Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

I recently received a very disturbing response to an article of mine.  In “The Catholic Church and the Left,” I had argued that in spite of its infiltration of the Church in which I have spent my life, the radically egalitarian notion of “Social Justice” has no foundation in the Gospel of Christ.  Unlike the contemporary leftist, the Christian most certainly does not value equality as an end in itself, for there is nothing in either his Sacred Scriptures—the Old and New Testaments—or his millennia-old tradition that warrants this.

There is, however, ample justification in these sources for his affirmation of charity.  That the Christian has an obligation to help the needy no one would dare deny.  Yet there is all of the difference in the world between, on the one hand, a believer’s fulfilling his obligation to help those of his acquaintances who happen to be worse off in whatever respects from himself and, on the other hand, a person’s coercing others via law in order to realize a distribution of material goods that more closely approximates his ideal of Equality. 

In reply to this position, a Jewish reader charged me with “anti-Semitism” and concluded his brilliant response by telling me to send his regards to my “good friend” Mel Gibson. 

I suppose that, being a Jew, my interlocutor is capable of detecting “anti-Semitism” even when it proves to be impenetrable to the naked eyes of non-Jews.  Being a Christian, then, I am reduced to speculating as to how he discovered these dark feelings lurking in the depths of my subconscious. 

My guess is that it was my use of the term “Old Testament”—“the correct term is the Hebrew Bible,” my reader insists—that disclosed my “anti-Semitism.”  And perhaps my rejection of his account of the reason for the Jubilee recorded in the book of Leviticus could have amplified it further.

Let’s start with the last consideration first. The Jubilee was not designed to promote a condition of “radical equality,” as my critic asserts.  It was designed to render life easier for those living under intolerable burdens.  The idea behind it, in other words, was not to reduce the wealthiest to the level of the poorest or elevate the latter to the level of the former.  The very suggestion that either Christianity or the Judaism from which it grew require their adherents to labor toward insuring that all of the planet’s human inhabitants should have comparable possessions—i.e. radical material equality—is preposterous on its face.

The other reason my critic deems me an “anti-Semite” is dealt with even more easily than its partner.  If one is a Christian, then the Bible does indeed consist of two “testaments,” an old and a new.  If, however, one is a Jew, then, obviously, there is no New Testament and, thus, no “Old Testament.”  That is, this propriety of this term, “Old Testament,” like that of “the Hebrew Bible” and, for that matter, every other term, derives from its context.  To imply otherwise is the height of arrogance, it is true, but it is no less the height of ignorance.

Hopefully, this anti-“anti-Semite” will forgive me for questioning his psychological assessment of a Gentile like myself, but the considerations that inform his verdict no more indict me for “anti-Semitism” than Mel Gibson’s depiction of the Passion of his Lord condemns him for the same. Yet maybe this is the point.

Perhaps my Jewish detractor thinks that I am guilty of “anti-Semitism” for exactly the kind of reason that Gibson is guilty of it.  I take no satisfaction in having come to this conclusion, but the hysteria with which I am charged with “anti-Semitism,” like that with which Gibson’s production of The Passion of the Christ was met, makes it all but impossible to circumvent: the “anti-Semite,” according to the Jewish anti-“anti-Semite,” is, simply, a Christian. 

To put this another way, since those Jews most prone to hurling it around invariably aim exclusively at Christians, the charge of “anti-Semitism” is really nothing more or less than a smoke screen designed to achieve two objectives.  First, because it has acquired in contemporary American society the power to wreck unimaginable havoc upon people’s reputations and livelihoods, the term “anti-Semitism” is wielded to intimidate and silence.  Second, and less obviously, it conceals the anti-Christian animus of those disposed to avail themselves of it.

Gibson’s Passion is a faithful adaptation of the Biblical narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  When I refer to “the Old Testament,” I employ the same term of reference that has been used by Christians from the earliest Christian centuries until the present day.  If we are “anti-Semites” for these reasons, then the whole of Christianity, from the New Testament on, is inherently “anti-Semitic.” 

I recognize that most people—and no one more so than the anti-“anti-Semite”—is willing to think through the irony of a Christian being accused of “anti-Semitism,” but ironic it is, for as a friend mine once told his Jewish girlfriend’s family, “You may be Jews but I’m a Super Jew!”  Or, as I told my Jewish critic, it makes as much sense to accuse a Christian of being hostile toward Jews as it makes sense to accuse, say, Louis Farrakhan of being hostile toward blacks.  If Louis Farrakhan or his disciples in The Nation of Islam really were hostile toward blacks, they would not conceive God as a black man.  Similarly, since it is Christians, and Christians alone, who identify the God of all creation as a Jewish man—since it is Christians alone who worship a Jew—it is ludicrous to characterize them as hostile to Jews.

Not only aren’t Christians hostile toward Jews; they really can’t even be said to oppose Judaism.  By their lights, Christians are Jews, “perfected” or, as my friend said, “super” Jews, if you will, but Jews all the same.  Christians don’t engage in the same rituals that many Jews do, but that is only because they believe that the advent of Christ rendered them obsolete. 

In stark contrast, Jews do oppose or reject Christianity.  Now, this in itself is fine, but the Jewish anti-“anti-Semite” rejects Christianity not just because he views it as a corruption of his religion, not just because he regards it as false, but because he regards it as a threat.  He regarded it as a threat when Christianity first began to achieve a distinctive identity as a Jewish sect during the first century—this is what lead him to wage a campaign to stamp out “the cult” of Christ by the most brutal of means before it would grow—and he apparently continues to view it as a threat to be neutralized.

What I wish for readers, both Jews and, especially, Christians, to recognize, is that in his quest to marginalize and, eventually, relegate Christianity to the dustbin of history, today’s anti-Christian bigot has set aside the violence and torture of his ancestors in favor of the pejorative “anti-Semitism.”

And what’s sad is that this one little phrase has the potential to do more damage than all of the weaponry of yesteryear.       

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

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