Friday, June 27, 2008
Closer than you think
When the modern movement of evangelizing to the Jews began, Christians realized that the bloody history of Judeo-Christian relationships presented a problem. Suffering through two millenia of harsh Christian persecution culminating in the devastating Holocaust, whose seeds of hatred were planted by the Church, Christian missionizing evoked a knee-jerk reaction in Jews. Christians realized that in order to get to Jewish souls, they would need to abandon their ancient anti-semtism in favour of support and love for the Jewish people. They figured (erroneously) that the only thing separating Jews from 'the truth of christ' was the hatred and violence that the Church preached against them. In order to counteract this tragic past, Christians eschewed their anti-semtism and declared that those who perpetrated those cruel acts were not 'real Christians'. Christians declared themselves to be Israel's greatest supporters, to love the Jewish people and to whole-heartedly support G-d's chosen. In their zeal for all things Jewish, Christian congregations took Hebrew names, draped themselves in talleisim and began to hold Shabbat morning services. They decorated their homes and churches with Jewish symbols, with menorahs and Israeli flags, all the while reassuring us of their unfailing love for the Jewish people.
For all their philo-semitism, we have been lulled into complacency. In our ever-present desire to be loved and embraced, we have forgotten that we have been down this path before. Christian support and funds does not come free but rather at the cost of the harvest of Jewish souls, of missionizing in the Holy Land, of Messianics defaming Jews on national television, and of Evangelicals exerting pressure on Israeli policies. Conversions to Christianity has reached epidemic proportions with armies of missionaries with billions of dollars at their disposal dedicated to baptizing the Jewish nation. This frenzied attempt to wean us off of our Jewish faith has provoked a very harsh reaction from Jews committed to Judaism. In response, we have seen our 'Christian friends' turn on us quite quickly.
Has this pattern been repeated before? According to the Christian bible, Jesus came originally to the Jews to preach to them his new doctrine of salvation. He travelled through the countryside spreading the 'Good Word' of his coming. Judea in that time was teeming with messianic pretenders and lunatic prophets announcing new divine commands, and the Jews rejected Jesus. Whatever arguments and proofs that he presented of his divinity, the greatest Jewish thinkers of the time refuted him and refused to accept the blasphemous idea that man could be G-d. In his fury at being rejected by his own people to whom he preached based on their own scriptures, Jesus condemned them to destruction. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matthew 23:37-38) Jesus cursed the Jewish people and marked Jerusalem for destruction. The man who taught to turn the other cheek was quick in rebuking those who would not listen to him. When it became apparent to Jesus that the Jews would not receive his message, he began to teach that the Jews had been replaced by G-d and that his message should be directed at the Gentiles (Acts 13:45-51). So much evil was directed at the Jews because of this misguided belief that the Church replaced them as G-d's chosen.
This same story was repeated numerous times. When Martin Luther began his Reformation against the Catholic Church, he originally condemned anti-semtism in the hopes that the Jews would join his new sect. For decades he lovingly and patiently reached out to the Jewish people in his area with the Gospel. In 1523, Luther accused Catholics of being unfair to Jews in treating them “as if they were dogs”. Luther was outraged and declared that such mistreatment made it even more difficult for Jews to convert to christ. Luther wrote: “I would request and advise that one deal gently with the Jews … if we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them, not by Papal Law, but by the Law of Christian love. We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, hear our Christian teaching and witness our Christian life. If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either”. After 15 years of refusal to join the Reformation and forsake their faith, Luther lost his patience. He wrote a pamphlet, 'On the Jews and their Lies' in which he recommended an eight-step plan to deal with the Jewish Problem.
"First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. ..."
"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ..."
"Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ..."
"Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ..."
"Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ..."
"Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. ... Such money should now be used in ... the following [way]... Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]..."
"Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow... For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."
"If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews' blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country" and "we must drive them out like mad dogs." So hateful was Martin Luther, it can be said that he was the first to conceive of the Final Solution. The Nazis distributed his works to justify their anti-semtism. On the night of Martin Luther's birthday, November 9-10, 1938, 191 synagogues throughout Germany were set on fire, and 76 were completely destroyed; 815 Jewish-owned shops were demolished, 29 warehouses and 171 homes were set on fire or likewise destroyed. On that night, which has become infamously known as Kristallnacht ("Night of the Broken Glass"), more than 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps, and 36 Jews were murdered. German Protestants claimed that the attack in honour of his birthday.
We are repeating history. When Christians realize that despite all of their support and money, we are not rushing to the altar and the cross, they will turn on us. For all their talk of 'loving us unconditionally', they will turn, and fiercely. Witness the anti-semitic rhetoric spewing from Pat Robertson's mouth in response to the attack on an Ariel pastor's son by an unknown assailant. Christian support for Israel is but another tactic in the millenia long struggle to get the Jews to accept Christianity. Little do they know that deep theological reasons prevent us from becoming Christians, and not just anti-semitism. Their philo-semitic policies will change quickly and there will be no more 'Christian United for Israel' rallies. Just like Martin Luther and the Christian god himself, Christians will soon be turned off from helping Jews when their missionary efforts are to no avail. While many Christians may be genuine and sincere in their support, it is important to know that love of the Jews and vicious anti-semtism are more closely related than we realize.