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Anti-Semitism

Why Pandemics Are Dangerous for Jews

Abundant conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic have elevated fear and anxiety levels for many. We have had to sift through benign misinformation and intentional disinformation to understand the potential dangers of this virus and the best practices to avoid it. Even the US government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has become controversial and many question whether it is the place to go for information one can trust.

Government Misinformation

Other countries have even less trustworthy and helpful governments. They are at the mercy of corrupt leaders attempting to hide their own mishandling of the crisis and place blame elsewhere through their state-controlled media.

Case in point: a Chinese government spokesman set off a disinformation frenzy in China when he tweeted the self-serving lie that it was the US army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Russian media then chimed in accusing both the United States and the United Kingdom of developing the virus to harm Russian ally China.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals claimed the virus was an American biological weapon aimed at both China and Iran, while Iranian state media also blamed the “Zionists.” Throughout the Muslim world, rumors abound that the Jews developed the coronavirus to gain power, kill a large number of people, and make a fortune selling the antidote.

Conspiracy Theories

These lies have infiltrated the internet in the United States and are used by conspiracy theorists to advance their anti-Semitic theories. The Anti-Defamation League is tracking and documenting the proliferation of these lies on both fringe internet platforms as well as mainstream platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit.

Conspiracies abound about the origin of the virus that blame everyone from the US government to Bill Gates to Israel. Some are using the virus as proof in their case for—or against—vaccination, immigration, or imposition of martial law. Racists are denigrating all things Chinese, while anti-Semites blame Jews for the virus as a means to manipulate the stock market to their financial advantage, bring down President Trump, or profit from a vaccine they developed beforehand.

Why the Jews?

Why the Jews? They are suffering from the virus like everyone else and trying to develop a vaccine just as fast as the rest of the world. Their religious leaders called for prayer at the Western Wall for the entire world to be spared this pandemic. Yet, they are blamed for creating it, using it to kill masses of people and then profit off of its treatment.

As wrong as it is, the proliferation of false accusations against the Chinese people is because the virus started in China. But what do the Jews have to do with this virus? Why the lies about Israel and the Jews? Because age-old anti-Semitism will use every opportunity to spew hatred on the Jewish people.

The danger for Jews during pandemics is not just the disease but also the conspiracy theories it spawns. One of the greatest catastrophes to afflict the human race was the fourteenth-century bubonic plague—known as the “Black Death”—that swept through Europe. Historians estimate that up to 50 percent of Europe’s population died in the pandemic, with rates of death as high as 75 percent in Italy, Spain, and France.

The Jewish minority had already been demonized by church and state, so they were an easy scapegoat. They also fared better than the general population, possibly due to their dietary and religious practices or the fact many were confined in walled ghettos. Their lower death rates, however, fueled suspicions they were behind the pandemic, and many Jews who survived the plague were then massacred in pogroms.

We should not dismiss conspiracy theories as mere craziness. Conspiracy theories produce anger, and anger moves quickly from words into actions; verbal insults often result in physical attacks. It is, therefore, our responsibility to speak up against these lies and point people to reliable sources of information.

Flattening the Curve

While seeking to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, we must do the same with the pandemic of anti-Semitism. It is a deadly virus that poisons hearts and minds, eventually destroying those it infects along with those they hate.

We must take the necessary steps to identify and isolate it, protect others from becoming infected, and develop educational “vaccines” against it in our churches, schools, and society.  

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network

Article originally published April 2020 and was updated in July 2020 to reflect controversy regarding CDC handling of the coronavirus. 


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Does Christian Anti-Semitism Exist?

Many Evangelical Christians will argue that there is no such thing as “Christian anti-Semitism.” For them, it is a contradiction of terms—an oxymoron. They do not believe a “true” Christian can be anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, history has proven otherwise.

Jews and Christians have had a history of contentious relations. What started in the first century as an internal squabble among Jews over the messiahship of Jesus became a split into two separate religions, both struggling to differentiate from the other and survive under brutal Roman rule. Once Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, anti-Jewish theology paved the way for degrading laws and state-sanctioned persecutions, ghettos, and expulsions.

Centuries of this type of religiously motivated and state-empowered anti-Semitism prepared the way for the Nazi Holocaust. While Christianity did not cause the Holocaust, Christian anti-Judaism and the centuries of anti-Semitism it spawned made the Holocaust possible.

What Is Christian Anti-Semitism?

Let me be clear that Christianity is not anti-Semitic. Hundreds of millions of Bible-based Christians around the world today love Israel and the Jewish people. They understand that Christianity would not exist were it not for the Jewish people and their everlasting covenant with the God of Israel.

But the Bible can be used by twisted minds to say all sorts of things. Hateful people can interpret and quote Scripture in hateful ways and use it to support their anti-Semitic sentiments. When the Christian Scriptures are used by a professing Christian to denigrate the Jewish people and support anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories, then it is referred to as Christian anti-Semitism.

What Is It Based On?

The theological foundation for Christian teaching against the Jewish people is what is known as replacement theology. Replacement theology posits that the Jews were cursed by God for their rejection of Jesus’ messianic credentials and therefore have been replaced by the church in the plans and purposes of God. Historically, this theology often led to the teaching of contempt for the Jews as “Christ-killers” and gave sanction to their maltreatment.

Where Is It Today?

Not everyone who holds to a form of replacement theology is anti-Semitic. Some theologians simply interpret the New Testament in this way—and therefore spiritualize much of the Old Testament to support it—but have absolutely no ill intent toward anyone. Many pastors hold replacement views as a theological assumption yet have never been taught the ramifications of such faulty hermeneutics required to support it.

This more benign form of American Evangelical replacement theology may not be the anti-Semitic version of the past that went on to call for the persecution and demonization of the Jews. Nevertheless, it is the same theological foundation from which Christian anti-Semitism sprouts, and we need to correct it in all its variants.

