How Deep is the Christian-Jewish Abyss?

Denying Christian anti-Judaism will never bring peace between Jews and Christians. Pope Benedict and Protestant leaders must atone for what Christianity has done to the Jewish people by recognizing the unique place of the Jews and Israel.

Contact Editor
Giulio Meotti,

giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

As Jews prepare to celebrate Pessah, Christians are ready for Easter.

Tragically, there is no time on the Christian calendar more associated with anti-Semitism than Easter.

In the year 1144, in Norwich, England, 19 Jews were hanged without a trial. This marked the first time that Jews were accused of the blood libel - murdering Christians to use their blood in rituals. Then the libel crossed the channel into France: 32 Jews were burned at the stake in Blois.

Over the next centuries, Easter became a time of fear for the Jewish people. In 1497, Passover coincided with a cruel decree issued by King Manuel of Portugal, who ordered all Jewish children to be forcibly converted to Catholicism. Countless thousands of Jewish youngsters were baptized and then handed over to be raised by Catholic families.

With traumatic memories of deicide charges and pogroms, Easter is the most challenging time of the year for Christian-Jewish discourse.

A few days ago in a special interview with Die Tagespost, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, a “moderate” cleric named by Pope Benedict to represent the Catholic communities in the Jewish State, declared that “Israel’s existence as such has nothing to do with the Bible”.

Twal then compared Christians’ condition in today’s Jerusalem with Jesus’ Passion: “We Christians never forget that even our Lord himself suffered and was mocked in Jerusalem”. The Catholic Archbishop encouraged anti-Semitism by employing deicide imagery.

Denial of Israel’s religious and historical claims to the land is not new in the Catholic hierarchy. In a 2010’s Vatican synod on the Middle East, the most important event in a decade for the Holy See, bishops declared that “we Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people”.

Elias Chacour, the Catholic Archbishop of Israel, said that “we do not believe anymore that the Jews are the Chosen People”.

“There is no longer a chosen people”, said Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, chosen by the Pope to draft the synod’s conclusions. He resurrected the ancient calumny that the Jews are damned as cosmic exiles. “The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians”.

This is the same delusional lexicon of medieval Jew-hatred of Norwich. The Archbishop’s attack on Israel was not a single incident, but was reinforced in the final message of the synod which, under the heading “Cooperation and Dialogue with the Jews”, argued that “recourse to theological and biblical positions, which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices, is not acceptable”. 

The malignant use of the expression “chosen Jews” inspired the pogroms, the expulsion of the Spanish Jews and Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism (the founder of Protestantism argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but instead “the Devil’s people”).

Orthodox Eastern Christianity is also imbued with theological enmity for the Jews. “Modern-day Jews are not God’s chosen people”, the former head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, recently declared in a meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter. “Do not believe their claims that they are God’s chosen people, because it is not true”.

Today the Christian arena is divided among the mainline Protestant churches, which are prominently anti-Israel; the Vatican, which embraced a new aggressiveness against Israel; the US Evangelicals, which are pro-Israel, and independent Protestant groups based in Europe, like Christians for Israel.

It is true that some Evangelicals did not show a real tendency to curtail their missionary activities among Jews, but the hostility toward Israel and the Jews encouraged by institutionalized global Christians, such as the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, poses a much greater near-term threat to Jews.

Professor Paul Merkley’s wonderful book, “Those That Bless You, I Will Bless” (Mantua Books), sheds light on these anti-Israel Churches. Merkley’s book is the most significant work about the current religious ditch, told from a Christian perspective.

The Church of England reviewed its investments in companies with ties to Israel’s presence in the territories.

The Methodist Church of Britain recently launched a boycott against goods emanating from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

All five of the mainline denominations in the United States – Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran and United Church of Christ – have debated and adopted policies intended to divest or boycott Israel. During the upcoming General Conference of the United Methodist Church scheduled for April 25 in Tampa, Florida, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (June 30 in Pittsburgh), anti-Israel actions in the form of boycott, divestment or sanctions are expected to be brought to the floor for a vote.

The World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of Protestants claiming a membership of 580 million worshippers, produced the “Amman Call”, which denies Israel’s right to continue to exist as a Jewish State.
While the United States is home to millions of Christian supporters of Israel, these are anti-Jewish Churches which are more closely attached to public opinion, the media industry, the United Nations and global legal forums.

The World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of Protestants claiming a membership of 580 million worshippers, produced the “Amman Call”, which denies Israel’s right to continue to exist as a Jewish State.

Serge Duss, Director of the New Century Evangelicals Project, is one of the Protestant leaders who claim that modern Israelis are not descended from Biblical Jews.

Often identified as strong supporters of Israel, Pentecostal Christians are also being targeted by anti-Israel activists from the Evangelical camp. The Society for Pentecostal Studies just gathered in Virginia, where it screened “Little Town of Bethlehem”, a film with a virulent anti-Israel message.

“World Week for Peace in Palestine”, an initiative of the World Council of Churches, will be observed May 28 to June 3. “Focus this year is on the growing dispossession and displacement of Palestinians”.

It seems that the Churches are breathing new life into that kind of Easter’s demonology which criminalized the Jews for centuries. Denying Christian anti-Judaism will never bring peace between Jews and Christians. It is incumbent upon Pope Benedict and Protestant leaders to atone for what Christianity has done to the Jewish people through the centuries by recognizing the unique role and place of the Jews and Israel in this world. 

There is an urgent Christian necessity to change Jewish-Christian history for the sake of the future by taking few simple steps: don’t proselytize the Jews, don’t slander them, don’t preach their conversion, avoid any theological topic, proclaim the uniqueness of the Jewish covenant, fight the apocalyptic cults, recognize Jews’ right to Judea and Samaria, defend a united Jewish Jerusalem, support Israel’s right to defend itself, and stop spiritualize the Bible, as if the promises to Abraham were not about a specific land for a specific people but about some heavenly domain.

Unless these steps are taken, any Jewish-Christian reapproachment would be not only futile, but dangerous.

Or to use old iniquities’ words, Jews will remain “odium humani generis”. Hated by humanity.