Melbourne-based academic researcher Mark Lindsay highlighted an important element of Christian antisemitism and provided a clue to understanding one of the key obstacles to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, on the ABC’s “Religion & Ethics” website.120.
Lindsay’s reflection was prompted by a speech given by the Archbishop of Canterbury exactly 74 years to the day after the first deportation of Jews from Germany into Nazi-occupied Poland.
Archbishop Welby had addressed the “unspeakable atrocities” faced by Christians in South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fear and suspicion predominate due to what Lindsay called “the wrong-headed cognitive presupposition that if you win, I lose, because we can’t both flourish together”.
Lindsay argued that the kind of presupposition Welby identified in Africa “is precisely the type of mentality, so much a part of traditional Christian ‘teaching of contempt’ against the Jewish people, which enabled the deportation and eventual destruction of European Jewry by Hitler’s National Socialists.”
“The deeply-ingrained acceptance of supercessionist theology within both the German Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism of the day was at the very least congruent with the National Socialist doctrine of the Jews. And at heart both systems – Weltanschauungen, if you will – shared the same logical grammar. Either you win, or I win, but the other must lose”, he added.
Over the past five decades, the writer claimed, Christians had “learnt and repented of much in respect to its attitude towards the Jewish people… supercessionism, the accusation of Jewish deicide and all other such ‘teachings of contempt’ have been almost universally renounced by most major Christian denominations”.
Lindsay’s critique of Christian antisemitism was published just as the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) was responsible for the propagation of a contemporary ‘teaching of contempt’ through their Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).
The IPMN issued a booklet and DVD which is an extreme, intemperate, intellectually dishonest and morally contemptible insult to Jews and Judaism.
Full of smears, prejudicial assumptions and promotion of bigotry, its thesis is that Jews would not only be better off without Israel but that Zionism bears comparison to Christian antisemitism leading to the Holocaust and other historical atrocities.
The booklet is not a critique on Israeli policies or a lament for the Palestinians – it belongs in the category of anti-Jewish hate speech, replete with rationalisation and even justifications for violence against Israel.
The IPMN pamphlet goes so far as to criticise the Catholic Church efforts to transform its relationship with Jews and Judaism, saying Nostra Aetate’s rejection of the Deicide Myth “raises as many questions as it answers”.
Cautious and moderate Jewish figures such as the American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi Noam Marans and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs’ Rabbi Steve Gutow damned the pamphlet as “propaganda” and “worthy of a hate group”. Reverend Katherine Rhodes Henderson, the President of New York’s (Presbyterian affiliated) Auburn Theological Seminary noted “the document purports to be about love but it actually expresses demonisation, distortion and intolerance”.
The profile of those who produced the booklet appears to fit neatly into the identikit of individuals who are content with supercessionism, bigotry, intolerance and contempt for Judaism and the Jewish people, which they consider valid if it is framed as opposition to Zionism (for which they have their own grotesque caricatured version).
I have encountered such people during discussions-cum-debates-cum-dialogues in Australia. Some of them go so far as to state openly that the cause they support is so Holy as to mandate the use of anything and everything – including lies and bigotry.
Christians who truly ascribe to principles of justice and genuinely seek the development of a moral and compassion-based society need to not only continue efforts to promote the principles of reconciliation and the mutual benefits of coexistence (win-win). They also must unambiguously, publicly and loudly dissociate from and condemn the IPMN booklet with its poisonous cocktail of historic Christian antisemitism and belief in a zero-sum equation in which Jews must lose so that Palestinians triumph.