A well-known pastor of one of the largest churches in America has been publishing his concerns about the loss of Christian faith among young people. He blames the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament, which he describes as irrelevant and having been replaced with the “brand-new and different” teachings and ethics of Jesus. He portrays Judaism as hypocritical, self-righteous, and exclusivist, and claims the apostle Paul considered it an eroding influence on the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the early church. He even goes so far as to blame the sins of the church throughout history on the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament.

Many scholars agree that the Holocaust could never have happened had it not been for the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism rooted in this type of theology. Therefore, we need to be very concerned about its growth and learn to refute it.

Another lesser-known Evangelical Christian preacher has gone further than theology and is espousing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Pastor Rick Wiles of the TruNews broadcast has a history of blaming the Jews for everything from the failure of the Iowa Democratic primary app to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump—or what he called a “Jew coup.” He also claimed the coronavirus began at the mostly Jewish AIPAC Policy Conference and is spreading via synagogues because God is dealing with “false religions” and “people who oppose His son, Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion

While this generation is privileged to be part of a historic correction in the church’s relations with the Jews, it cannot be taken for granted. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, and dangerous trends within American churches need addressing to protect this budding relationship. It is the American church that can stop anti-Semitism from gaining more ground in the country, but we must begin at home and relegate “Christian anti-Semitism” to the dustbin of history.
 

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


Send a Blessing to the Jewish People

Why does anti-Semitism still exist?

The evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich called anti-Semitism "the longest hatred." Every time this irrational vitriol seems to be dying out, it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. But the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.

In the ancient world, classical anti-Semitism was a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who could only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to any other god and were bound by the Sinaitic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart and incurred the wrath of tyrants.

This was the situation described in the book of Esther where the King’s consort Haman demanded the Jews bow to him, and when they would not, he turned the might of the Persian Empire against them. The Hanukkah story takes place under the rule of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who attempted to make the Jews into Hellenistic pagans by banning their religious practices and desecrating their temple. 

Religious anti-Semitism

One would think that once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, this problem would go away. Instead, anti-Semitism took hold in the heart of Christian Europe, and among those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people were professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but centuries of state and church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions actually paved the way for the Holocaust.

Proof of this is found in the fact that Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings were published and distributed by the Nazis to justify their anti-Jewish laws and eventually, their extermination program. Hitler admitted as much when he told two Catholic Bishops who questioned his policy that he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2,000 years. 

Racial anti-Semitism

The form of anti-Semitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories promoting the superiority of the Aryan race. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution” to the Jewish problem—the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race. 

Political anti-Semitism

The modern form of anti-Semitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it: 1) delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist; 2) uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis; 3) judges Israel by a different standard than any other nation; or 4) becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.

During the 2014 war in Gaza, a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France, refrains such as “Jews to the gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations, and anti-Semitic caricatures in newspapers and social media. 

The Face of Evil

While anti-Zionism is the new “socially accepted” expression of anti-Semitism, it is important to note that racism and religious bigotry do still exist. Widespread religious anti-Semitism is found throughout the Muslim world. Interestingly, the secular globalists in the West will not condemn it because of their own anti-Semitic biases.

Anti-Semitism is likened to a virus that never entirely dies but mutates and begins growing again as a new strain needing new treatments. There is no explanation for this but a biblical one. Anti-Semitism is at its root spiritual—the ugly face of evil.

Psalm 83 describes it as a war against God Himself in which the Jews are the target. Revelation 12 describes it as war by spiritual forces depicted as a dragon.

It is, therefore, imperative that Christians stand up against this evil influence vocally, politically, and aggressively—but also with much prayer.

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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How Anti-Semitic Alliances Unite Enemies

One of the first lessons we learn in the history of anti-Semitism is that hatred makes strange bedfellows. The oddest of partnerships have been formed around a common enemy. 

Nazi Alliance with Islam

An example of this friendship between enemies is that of the Nazi regime, which believed in Aryan supremacy, and the Muslim world, which seeks to assert Muslim supremacy. The two worlds would have collided over much of their respective ideologies but found a common bond that overshadowed all points of disagreement.
 
That unifying bond was their hatred for the Jew. The same paranoid worldview and irrational anti-Semitism that drove the Nazis then drives Islamist terrorism today. While it is true that Islamist ideology has theological foundations found in the Koran, the modern militant and delusional obsession with anti-Semitism was birthed during the Nazi period.
 
The conduit for this ideology was Haj Amin El-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the movement that he helped to lead—the Muslim Brotherhood. Haj Amin El-Husseini’s anti-Semitism pre-dated Nazism, but from 1941 onward, he lived in Berlin, overseeing a staff of 60 Arabs who worked night and day promoting Nazism in the Arabic-speaking world. The German leaders were enamored with the Mufti and provided a steady stream of funds and arms to his followers in Palestine. Scholars debate whether he had the idea first or not, but the Mufti clearly backed the plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews to keep them from fleeing to their ancient homeland.
 
After the fall of the Nazi regime, El-Husseini found asylum in Egypt where he served in the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Through that organization, he converted Nazi ideology into a militant, Islamic one and took the call for Jihad and martyrdom throughout the Muslim world. 

Islamic Anti-Semitism

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt, and by the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, they already had 500,000 sympathizers.  Their manifesto is “Allah is our goal, the prophet our model, the Koran our constitution, the Jihad our path, and death for the sake of Allah the loftiest of our wishes.” 
 
They are credited with birthing the jihadist culture of death and the various groups committed to it, including Hamas, Khomeini’s revolution in Iran, and Al-Qaeda. This history explains the Hitler-like rhetoric of Muslim leaders today, for example in Iran, and their espousal of the same delusional and paranoid worldview, dehumanizing of Jews, and calls for their annihilation. 

