under the protective legal status of Judaism.
With the establishment of Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century, the Church soon began to attack Judaism. The new "Christian" empire began to enact legal changes such as:
The Justinian Code was an edict of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-564). A section of the code negated civil rights for Jews. Once the code was enforced, Jews in the Empire could not build synagogues, read the Bible in Hebrew, gather in public places, celebrate Passover before Easter, or give evidence in a judicial case in which a Christian was a party. Other decrees by the early Catholic Church: (partial list)
It's ironic that these codes would be adapted later on by Islam and used against both Christians and Jews. This would also be adapted by the Nazis as well.
The above also presents some troubling questions. If Jews did nothing but revolt as in the case in 66-70 AD and bar Kochma, why did the Roman state give Judaism legal status? This would be like the United States giving legal status to communists in the 1950s. One problem is the Gospel accounts focus on a very narrow area, Israel. We hear about Egypt, various foreign powers, and Paul's adventures in Greece, etc. in passing, but nearly all of the focus is on Israel.
What the typical Christian with their nose stuck in the Bible fails to understand is Christianity was based on the Hellenist Paul and a Greek convert (Gnostic) named John. Christianity was a product of the Greek world interpreted by Gentile church fathers. The various creeds, dogma, etc. would be decided elsewhere often hundreds of years later. All of the New Testament books were in Greek and Philo of Alexandria, another Hellenist, combined Greek philosophy with Judaism and was a huge influence on the Church Fathers.
So why would Justinian and others come up with laws to forbid Jewish missionary work or to keep Christians away from Jews? Open Judaism is a threat to both Christians and even Orthodox Jews. Jews as a minority would tend a to assimilate while exposure to Judaism raises critical questions for Christianity. The reality would be a larger but different form of Judaism neither Christian or Jewish as we know it and in fact was the reality before being wiped out. We call it heresy which the penalty under the Christian church was death.
The fact is that many early Christians, pagans and Jews lived together in peace and conversions went both ways. While the Christian Bible focuses only on the events in Judea and Paul's missionary works in several Greek cities, a second Judaism at odds with the Rabbis and Christians made up the vast numbers of Jews/Christians of the Roman Empire. To quote Adolph Harnack, History of Dogma, Volume One, (p 107-8)
...there was a Judaism in the Diaspora, for the consciousness of which the cultus and ceremonial law were of comparatively subordinate importance; while the monotheistic worship of God, apart from images, the doctrines of virtue and belief in a future reward beyond the grave, stood in the foreground as its really essential marks.
These Hellenistic Jews transformed what was a national or tribal god into a universal god for all people. Just as many Jews and Gentiles intermarry in America today and exchange ideas, the same thing happened in the past; both Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism alike attacked it. Rabbis sought to insulate themselves from outsiders while Christians struggled to gain converts from Jews of various kinds (rejected by the rabbis and declared heretics by Christians) who were also gaining converts. Both wanted an end to Jewish missionary work which is why the laws were passed. Both felt anything outside their control was a one-way ticket to damnation. The Apostle Paul was one of these Hellenistic Jews of the Diaspora.
Both religions as did later Islam sought to force people apart and to isolate and control their followers. All three faiths can be very cult-like and when in political power become dangerous. Jews would force others out, Christian and Muslims force others to convert. The result was always tyranny, paranoia, and a rejection of reason.
But Christianity was in a bind. If the Jews were wiped out, their promises of a second coming which involved Jews would fall apart. But Jews were also a threat because if Judaism was right and thinking Christians looked too closely, Christian dogma would be threatened. So the suggestion of the Paulist Saint Augustine would be followed:
"the Church admits and avows the Jewish people to be cursed, because after killing Christ they continue to till the ground of an earthly circumcision, an earthly Sabbath, an earthly Passover, while the hidden strength or virtue of making known Christ, which this tilling contains, is not yielded to the Jews while they continue in impiety and unbelief, for it is revealed in the New Testament. While they will not turn to God, the veil which is on their minds in reading the Old Testament is not taken away... the Jewish people, like Cain, continue tilling the ground, in the carnal observance of the law, which does not yield to them its strength, because they do not perceive in it the grace of Christ"
Jews would be marginalized, isolated and persecuted, but allowed to live only in misery. This evil was justified by claims of deicide or killing God.
Who killed Jesus?
How does one kill God? An even better question, if this was preordained by God that Jesus was to die on the cross, were not those that carried out the act in fact operating in God's behalf? Is God responsible? Why would Pilot, a man known for cruelty who represented the most powerful world empire of that time, allow himself to be pushed around by a bunch of Jews he could order slaughtered with a single word. These questions should be troubling to Christians.
We have to look to the Gospel accounts which are also unclear and a religion where it's demanded of followers not to question and even asking a question today brings charges of "secular." It's hard to reason with those that reject reason.
It's obvious the Romans killed Jesus. Crucifixion is a Roman punishment for rebellion as where stoning is the method used by Jews. During Jesus' lifetime, the Sadducees were the dominant Jewish faction and operated the Temple often as Roman puppets. At the time of his execution, the Sadducees were just one of several Jewish groups such as the Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes.
While the Pharisees came to represent Judaism as a whole after about 500 CE, Christianity came to seek, and attract, more non-Jewish converts than Jewish converts after the 1st century. Within a hundred years or so the majority of Christians were non-Jews without any significant knowledge of Judaism.
