The last time anti-Semitism infected the world at large was in the 19th and 20th centuries. After WWII, it remained a low grade fever, flaring up occasionally around the world. But, today it has returned in a new, mutated form that may be the most powerful and viral in human history. The last infection resulted in the Holocaust. What will be the result of today’s contagion?
During the 19th century, the Catholic Church instituted a ghetto on the seven hills of Rome while, for his part, the Pope called Jews “dogs.” In the political realm, Karl Marx denigrated Jews as the source of economic injustice. And to the world of science, Charles Darwin introduced the idea that Jews were an obsolete strain of human evolution. Out of these cauldrons came Russia’s pogroms against the Jews, political philosophies that reviled Jews, and “Christian” demonization of Jews. These strands combined to infect the minds and souls of almost all the world. It was a strain so viral, it culminated in the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jewish men, women and children.
Notably, that slaughter took place in the homeland of the Protestant Reformation.
After the Second World War, the worldwide infection of anti-Semitism seemed to quiet down. There were occasional regional flare ups, but it was in those quieter days that the Jewish State was reborn; Israel took its place among the nations of the earth. Unfortunately, while the Holocaust strain of anti-Semitism went into remission, the virus did not die. Today it is making a roaring comeback. And like Protestant Germany, its almost unopposed promotion inside the world of Western evangelicalism does not bode well for Christianity. Or Jews. Or Israel.
What is anti-Semitism? One definition is that it is animosity toward God taken out on His uniquely chosen human family called Jews. Because God is invisible and intangible, hostilities toward God are aimed at His visible and tangible, tiny proxy people. The world is indignant. Did He really say, they ask, “I will make [the Jews] a great nation in [whom] all the nations of the earth will be blessed?” Did He really give them the land of Israel as their possession forever? According to the Bible, He did. His language in making these promises in Genesis chapters 12–15 is remarkably clear. There is no problem understanding His promises to the Jews. The world’s problem is accepting them.
If the essence of anti-Semitism is rebellion against God—specifically, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the motive behind various expressions of anti-Semitism becomes clear. In short, if God’s proxy people can be destroyed, God Himself is defeated. Or, perhaps more accurately, He is proven to be an un-evolved, powerless fantasy, created by men as a crutch to cope, a crutch no longer needed. The thinking goes like this: God made permanent promises to the Jewish people? Thwart those promises and God is thwarted. Destroy those people, and God is destroyed. In short, God cannot be God, sovereign over all men, all nations, if His unending promises are with a people who have ended.
The world’s problem is that, no matter what, Jews persist and prosper. And they do so today, more than ever, in their ancient homeland. In response, the world is apoplectic. Just as Israel’s King David penned in Psalm 2, the nations of the 21st century are in an uproar. Why does the UN condemn Israel more than any other nation? Why are parliaments and universities calling for boycotts of the Jewish State? Why are they partnering with, even arming, nations like Iran, openly devoted to
Israel’s destruction? According to Psalm 2, they do these things as ways to take their stand “…against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast their cords from us!’” (Ps. 2:1–3 NASB).
But evangelicals claim to love and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why then is this viral strain of anti-Semitism taking hold in them?
Today, bastions of evangelical thought are infected with the fever of anti-Israel indignation. An increasing number of key pastors, publishers and authors argue with great passion that Jews have no right to their biblical homeland. Accordingly, they call on Christians who stand with Israel to repent.
Jews are taking note. NGO Monitor is an Israeli nonprofit that monitors the activities of other nonprofits in Israel. Its May 2015 publication reports, “Through the use of regressive theological language [anti-Israel Christian activists] seek to weaken and disrupt Jewish-Christian relations as a means of diluting Christian support for Israel, particularly in North America.”
Why are Christians, including evangelicals, so easily infected with anti-Semitism? The answer is an anger and an arrogance that is as old as the New Testament. Both were taking root in Rome when the apostle Paul wrote a letter now called Romans. Composed about AD 60, Christian readers there were almost entirely non-Jewish. As reported in Acts 18, the Roman emperor Claudius had evicted all Jews from the city. Christians who remained were inclined to believe they had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people and that Jewish suffering was because of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.
In response, Paul’s admonition was pointed. God’s “gifts and callings” to the Jewish people, he said in Romans 11, are irrevocable. “God has not rejected His people,” he barked with ink on parchment. “Do not be arrogant.”
To its eternal shame, the early Church rejected Paul’s admonitions. Two thousand years later, animosity toward Jews is like a fibrous tumor with tentacles in almost every branch, every expression of Church history and doctrine. Its various expressions today can and should be addressed point by point. But the only antidote, the only cure, is to identify, renounce and destroy the “Christian anti-Semitism” that began in Rome less than twenty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The only way this can be done is by God’s Spirit applying God’s Word to Christian hearts and minds. Otherwise, like the Christians of Germany and Europe in the early 20th century, today’s evangelicals may find themselves enabling or even promoting the advent of another Holocaust.
Source: Brian Schrauger, News Bureau Chief
Photo Credit: Vitezslav Halamka, raw pixel/shutterstock.com
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