Anti-Semitic Alliances Today

The lesson for us today is hatred makes strange bedfellows indeed! In our own country, we see the illogical alignment of the Progressive, secular left with the religious, Islamic movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood—a union that would be absolutely impossible were it not for their shared hatred of Israel. It is the classic example of the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
 
We see this alliance in many ways, such as anti-Israel ideologues who blame Israel for security measures but refuse to address the abuse of the Palestinian people by their own corrupt and failed Arab leadership. In the same way, the women’s movement condemns Israel—where women make up 25% of parliament and serve in the military—and ignore the oppression and outright abuse of women in the Muslim world. Secular Human Rights activists do not speak out on behalf of Christians around the world suffering persecution and martyrdom for their faith, because most of this takes place in Muslim countries.
 
This alliance will also never speak out against the rising anti-Semitism in America, so we must. Christians in America are THE voice against anti-Semitism in the United States, and with your help, we intend to make it loud and clear

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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How ‘Righteous’ Does One Need to Be?

The historical account of the Holocaust would not be complete without the amazing stories of the brave individuals who risked their lives to save Jews. This is why Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, works tirelessly to locate and honor them as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

While it can be said the majority of Europeans turned their backs on the Jews, there was an amazing minority who helped them. They are rays of light in an otherwise very dark era. They restore our hope in humanity.

Many studies have been conducted to determine what gave these brave souls the courage and moral strength to be rescuers. And while we evangelical Christians would like to think that they were all very spiritual Christians who understood the biblical significance of the Jewish people, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, there were those lovely Christian saints such as Corrie ten Boom’s father who read from the Bible every day and was motivated to rescue Jews by his strong Christian faith. We think of the ten Boom family as truly being “righteous.” But most rescuers were just regular every day people.

The 27,362 Righteous documented by Yad Vashem so far come from 51 countries; they are Christians (from all denominations) as well as Muslims, religious and agnostic, men and women, people from all walks of life, of all ages, educated professionals and illiterate peasants, rich and poor. Some were even anti-Semitic. The only common denominator between these brave souls is the humanity and the courage they displayed by standing up for their moral principles.

What gave them the courage and moral strength to do what they did? What made them risk execution, or imprisonment, and endanger their own families?

Most studies agree that the rescuers all exhibited strong individuality. They were independent and did not need the approval of others. They also had strong convictions about helping the weak. Most said that the fact that the needy individual was a Jew had no bearing on their decision to help. They simply felt they should help those needing their help.

So how righteous does one need to be to rescue Jews? Actually, not righteous at all. We just need to care about those around us who are suffering and needy. How could something so basic to humanity as caring for others have been so rare?

How could there not have been more evangelical Christians in their ranks? That is the real question.

- by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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A Dangerous Theology – Not Irresistible at All

The pastor of the second-largest church in America, Andy Stanley, wants to change the way Christianity is taught to reach new generations of skeptics, according to his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. While he has every good intention, he proposes a shocking approach that takes the church back centuries—not to the first-century church led by the apostles as he claims, but to a later time when Replacement Theology was the prevailing theology and the church was, therefore, largely anti-Semitic.

While that is certainly not his intent, it is the ramification of his dismissal of everything Jewish in the Bible—namely the Old Testament—deeming it obsolete. Speaking of the Old Testament, the apostle Paul said it was useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). All of the New Testament writers treated the Old Testament Scriptures as foundational. Stanley, however, sounds more like second- and third-century Church Fathers when he says that the Old Testament and Judaism have been brought to an end and replaced with something totally and completely new—Christianity.

Even more disturbing is the way he describes Judaism in only negative terms. It is a well-known fact that during the time of Jesus the priesthood and some of the Pharisees had become corrupt. Jesus was not the only one who denounced them for it. But in this book, Stanley describes Judaism itself as the problem—it is legalistic, hypocritical, self-righteous, and exclusive. He even claims the apostle Paul tried to keep Judaism from “eroding the beauty and simplicity” of the ekklesia (church) of Jesus. Of course, Paul was against legalism—not Judaism.

There are many issues found in his 330-page book to address. This article, however, is a summation of the dangers in adopting Stanley’s definition of irresistible Christianity.

The Bible No Longer Makes Sense

Because Replacement Theology creates a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments, it is hard to teach the former in an exciting way. I have been reading and studying the Bible for over 40 years and I find it is the most exciting book on the planet—one that makes perfect sense from Genesis to Revelation! To teach the Old Testament is obsolete is what produces this disconnect. To teach it in its proper context, however, and under the inspiration of the very Holy Spirit who inspired its writing, makes it stand up and come so alive it is life-changing!

Anti-Judaism Leads to Anti-Semitism

A lesson learned from Christian history is that the anti-Judaism of some early Church Fathers led to anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people by later generations. This highlights the danger in Stanley’s negative descriptions of Judaism. He even blames the sin of the church throughout history on the influences of Judaism—the ultimate example of anti-Semitic scapegoating if ever there was one. Leading Christian voices today must resist this theology and thereby stop the slide down a slippery slope toward renewed anti-Semitism in the church.

Jesus Becomes Gentile

Reading Jesus from any perspective other than a first-century Jewish one lends itself to misinterpretation. If a church considers the Old Testament irrelevant to the Christian faith, then it is studied less and less, creating followers of Jesus who are unaware of the Old Testament foundations for all he did and taught. He was not some Greek god with a mythical birth and resurrection story, but came in a carefully prepared Jewish context that explains His teachings, death, resurrection, and His future return to the earth as King. Without that context, we read Jesus through gentile, twenty-first-century eyes that see Him just like us, and not who He really is.

A Blind Church

Replacement Theology holds that the Jewish people have lost their standing with God, due to their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, while the church has assumed their place. Therefore, their return to their ancient homeland in the last 100 years is just an anomaly—a political accident—and has no theological significance. These Christians deny that the God of Israel has brought the Jews back to the Land just as the Hebrew prophets said He would. This return prepares the way for the next great act of God in which the Messiah returns to the planet to defend Jerusalem, judge the nations for their evil treatment of His people, and establish the kingdom of God on earth. A blinded church will not understand the times we live in and may find itself outside the move of God in our day.

