Each and every Christian should be clear on this point: Anti-Semitism in any and all forms is a despicable evil.
On Saturday morning, a terrorist entered Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire during Shabbat services. Before being shot and captured by police, Robert Bowers killed eleven people, including two brothers, a married couple in their 80’s, and a 97-year old woman.
This shooting took place in what is literally Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood, and has left some American Jews asking a question they should never have to ask: Are they safe? In America even, are they safe?
It’s not an overreaction. What’s believed to be the deadliest attack on worshipping Jews in American history is only the most recent, and most extreme, example of the increasing anti-semitism in the United States. Yes, I said “increasing.”
Jews are only 2 percent of the American population but according to the FBI, they “account for more than half of the Americans targeted by hate crimes committed due to religious bias.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2017, compared with 1,267 in 2016. That’s a 57-percent increase in a single year.
Most incidents include things like bullying–especially but not exclusively on social media—and vandalism, especially the defacing of Jewish institutions with swastikas. This happened at a Jewish community center near a colleague’s home last year.
Still, even non-violent incidents cannot be dismissed as merely words or pranks. The Jewish heritage, as one person put it, comes with a “paranoia confirmed by history.” The ADL is correct to warn that the anti-Semitic poison currently rampant on Twitter, Facebook, and especially social media sites like Gab, find their way into mainstream discourse and, in extreme cases, inspire violence.
As Christians called by God to this cultural moment, it’s not enough to merely avoid being anti-Semitic. We ought to oppose this vile ideology wherever and whenever we come across it.
Years ago, at an inter-faith dialogue featuring a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, and me, a skeptic asked the three monotheists: “If your God is a God of love, why do you proselytize others?”
Setting aside the loaded postmodern assumptions in the question itself, I remember being surprised by the answer given by the representative of Judaism, “We don’t proselytize,” he said. “We believe God made a special arrangement with us through our father Abraham. If He made a deal with any of you, we don’t know.”
Christians, of course, agree that God made a special arrangement with Abraham. However, Christians also understand that in that agreement, God launched his plan of redemption and that through Israel, “all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen 22:18). This, of course, God did through Jesus, who was, as the Scriptures make abundantly clear, thoroughly Jewish.
In a short piece on anti-Semitism, Francis Schaeffer wrote “…we should keep constantly in our minds that our Lord Himself was a Jew—born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew.” And we should remember, as Russell Moore wrote in his blog, Jesus remains a Jew. As fully God and fully man, He was not resurrected from His Jewishness. So, as Moore bluntly put it, “to hate Jews is to hate Jesus.”
In light of that reality and acknowledging fully the Church’s checkered past when it comes to the Jewish people, we must not allow the tiniest whiff of anti-Semitism into our heads, our homes, or our hearts. We hear too much of it today, sometimes in the name of preserving Christian America. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, Christian about anti-Semitism in any form. As the little poem quoted by Francis Schaeffer back in 1943 reads,
“How odd of God to choose the Jew,
But not so odd as those who choose
The Jewish God and hate the Jew.”