Historically, anti-Semitism comes in two varieties. The first one boils down to simple xenophobia, where you don’t like “those people” because they’re different from you, and living by different rules within your culture. If you’re one of those anti-Semites, then I have nothing to say to you that’s any different than what I’d say to any other xenophobe…and it’s not pretty.
The second variety, the one I find most horrifying, and the one I’d like to address today is Christian anti-Semitism. That’s right…anti-Semitism as practiced by Christians…people who have no business being anti-Semitic, or anti-anyone, at all.
Historically, Christian anti-Semitism boils down to “getting the Jews back for what they did to Jesus.” But let’s take a careful look at the situation here.
I first heard the old “the Jews killed Christ” thing when I was about 11 years old. It was mentioned briefly in the classic British movie Hand in Hand, about a Jewish girl and a Catholic boy who were best friends. When I heard this, I thought it was the stupidest…and most obvious…thing in the world. Of course, the Jews killed Jesus! He lived in Israel. Who else was there? That was like saying the Americans killed Kennedy.
It took me a few years to see things a little differently.
I was about 13 or 14 when Jesus Christ Superstar came out, and then I understood that it was the Jewish leaders, and not the masses, who had it in for Jesus, and who turned him over to the occupying Romans (remember that part, it’ll be on the quiz). So right there, blaming all the Jews for the actions of the leaders seemed a little much.
But as you listen to the lyrics more closely, you’ll find out that he was turned over to the Roman authorities because as someone who didn’t deny that he was a king, he was a threat to Roman power, and a threat that would cause the Romans to come down hard on the rest of the Jewish population of Palestine. Can you say “Masada”?
Years after that, I learned something else very important…crucifixion was a Roman form of execution, not a Jewish one. And it was a Roman form of execution usually used on political prisoners (remember what I said before about Jesus being a threat to Roman power?). There was a particularly Jewish form of execution…it was stoning. This wasn’t used on Jesus, but it was used on St Stephen according to Acts 7 by the Jewish leaders (and again, not the masses), for the crime of blasphemy.
So now that we’ve covered history, let’s talk about a little theology. According to standard Christian theology, and especially things that Jesus said himself, he had to be turned over to the Romans and executed…as a sacrifice for our sins, following the example of the bull sacrificed in the temple at Yom Kippur…and was intended to be the final sacrifice for all. Did you catch that…his death was necessary in order to atone for our sins, and then to be raised again. Necessary, I say. So with that in mind, who is there to “blame”? If none of the parties had played their part in the events leading up to his crucifixion…Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod…where would we be now a Christians?
So with that in mind, anti-Semitism as a form of “getting the Jews back for what they did to Jesus” makes absolutely no sense at all. And theologically, everything that happened had to happen as it did.
There’s so much more I could say, but I’ve already gone past 600 words. But suffice it to say that “Christian anti-Semitism” makes absolutely no sense, and is something that Jesus himself would not be happy about.
So, for Christ’s sake, lay off it already!