Throws out the Baby with the Bath Water

Instead of throwing out legalism, Judaizing, or misapplication of the Mosaic Law, Stanley has thrown out the entire Old Testament. In so doing, he has set a dangerous precedent for new generations of believers adhering to a Christianity that is void of its eternal, spiritual context, which is, simply put, a Jewish one. A better solution to the problem Stanley is trying to address is to study Scripture in its proper cultural and religious context and teach the overarching story of the Bible that truly makes it the most exciting book on the planet!
  

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of IsraelAnswers.com

This Generation's Battle

Exodus 17 tells how Amalekites, descendants of Esau’s grandson, attacked the children of Israel in the desert of Sinai during their exodus from Egypt. This unprovoked attack was especially serious and the Israelites battled all day, only achieving victory at nightfall.

In response to this demonstration of cruelty, the Lord told Moses that he would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. Moses later recounted: “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16). Amalek’s attack on the children of Israel was now a perpetual war between him and the God of Israel.

Amalek was not just a foe, but a genocidal one, so in Jewish tradition the Amalekites came to represent the archetypal enemy of the Jews present in generation after generation. It is interesting to note that some one thousand years later, in the book of Esther, the arch villain Haman was an Amalekite who led the plot to kill the Jews.

The Longest Hatred

This evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich calls anti-Semitism "the longest hatred." Every time this genocidal hatred seems to be dying out it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. But the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.

In the ancient world, classical anti-Semitism was a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who would only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to earthly leaders, and were bound by the Sinaitic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart and incurred the wrath of their rulers.

Religious anti-Semitism

After the rise of Christianity the problem did not go away. It is a travesty that anti-Semitism was then found in the heart of Christian Europe. Indeed, in the annals of those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people are professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but centuries of state and church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions actually paved the way for the Holocaust.

Proof of this is found in the fact that Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings were published and distributed by the Nazis in order to justify their anti-Jewish laws and eventually their extermination program. Hitler admitted as much when he told two Catholic Bishops who questioned his policy that “he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2000 years.”

Racial anti-Semitism

The form of anti-Semitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories about the superiority of the Aryan race. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution to the Jewish question,” the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race.

The good news is that these older forms of anti-Semitism are socially unacceptable in the 21st century. Religious bigotry and racism are frowned upon and are antithetical to the prevailing ideologies of globalism and secularism.

Political anti-Semitism

The bad news is that Israel, a Jewish nation-state, is also antithetical to both globalism and secularism. Therefore, the modern form of anti-Semitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.

There is still religious anti-Semitism, but this time it is found throughout the Muslim world and is responsible for the genocidal rhetoric emanating from Iran. Muslim anti-Semitism, however, is tolerated by anti-Zionist Western leaders who blame it on Israeli policies.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist, when it uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis, when it judges Israel by a different standard than for any other nation, and when it becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.

During the 2014 war in Gaza, a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France, refrains such as “Jews to the Gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations, and anti-Semitic caricatures in newspapers and social media.

While America is a safe-haven today for Jews fleeing Europe, low levels of anti-Semitism here should not be taken for granted. As American Christians, we should take every opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, attending their Holocaust remembrance events, and teaching our children to recognize anti-Semitism and take a stand against it.

This generation’s battle is not so much with the Amalek of old, and its pagan, Christian or racial anti-Semitism, but with the Amalek of today—the rabid anti-Israel movement that demonizes the Jewish people and nation while excusing Muslim anti-Semitism.

This one is on our watch, and it is our responsibility to stand against it.


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 


Anti-Semitism in Christianity Today

Many Christians involved in support of Israel fail to recognize the amazing moment in history that we are privileged to be a part of today. Only those who know a little about the sad history of Jewish-Christian relations can appreciate the miraculous turnaround that has occurred, and understand the importance of recognizing and eradicating all forms of modern anti-Semitism seeking to divide us again.

Persecution and animosity toward the Jews began early in their history, long before Christianity. Pharaoh, Haman, and Antiochus Epiphanes are only a few examples of evil men who tried to destroy God’s chosen people. But, while the Jews have had many enemies throughout history, we who are Christians should be concerned about the part some of our forbearers played in this disturbing drama. That persecution of the Jews arose from within our ranks is a tragedy and a shame with which our community must deal.

Jews and Christians had a very rocky relationship in the first one hundred years after the life and death of Jesus. At first it was an internal squabble between Jews who believed in His Messiahship and Jews who did not. But beliefs in the Roman Empire had political ramifications. The Jewish religion was legal, as was Christianity when it was seen as a sect of Judaism. But, Christianity brought troubles on the Jewish community due to its allegiance to a King other than Caesar so it was shunned and sometimes persecuted.

During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jews who believed in Jesus had already fled the city and escaped it all, because Jesus had warned them to do so, as recorded in Matthew 24. When they later returned to Jerusalem, they were resented and accused of being traitors.

Then in 132 AD, when the mainstream Jewish community looked for someone to lead a rebellion against the Romans, many joined with Simon Bar Kokba thinking he was the Messiah. But the Jews who believed in Jesus refused to join this rebellion, saying they already were following the Messiah. As a result, some were slaughtered as traitors during the fighting. This schism tore the two communities apart and marks the moment when the official split occurred between the Church and the Synagogue.

At the same time, the Church was becoming predominantly Gentile and made up of pagans who had converted to Christianity with no knowledge of, nor appreciation for, the Jewish roots of the faith, nor of the Jewish people themselves. A number of Gentile Church fathers began to distinguish Christianity by preaching against Judaism and warning their followers away from it.

This is how the teaching of Supersessionism, or Replacement Theology, took root. Replacement Theology taught that the Jews had been cursed by God for their rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials and had been therefore replaced by the Church in the plans and purposes of God. This theology lead to a teaching of contempt for the Jews as “Christ Killers” and gave sanction to their maltreatment.

Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the Church became a tool of the monarch and lost its spiritual integrity. Anti-Jewish theology then paved the way for anti-Jewish legislation by the ruling powers. This included discrimination, persecution, forced conversions, ghettos and expulsions.

