On an article about religious and secular antisemitism in the Contemporary Church History Quarterly
|September 18, 2014||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
The latest issue of the Contemporary Church History Quarterly contains an interesting overview of the debate concerning the relationship between traditional religious or “Christian” antisemitism, and the newer varieties that emerged in the nineteenth and late eighteenth centuries. This was of course subsequent to the widespread cultural rejection of Christianity that is one of the main components of modernism.
It has often been argued in the past that the two forms of Jew-hatred, religious and secular, were different, having different causes and motivations, and ending in drastically different results – but some are arguing that the distinctions between them are not so clear-cut. This is discussed in detail in two issues of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament [ see ON CHRISTIAN ANTI-JUDAISM AND ANTISEMITISM; HTTP://CONTEMPORARYCHURCHHISTORY.ORG/2014/09/ON-CHRISTIAN-ANTI-JUDAISM-AND-ANTISEMITISM/ ]. The article gives an overview of the in-depth articles debating the extent to which Nazi antisemitism can be distinguished from the older religious variety.
It is significant that the second article, arguing for profound commonalities between Nazi and “Christian” antisemitism, relies (according to the overview) on the propaganda of Nazi-era theologians who abandoned many essential biblical teachings, and dressed up basically Nazi doctrines in religious language, with complete indifference to many vital New Testament teachings. What the Bible itself actually teaches is not considered – it seldom is in these arguments.
If people forsake the Christian faith to go chasing after Naziism, this reflects on them, not on Christianity, even if they like to use religious language.
When Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that Judaism was not even a religion at all, he was echoing the views of Kant, and of other people who emerged out of rejection of Christianity, not the views of traditional religious antisemites.
When Hitler wrote, also in Mein Kampf, that the Old Testament was historically unreliable, he was in the mainstream of modern secularism, not of traditional Christianity, which viewed the Jewish Scriptures as true and divinely inspired.
In saying that the Jews cared only about selfish advantage and material gain, and were incapable of higher ideals, Hitler was, again, echoing ideas introduced by Kant, and that emerged out of the Enlightenment.
If one takes Nazi-era propaganda issued by German theologians as evidence of the close relationship between the older and newer antisemitisms, one can make a good case – but we should consider that such “theologians” had abandoned many essential Christian principles, and were ignoring many basic biblical teachings. Thus, they illustrate not the kinship of traditional and Nazi antisemitisms, but rather the abandonment of many fundamental ideas which would have completely nullified Nazi ideology.
For example, it teaches in the book of Acts that God has made all nations of one blood (Acts 17:26). There are other doctrines, such as Paul’s teaching that the Jews would someday be restored (Romans 11: 1, 15), and that Jews and Gentiles were all equally sinful (Romans 3:9-10). There is also the warning that thieves, liars, murderers and evil people will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8).
These and many other teachings did not prevent cruelty to Jews, but they did ensure that never in many centuries of Christian cultural dominance did anyone call for, let alone seek to implement, the destruction of the entire Jewish people on grounds of racial purity.
People like Martin Niemoeller would never have dreamed of putting Jews into gas chambers. In spite of his many mistakes and errors, he did not believe that traditional ethics were false and irrelevant; that people were essentially animals locked in a pitiless struggle for survival; that Jews were vermin to be exterminated.
If current scholarship finds the “older distinction between theological anti-Judaism and racial antisemitism . . . increasingly difficult to sustain,” perhaps current scholarship is wrong. Much of current scholarship is openly hostile to Christianity, unfamiliar with its teachings, and eager to believe anything bad about it. And, trends in scholarship do change over time, so current views are by no means the last word on a subject.
It makes little difference to me if one calls traditional religious hostility to Jews “antisemitism” or not, but to fail to notice the many clear and obvious distinctions between forms of antisemitism, and to concentrate on radical German Christians who had in fact abandoned biblical Christianity and were merely expressing basically Nazi ideas in religious language, is I fear a regrettable oversimplification that greatly confuses this important question.