Monday, December 20, 2010

dumb question

Seen on Instapundit:

CLAYTON CRAMER ASKS: Why do Jews think Christians are anti-semitic?

Gee... could it be the centuries of antisemitism? Just a thought.

Sure, I'm being a bit flippant. Cramer's question probably has more to do with modern Jewish perceptions of modern Christians. Most contemporary mainline Christians-- Protestant, Catholic, and otherwise-- would likely be horrified at being labeled antisemitic. But part of the Jewish perception likely stems from Christians' continued embrace of their own scripture, which lends itself easily to supersessionist thinking and anti-Jewish polemic.

While many modern Christians are at pains to avoid both of those avenues, the scriptures themselves make this difficult. The gospel of John is probably the easiest example to cite in this regard. Written several decades after the three "synoptic" gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with Mark likely being the first written), John offers a high-christological view of Jesus* and reads as a polemic against hoi ioudaioi, which is literally "the Jews," though the phrase more likely refers to a particular set of Jews unwilling to accept Jesus as lord and messiah.

Factor in the fact that Jews have a long-standing tradition of remembrance to go along with their unpleasant history with Christianity, and it's easy to see why the Jewish attitude toward Christians is often characterized by-- to put it mildly-- circumspection.

No doubt there are misperceptions on both sides. Jews who see all Christians as potential Hitlers are certainly in the wrong, as are Christians who believe, defensively, that all Jews see Christians as antisemitic. That said, I think Clayton Cramer's question has an easy answer, and need not have been asked.

UPDATE: Perhaps the dumb question comes from Glenn Reynolds himself. I just read Clayton Cramer's post twice, and don't quite see how it could be about specifically Jewish perceptions of Christians. If anything, the post seems to make a general accusation against lefties who view any display of Christian symbols at Christmastime as antisemitic. Then again, Cramer himself doesn't exactly warm my heart when he writes, in his own update:

UPDATE: There are a number of interesting comments on this (even more so since Instapundit linked to it), of which this is perhaps the most disturbing:

There is this datum from a poll: 'some 60 percent of religiously conservative white Protestants in the United States, polled in 1987, agreed: "The Jews can never be forgiven for what they did to Jesus until they accept him as the true savior."' Quoted in John Weiss, Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany (Ivan R. Dee Publishing, 1996).

I see this and I am just amazed. I've attended religiously conservative overwhelmingly white Protestant churches since 1979. If anyone that I have ever attended church with this believed something this odd, then they had the good sense not to say it.

The good sense not to show their bigotry? While I applaud the invocation of good taste, this is not a very reassuring sentiment. It's a bit like saying, "Hey, if you're gonna be a bigot, at least keep it to yourself." Quiet bigotry is, by this standard, tolerable. But it's a false tolerance, since the goal seems to be to keep the bigotry hidden, thus leaving others no choice as to whether to be tolerant of bigotry or not.

*Christology refers to theological views of Christ's role and significance. A low (or "low, ascending") christology emphasizes Jesus' humanity. A high (or "high, descending") christology emphasizes Jesus' christic divinity. Contrast the low-christological moment of Jesus' death on the cross in Mark (in which Jesus' final utterance is a scream) with the high-christological moment in John (in which Jesus proclaims, as a god might, "It is accomplished" before dying). Elements of low and high christology can be found in all the gospels, but overall emphases vary.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mainline Christianity is politically anti-semetic by my experience. Whenever I read The Lutheran, the monthly publication of the ELCA, I am struck by the constant and obvious sympathy with the Palestinians, regardless of circumstances. It is not said, but the subtext is always one of Jewish persecution of Palestinians, with no acknowledgement of the Palestinian violence to Jews. From what else I have seen, the other mainline Protestant churches follow the same track. It is probably because the are liberal-leaning to outright liberal in politics, since the more fundamentalist churches seem to be pro-Israel.