Centuries of this type of religiously motivated and state empowered anti-Semitism prepared the way for the Nazi Holocaust. To paraphrase Raul Hillberg in The Destruction of the European Jews, the early church declared: “You have no right to live amongst us as Jews.” The secular rulers who followed that era expelled Jews from their lands or confined them to ghettos as though to say: “You have no right to live amongst us.” Then Hitler later decreed “You have no right to live.”

This is the deadly progression of anti-Semitism down through the ages. The fact that the Christian church had a central role to play in this tragedy is a shame and something we all must come to terms with as Christians.

 

The Shift

 

Today we are privileged to be part of a tectonic shift among Christians away from that anti-Semitic past. The roots of this great turnaround lie in something that happened some five hundred years ago: the translation of the Bible into the common languages and its widespread availability thanks to the printing press. For most of Church history, ordinary Christians did not have access to the Bible to even know what it taught. Only those who knew Hebrew, Greek or Latin were able to read it. As a result there were teachings about the Jewish people that simply were not grounded in Scripture and produced centuries of anti-Semitism in the heart of Christian Europe. Replacement Theology and the teaching of contempt for the Jewish people were the fertile ground for anti-Semitism which led to their persecution, expulsion, and murder.

However, as soon as Christians were able to read the scriptures for themselves, many discovered the error of their ways. They realized that Jesus was Jewish and that Christianity had been born out of Judaism. They also read the many promises of God to one day regather the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland. Preachers began to teach about that return, and they prayed for and supported it as an act of justice for a people who had suffered persecution for centuries.

Some of the greatest and most respected Evangelicals in history were what we would call Christian Zionists today: John and Charles Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Bishop Ryle of Liverpool, Professor Jacob Janeway of the Scottish National Church, and many others.  The only difference between them and today’s Christian Zionists is that they looked forward in hope to a future event, while today’s Christian Zionists have witnessed the return of the Jews to their homeland and actively support a current reality.

While Replacement Theology does still exist, and is usually the dividing line in the Christian world regarding those who support Israel and those who do not, the Church as a whole has come a very long way in its relations with the Jewish people.

In addition to the wide availability of the Scriptures, the Christian world also has been profoundly affected by two events over the last century which have brought about a major change in their relations with the Jewish people. The first was the Holocaust, which shook the historic churches predominant in Europe. The Catholic and Lutheran churches in particular re-evaluated their theology and liturgy. In fact, some of the most beautiful words of Christian repentance towards the Jewish people ever written are by the Catholic Bishops of Europe.

But, a second event that has had an even greater impact on the Evangelical world was the birth of the State of Israel. Over the last forty years, millions of Christians have visited Israel to “walk where Jesus walked” and for the first time met a Jewish person. It is no coincidence that over the past four decades as Christian tourism to Israel has mushroomed so has Jewish-Christian relations.

But, more importantly, Evangelicals are reading the Bible with a new worldview. The Jewish people have been gathered from the north, south, east, and west, returning to their homeland in fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. Christians are no longer looking down on the Jewish people and heaping condemnation on them. Instead, they are loving, comforting, and blessing them.

Churches are honoring and exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity to learn more about our own faith. The fact that God is faithful and is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people is an encouragement to Christians that we serve a faithful God who is true to His Word. Now, as a result, the fastest growing segment of Christianity, which is Bible-based and Evangelical, is largely pro-Israel.
 

 

The ICEJ Making History

 

With this history in mind one can understand why the birth of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) in 1980 was such an historic, ground-breaking moment. It was the first time in history that Christians had voiced support for Israel on such an international scale and from the heart of the newborn State of Israel. It is also understandable that some segments of the Jewish community were, and still are, skeptical.

We cannot change two thousand years of history overnight. But, the ICEJ has had the privilege of confronting this history and establishing a new relationship with the Jewish people for thirty-six years now. Proof of this new relationship can be found in the ICEJ’s partnership with Yad Vashem. The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem is taking Holocaust awareness to Christian churches around the world, teaching them about anti-Semitism in our day and how to stand against it.
 

 

The Challenges

 

The majority of Christians today would never condone the religious anti-Semitism which fueled centuries of discrimination, persecution, ghettos, and exiles in the heart of Christian Europe, nor the racial anti-Semitism embraced by Hitler which led to the horrific genocide campaign known as the Holocaust. There is no turning back.

However, there is a reason why historian Robert Wistrich calls anti-Semitism "the longest hatred." This evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, and every time it seems to be dying out it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. The goal, however, is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.

The new form of anti-Semitism challenging our world today is political anti-Semitism. Since a Jewish nation-state is antithetical to the ruling philosophies of our day, globalism and secularism, this modern form of political anti-Semitism is finding large-scale acceptance today. It is directed not at individual Jews but against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.

There is still religious anti-Semitism, but this time it is found throughout the Muslim world and is responsible for the genocidal rhetoric emanating from jihadist groups and the clerical regime in Iran. Muslim anti-Semitism, however, is not condemned but tolerated by anti-Zionist Western leaders who blame its spread on Israeli policies.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist; when it uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes; when it judges Israel by a different standard than for any other nation; and when it becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.

This new anti-Semitism, while rife in the Middle East and Europe, is trying to infiltrate America, including the Christian churches. The challenge is for the various denominations which have denounced classical anti-Semitism, and sought a right relationship with the Jewish people, to recognize that the anti-Zionist campaign demonizing Israel is also anti-Semitic. One cannot demonize a nation without that being a demonization of the people, and the Israeli people are a subset of the Jewish world. This is why a Jew can be attacked on the streets of Paris because Israel took defensive actions in Gaza.

Some of the mainline denominations in America deny this is anti-Semitic and have passed anti-Israel resolutions in line with this delegitimization campaign. Within the Evangelical ranks, we even have a new movement to be: “Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace and Pro-Justice.” This movement seeks to “correct” the pro-Israel movement within Evangelical Christianity by entertaining an anti-Israel narrative under the banner of “love and peace” for all!

