There was a brief report in the Wall Street Journal on a recent conference, topic: “What’s He Doing Here?: Jesus in Jewish Culture.” What caught my attention were these paragraphs relating to a common misperception about the role of Jesus in anti-Semitism:
“Here you are, you jewish intellectuals, with a small ‘j,'” an elderly man stated from the front of the auditorium when he received the microphone. “I want you to know that I am not a cheder boy — I grew up among Catholics, who called me a filthy Christ killer. I envy you that your generation can be so calm. I live in fear. And I grew up in Montreal, not in Poland. My grandfather was murdered in Jesus’ name.”
There was a tense pause. When a second hand went up, holding out hope that a new questioner might change the subject, you could almost hear the audience members breathe a sigh of relief. The situation, after all, was awkward — something akin to a dinner guest loudly noting a chunk of lobster in a kosher whitefish salad. But upon the passing of the microphone, things only took a turn for the worse.
“I’m a New York Jew,” a second older gentleman said, “whose entire life has been programmed by stories of my family who died in Europe because of Jesus, hiding in cellars from pogroms at Easter and Christmas. I don’t see beauty in [Ezra] Pound, or [Louis-Ferdinand] Celine, or the great anti-Semites of the world. I don’t see any great influence that they’ve had on the good of the world, with their vituperative pronouncements about Jews. I don’t get it — I really don’t get it.”
I, too, am a New York Jew, and remember having Catholic kids throw rocks and holler “Christ killer” at Jewish kids. Turns out that this is what their Irish priests had told them, in no uncertain terms: the Jews had killed Jesus, and that today’s Jews bore the stain.
When I came to know Christ, I then also knew that those priests were not just wrong, but anti-Semites. We all, humanity that is, killed Jesus. It was all of our sins for which he paid the ultimate price. Jesus was a Jew, born a Jew, died the Jewish Messiah. Jesus was not, as some of those Irish priests told their flocks, a Catholic.
As a Christian, I have also come to know this: there is no possibility that a true disciple of Jesus Christ would harm a Jew for being Jewish. We must wish that all, including all Jews, would accept Christ as Lord. We must also never, ever, use force or any other coercion to bring this about.
Those that do, and those that commit violence to innocents in the name of Jesus are damned to Hell. This is something all Christians must know. Must. And if they do not, they have no claim to being Christian until they do.