Moreover, it was only during the rabbinic era that Christianity would compete exclusively with Pharisee Judaism (along with heretic Jews and Christian Gnostics) for converts and over how to interpret the Hebrew Bible. Some scholars have argued that some passages of the Gospels were written (or re-written) at this time to emphasize conflict with the Pharisees.
Some suggest that the Greek word Ioudaioi could also be translated "Judeans", meaning in some cases specifically the Jews from Judea, as opposed to people from Galilee, Samaria or the vast majority in the Diaspora. In a few Christian denominations have begun to teach that readers should understand the New Testament's attacks on Jews as specific charges aimed at certain Jewish leaders of that time, and upon attitudes.
The New Anti-Semitism
The November 3, 2003 issue of US News refers to "anti-Zionism" as the 20th-century version of anti-Semitism. Conspiracy theories abound with Israel as the target and anyone with a Jewish sounding name is singled out. But this isn't the Religious Right, it's the so-called "progressives" on the left. Some quotes from Michael Rubin, National Review Online May 19, 2004:
What is new, however, is the infection of mainstream discourse with anti-Semitic references. The Bush administration is perhaps the most diverse in American history. There are blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians. There are Christians, Jews, and Muslims...rather than applaud its diversity, many self-described progressives seek to attack the administration by targeting its officials on the basis of color and sectarian belief...The grand old dame of the liberal and progressive community The Nation began the downward spiral in... September 2, 2002...
The article used "anonymous" sources to claim some mass conspiracy involving the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and how Likud controls President Bush. One anonymous intelligence officer was former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang a registered agent of a foreign government. Karen Kwiatkowski, another former Pentagon whatever, is another conspiracy theorist claiming a "neo-conservative coup" in the Pentagon that strives to build a "greater Zion."
By publishing anonymous sources, The Nation legitimized a conspiracy theory that was picked up by other fringe nut-cases in short order. Louis Farrakhan subsequently adopted the theme. "All of the agenda of the neo-conservatives was to bring President Bush in line with Israel and use the power of the American military to destroy the real and perceived enemies of Israel," said Farrakhan on May 3, 2004. Pat Buchanan has pursued the same theme.
The troubling ease of questioning Jewish officials' motivations has infiltrated the leftist academic community as well. University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole has accused several Bush administration employees of having "strong ties to the Likud." (April 16, 2004 Salon.com) Others equated neoconservatism with fundamentalism, equating religious terminology with political belief. It seems using Jewish conspiracy theories to attack Bush and the Religious Right has become a fad for the Left and plentiful fodder for anti-Semites and racists like Farrakhan and Pat Buchanan. The accusations of dual loyalty have even crept into debates between the Defense and State Departments.
The crushing re-election victory of G.W. Bush in the 2004 election stands in stark contrast to the Jewish votes he received at only 25 percent. Yet the Bush Whitehouse according to conspiracy theorists is under the control of Jews, aka neoconservatives or neocons.
To this Rush Limbaugh denounced,
"these media people speaking in their own code language. A case in point is their use of the term 'neoconservative.' Whether they choose to hyphenate the label or not, it's a pejorative code word for 'Jews.' That's right. They use it as a way to say guys like Bill Kristol, Irving Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhoretz, John Podhoretz and others are just trying to support Israel at the USA's expense."Anti-Semites Use the "Neo-Con" Code Word, Rushlimbaugh.com, April 22, 2003
Rush Limbaugh is accused of being a front man for Jews/neo-con as is Bill Bennett, Frank Gaffney, Ed Feulner, Michael Novak, George Weigel, James Nuechterlein, and Cal Thomas. Cal Thomas?? Cal is a conservative Christian not known for selling-out his beliefs and believes in Israel for Christian reasons.
This neo-con conspiracy nonsense is the product of the antiwar and anti-American left. Also, never mind those neo-conservatives are over-ruled by business conservatives that place money over morals on issues such as the Communist China slave sate or terrorist states that attack Israel (and America) such as Saudi Arabia. There is no vast neocon/Christian Right plot to rule the world for Israel. The Left has lost the war of ideas and is looking for excuses why. Like other losers, when in doubt, blame the Jews.
This reveals a troubling pattern in western society in general. Whenever there's considerable social and economic change or upheaval, anti-Semitism of often the first indicator. The Muslim world has learned much from the West.
Today Jews find support in particular in relation to Israel from most conservative Christians and most mainstream Americans. Yes, Judaism has suffered at the hands of Christians, but so have many others. (Christians and Jews have suffered under secular and Muslim terror.) Some Christian colleges seek Jewish students while many Jews are denied entrance to other colleges because of leftist racism in the form of affirmative action programs favoring non-whites.
Anti-Semitism is claimed to be widespread within the Religious Right regardless of their support of Israel by leftist Jews that reject Judaism as a religion. "Liberal" is sometimes a term for Jew by some fundamentalist' Christians while some Liberal Jews want to do away with Judaism as a religion, reducing it to a culture.
Judaism is not a race and the Jewish identity must be tied to the Jewish faith. A Messianic Jew is not a Jew, but a Christian because they believe in Gnostic Christ and an atheist born of two Jewish parents is just an atheist, not a Jew.
The question is, will Jews once again be the target of irrational people in another culture war? What about Leftist Jews (often called self-hating Jews by some) having to deal with anti-Semitism on the left they treasure so much? Below I present a cross section of material below on the above discussion. I leave the question open.
Religion and History
More Things to Ponder
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