Exactly what does it mean for an Evangelical to be pro-Palestine? The Palestinian Authority is a corrupt government which discriminates against Christians, jails and tortures Muslim converts to Christianity, honors terrorists, does not allow freedom of speech, and fosters incitement in the public square based on lies about Israel. Is this really what the pro-Palestine Evangelicals are supporting?

In 2011, two ethics professors from leading Christian universities issued a scathing “Open Letter to America’s Christian Zionists” in which they accused Christian Zionists of being sinful for supporting Israel and encouraging Israel’s sinful policies. They went so far as to say that should “some nation” become “inflamed with resentment” at Israel and “make their land desolate,” noting that sounded like a “nuclear attack,” that Christian Zionists would bear part of the responsibility.

The ICEJ issued a strong response, but because of the growing influence of these voices, we went on to build an educational website to defend both Israel, and Christian support of Israel. The purpose of the IsraelAnswers.com website is to equip Christians to better articulate a defense of Israel, as well as of Christian Zionism.

But more than respond, we need to close the door to anti-Semitism altogether. There are two open doors in the Christian Church in America to this deadly influence.
 

 

Replacement Theology  

 

Replacement Theology is gaining traction in Christian circles today under various names and guises, one of which is Fulfillment Theology. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. However, Fulfillment Theology maintains that Jesus did abolish the law, and with it God’s covenantal relationship with Israel. It also teaches that all of the Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus and the birth of the Church, and thus they are no longer valid with regards to modern Israel. Although this view may lack the same degree of animus towards the Jews, Fulfillment theology still winds up in the same place as Replacement theology – namely that God is finished with Israel.

It is important to clarify here that just because someone holds a form of Replacement or Fulfillment Theology does not mean that they are anti-Semitic. Some theologians simply interpret the New Testament in this way. Many pastors hold Replacement views as a theological assumption based on the lack of teaching on Israel and the Jewish people in seminary. Therefore, they begin ministry with the assumption that Israel and the Jewish people are irrelevant; it is all about the Church today.

While this thinking may be a vestige of Replacement Theology, it is not the anti-Semitic version of the past which went on to call for the persecution and demonization of the Jews. Nevertheless, it is the same theological foundation from which historical Christian anti-Semitism sprouted. Many scholars agree that the Holocaust could never have happened had it not been for the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism rooted in this theology. Therefore, we need to be very concerned about its growth and learn to refute it.

Replacement Theology assumes four things:


1.     That God does not know what He is doing because Plan A failed. The people in Plan A (Israel) failed him, and He had to come up with a new plan with a new people. Yet, Ephesians 1:4-6 says that God’s plan, laid before the foundations of the world, was always that we would be adopted into the family of the redeemed through Jesus. Redemption through His death was always plan A.

2.    That God is unfaithful: He does not keep His Covenants, nor His promises. Yet, Psalm 89:34 says: “My Covenant I will not break nor alter the word that has gone out of My mouth.” Jeremiah 33:37 says that only if God breaks His covenant with night and day, and with the moon and the sun, would He be able to break His covenant with the Jewish people.

3.    That the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished or spiritualized either in part or in whole. Yet, the New Testament confirms the Abrahamic covenant and its promises (which always included the Land), and assumes a future time of restoration in the Land as promised by the prophets. In Acts 1:6-7 Jesus did not deny his disciple’s hope in a future restoration of the kingdom to Israel and instead addressed the timing of that event as something only the Father knew. He had earlier declared that Jerusalem would one day be under Jewish sovereignty again in Luke 21:24.

4.    That if people fail God He rejects them forever. Yet, the Apostle Paul in Romans 11 affirms that God’s call over the Jewish people as a nation is irrevocable. Psalm 89:33-34 is clear that even though God should punish the people of Israel for their sins that His lovingkindness would never be taken from them, nor His faithfulness, and He would never break His covenant with them.
 

 

Growing Biblical Illiteracy in America

 

Another door leaving the Church vulnerable to anti-Semitic teachings is the loss of biblical literacy in America. Some of the mainline denominations denied the authority of the Bible long ago. They use it more as a devotional resource with wisdom for everyday life and not as absolute truth. These denominations are in rapid decline because they practice a religion that is not faithful to its founding truths.

One of the core tenants of Evangelicalism is its belief in “scripture alone” as the infallible source of doctrinal truth. While evangelical Christianity, and its inherent support for Israel, is mushrooming in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it has plateaued in the United States (and Europe) and is losing its momentum. This is evident in the growing biblical illiteracy in society, not to mention prominent Evangelical voices challenging core biblical tenets – including the definition of marriage, the nature of human sexuality, and the sanctity of life.

Across America, pastors and ministers are confronted by a widening chasm of biblical illiteracy that in turn is contributing to the societal and moral breakdown which is engulfing the families in their churches. They struggle to know how to instill a conviction of the Bible’s truth and power to a biblically illiterate generation.

However, what we have found is that understanding God’s dealings with the Jewish people throughout the ages puts the whole Bible into perspective, and underscores its relevance and immediacy to all of us today. It is, in many ways, the ‘answer key’ that helps the rest of Scripture make sense in its proper context.

Israel, in our view, is the greatest single antidote to biblical illiteracy. Once a Christian understands the biblical significance of Israel and the Jewish people, they ‘get’ the entire Bible. Thus, the ministry of the ICEJ exists not just to bless Israel, but to help the worldwide Body of Christ come to a greater understanding of this unique land and people, and through them, the very Scriptures themselves.
 

 

The Effect of Anti-Semitism on the Church

 

You and I are part of an historic shift in Christianity. The largest segment of the Christian world, the Catholic Church, has embraced the Jewish people. The Evangelical world, which is the second largest segment of Christianity and is projected to one day be the largest based on current growth rates, has not only embraced the Jewish people but the State of Israel as well. I am hopeful that the bulk of Christianity will never go back to its anti-Semitic past.

However, we must learn to recognize and stand against the anti-Semitism of our day. The current political form called anti-Zionism seeks to rid the world of the influence of the Jewish people by challenging their right to be a nation. At its worst, this new brand of anti-Semitism condones the mass annihilation of Jews in their restored homeland.

Anti-Semitism’s goal in the modern Christian world is to rob Christians of the very root that sustains our faith and to separate us from a people who demonstrate the truth of the Bible and the faithfulness of God to always keep His word. As the Apostle Paul said, it is the Jewish faith that is the very root which supports us. To be separated from that root means spiritual death.

Therefore, the battle against this evil ideology is our battle. It behooves us to do everything we can to help churches recognize it for what it is and to stand against it.
 


Footnotes:

[1]For further study see: The Anguish of the Jews by Father Edward Flannery, a classic history of anti-Semitism written by a Catholic Priest in 1964. Or Our Hands are Stained with Blood written for laity by Dr. Michael Brown

[2]For a history of Christian Zionism and quotes from some 50 Christian leaders over the last 500 years who supported the re-establishment of Israel based on their reading of scripture see: www.israelanswers.com/christian_zionism/a_history_of_christian_zionism


Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
 

The Evil Pursuit of the Jewish People

The story of the Jewish people has no parallel in the history of mankind. It is a story of a small people, no more than 17 million at any time in history, with a biblical calling to represent a holy God in the midst of an evil and idolatrous world. They were required to reflect the holiness of their God by living a righteous lifestyle in observance of hundreds of moral and ritual laws. These practices made them visibly and spiritually different from those around them. It also made them an easy target.

The Jewish people were chosen to bless the world with God’s redemptive plan—and they would suffer greatly for it. The powers of evil would forever fight against God’s plan and would attempt to stop it by destroying the people called to bring it about. The God of Israel understood the difficult place this put His people in, and therefore guaranteed their survival. But the Jews would indeed suffer, and part of their unique story is the ongoing saga of an evil pursuit that defies all logic.

What Is Anti-Semitism?

The hatred of the Jewish people—anti-Semitism—is as unique in the human experience as the people it hates. It has been around almost as long as the Jewish people have existed. During ancient times when kingdoms and empires ruled the day, conformity and obedience was a requirement that often involved worship of the emperor or of his deities. The Jews were commanded by their God not to worship any other, so they were doomed to conflict.

Within this context, however, there were instances where the conflict grew into an animosity that could only be described as anti-Semitic. One such story is found in the book of Esther, where it is not the Persian king that requires obedience, but his close confidant, Haman, who was enraged by the fact that Mordecai the Jew would not bow down to him. His personal slight grew into a murderous hatred of all Jews and he hatched a plan to annihilate them.

Eventually, ancient empires gave way to the Christian era when so-called Christian kings, who were also heads of the state church, persecuted the Jews because of the church’s teachings against Judaism. Jews were accused of being “God killers” due to Jesus’ crucifixion and were considered enemies of the church. They were at times treated as outcasts, rounded up in ghettos, and even expelled from countries.

Along came the Enlightenment, and science trumped religion as the primary source of authority in the world. Scientific studies advanced racial theories that then became the backbone of Nazi ideology. Adolf Hitler believed the Jews to be an inferior race that needed to be eradicated.

These older forms of anti-Semitism are socially unacceptable in the twenty-first century. Religious bigotry and racism are frowned upon and are antithetical to the prevailing ideologies of globalism and secularism. However, so is Israel, a Jewish nation-state. Therefore, the modern form of anti-Semitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism. Religious anti-Semitism does exist today, and it is Islamic; however, the West tends to view it through the political lens of the Arab-Israeli conflict and overlooks its inherently theological underpinnings.

This evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich calls anti-Semitism “the longest hatred.” Every time it seems to be dying out it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name—like a mutating virus—but the goal is always the same: rid the world of the Jewish people.

British journalist Melanie Phillips said this about it: “It is a tremendous mistake to assume that anti-Semitism arises from any political activity or ideology. It is a pathology based on the wish to exterminate the Jewish people—a moral and spiritual sickness unique in human history, and which morphs and mutates across religious, secular, and political systems.”

Anti-Semitism Today

Anti-Semitism today has two faces: one is Islamic and the other political. Both demonize the Jewish people by perpetrating conspiracy theories and false accusations against Israel. The problem is that demonizing Israel is in fact a demonization of the Israeli people who become representative of all Jews. This is why a Jewish person walking the streets in France can be attacked because of Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza.

To quote Melanie Phillips again, “Blaming Israel is a way of blaming the Jews for anti-Semitism. People do this not just out of their own bigotry, but because they cannot acknowledge the unique and uniquely evil nature of the phenomenon.”

Proof that anti-Semitism is alive and well is found in a 2013 study reporting the sad statistic that only 70 years after the Holocaust, one-third of Europe’s Jews were considering emigrating because of anti-Semitism. This year, forty percent of British Jews are considering leaving the UK because of a rise in anti-Semitism there.

A 2014 study found that 25 percent of the world’s population— 1.1 billion people—holds anti-Semitic views, even though 70 percent of them had never met a Jew. Thirty-five percent of them had never heard of the Holocaust, and of those who had, one-third of them thought it was either a myth or greatly exaggerated. The highest percentage of populations holding anti-Semitic views were found in the Middle East.

The anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East is spreading to forums in other parts of the world including American college campuses where Palestinian groups are mobilizing students to their cause using anti-Israel vitriol. Anti-Semitic incidences rose 57 percent in the United States last year, mainly in high schools and on college campuses where these groups are active.

Another frontier in the spread of anti-Semitism is the internet where hate-filled people spew a relentless stream of paranoia and lies inciting some to acts of violence. That is exactly what drove Robert Bowers to take a semi-automatic weapon into a synagogue in Pittsburgh to kill as many Jews as possible. The deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history should serve as a wake-up call for all of us and cause us to ask, “What can I do?”

What Can Be Done

There is much that can and should be done. While this article cannot provide an exhaustive list, let’s concentrate on the most obvious things that most of us can do at the community level.

Reach out to your local Jewish community, or one that has suffered an anti-Semitic attack, and let them know how sorry you are and that you are praying for them. This can be done in a card to the Rabbi, or the Jewish Federation director in that city. Showing up at a local memorial service speaks louder than words. Do not come with an agenda or message other than “we are sorry.”

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once wrote: “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.” We are often silent because we do not know what to say, but your silence is deafening at times of attack. Please voice your condolence.

If you come across ugly comments on the internet, call them out for being anti-Semitic so others who come across this will be alerted. The first step in opposing this evil is identifying it for what it is. Educate yourself how to combat the lies permeating the internet so that it becomes a place of pushing back against the hatred. Visit the ICEJUSA.org and IsraelAnswers.com websites for teachings and answers to frequently asked questions.

Help your church to be informed and educated about the history and the current expressions of anti-Semitism. The ICEJ provides informative seminars that do this from a biblical perspective, not only enlightening but also inspiring churches to take a stance on behalf of the Jewish people.

If you are an alumnus of a college or university, contact the school president and let them know how concerned you are about this issue and ask what they are doing about it. Suggest they include courses against movements of hate including anti-Semitism, monitor anti-Israel groups calling for death to Israel and Zionists, and take seriously any complaints of anti-Semitism by their Jewish students.

These are simple steps that most of us can take. While the global epidemic of anti-Semitism may seem overwhelming, it is still small enough in the United States to be addressed. If we focus on the local level and within our own sphere of influence, we can each make a small difference—and that can add up to a whole lot of good.

- by Susan Michael, Director of ICEJ USA and ACLI

 

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How the Church Failed the Jewish People

It is a part of fallen human nature to need a scapegoat. Human beings tend to look for someone else to blame for their problems, someone to look down upon so they feel better about themselves. It’s easier to hold grudges and even take revenge than to forgive and demonstrate the very compassion we preach.

This is true of the history of the church and its posture toward the Jewish people. Soon after its inception, the church fell prey to Satan’s lure and embraced the idea that the Jewish people were cursed by God and deserving of maltreatment for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Theological Seeds Sown

Evidence of the differences between church and synagogue showed early in the life of the church. Disputes between Jewish Christians and Jewish leaders created a schism that eventually led to the separation of Jewish Christians from the community. By the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135 AD), Jewish leaders saw Jewish Christians not as Jews with different views about the Messiah but as Christians. Jewish Christianity began to fade, while gentile Christianity gained preeminence.

Anti-Jewish thought soon permeated the theology of early Christian leaders such as Justin Martyr (185–254 AD), Origen of Alexandria (185–254 AD), and Tertullian (160–225 AD). Saint John Chrysostom (349–407 AD), one of the most eloquent preachers of truth and love (whose very name meant “golden-mouthed”), said of the Jewish people, “God hates you.”

Centuries of anti-Jewish rhetoric had become embedded in church doctrine and gave Christians ample reason to hate the Jews. Their children were kidnapped and baptized to save them from hell. They were rounded up and beaten as a highlight of Easter celebrations, since they deserved it as murderers of the Lord.

Anti-Jewish theology then paved the way for degrading laws against the Jews in the Middle Ages. They were eventually forced to live in walled ghettos or expelled from their country.

The Protestant Reformation produced more of the same. Martin Luther is best known for the 95 Theses that he nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church birthing the Protestant Reformation—a return to the Bible as the source of religious authority.

Unfortunately, in his later years, Luther turned bitter toward the Jews and in his writings outlined specific ways to persecute and degrade the Jewish people ending with a plea for some solution “that we all may be free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews.”

Hatred in Full Bloom

It is no coincidence that 400 years later, in Luther’s Germany, Hitler came up with his solution for “the Jewish problem.” Hitler reprinted Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings for distribution and leaned heavily on one of Luther’s works, On the Jews and Their Lies, to create his own “solution” when crafting his autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf.

After Christian leaders known for love and charity had called the Jews “monstrous animals” and “evil seed,” it is no wonder Nazi cartoons could depict them as devils with horns and tails. It was not Hitler who thought up the distinctive yellow-star badge to be worn on their clothing like lepers, but thirteenth-century Pope Innocent who called for Jews to be identified by distinctive clothing pieces.

Hitler also used medieval Catholic anti-Jewish legislation as a model for his own. Eventually, this outright evil, anti-Jewish sentiment manifested in the Holocaust. And the church was silent—neither the Catholics nor the Protestants withstood him.

To paraphrase Raul Hillberg in The Destruction of the European Jews, the early church declared: “You have no right to live amongst us as Jews.” The secular rulers who followed that era expelled Jews from their lands as though to say, “You have no right to live amongst us.” Then Hitler later decreed: “You have no right to live.” The Nazis were just one more step in the progression of anti-Semitism and those who brought the previously planted theological seeds of hatred to full bloom.

The Need for Humility

Ironically, the Christian religion—an offshoot of Judaism, founded by the Jewish Messiah, and built on teachings of forgiveness and love—was the devil’s tool to bring hatred, persecution, and even murder of the Jewish people. This in spite of the apostle Paul’s instruction to believers to honor the Jewish people (Romans 11:28–29) and Jesus’ teaching that salvation comes from them (John 4:22). Something went horribly wrong.

To be clear, Christianity did not cause the Holocaust. But Christian anti-Judaism, which led to anti-Semitism—history’s oldest hatred—made the Holocaust possible.

The lesson for us today is to be careful of the seeds we plant. As Christians, we should walk in the compassion and forgiveness of our Lord. If the church had walked in the humility and meekness Jesus modeled and taught, the Holocaust might never have happened.

No matter what brand of Christian we are, we must be on guard about the human tendency to find someone else to blame—someone to look down upon—and the tendency to walk in blind self-righteousness. May we instead learn to walk in the compassion and humility of our Lord.

- by Susan Michael, ICEJ US Director (www.icejusa.org), creator of Israel Answers and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of IsraelAnswers.com


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