Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mental Running............................

I’ve read Constantine’s Sword twice, and I have an interesting time understanding how the author can understand Judaism from the eyes of a Jew. I used to have a lot of pent up anger towards Christianity, and reading that book broke up a lot of that anger because a Christian was understanding that anger from the point of view of a Jew and understanding that that anger was not “anti-Christian.”

In fact, I’ve never heard a Christian refer to Jews as anti-Christian, and I’m not exactly sure why. Indeed, some of the views that Jews have towards Christianity are really anti-Christian. I want to give the benefit of the doubt to Christians, I want to believe that they haven’t used it because they understand that Christianity has done some bad things to Jews and therefore they understand that their resentment towards Christianity is not “anti-Christian” but is based on what was done to them. I think that they don’t use it because they haven’t rationalized it as being anti-Christian. They see the confluence between the Tanakh and the Christian Bible as being so smooth and natural that there is no such thing as being anti-Christian; by rejecting Jesus the Jews are being anti-Jewish. Therefore, the term “anti-Christian” has no meaning in the Christian mind, a Christian has to bend his way of thought to make sense of that word because it explains to him just how separate Jews see the Tanakh and the Christian Bible; to use the word “anti-Christian” to refer to a Jew’s sentiment is to understand Christianity as an entirely separate tradition from Judaism, meaning that it is extraneous to it and has nothing to do with it. Christians do sense that Judaism is anti-Christian, but it seems that they have never used that word. Instead, they conceptualize this tension, which to them is senseless, that Jews have resentment towards Christianity in the form of shock that Jews do not accept Jesus. To a Christian, to love G-d is to love Jesus, so the logical question for a Christian to ask a Jew is “why don’t you accept Jesus?” They can’t understand how Jews say that they love G-d but don’t accept Jesus. There is a confusion in their mind, two existing and opposite concepts at once; they know that the Jews love G-d, and since it is so natural for a Christian to love both G-d and Jesus as an measure of their love for G-d, they simply can’t understand how a person can love G-d without loving Jesus. Unfortunately, they might be tempted to conclude that Jews don’t really love G-d. The fact that the Tanakh and the Christian Bible can be logically seen as two different Bibles would allow for the concept that one can love G-d in His Entirety and not love Jesus, or even know him.

From a perspective of Christianity, it is logical to see Jesus everywhere in the Tanakh, because that religion was made real on the basis of Jesus being foretold everywhere in the Tanakh. It makes sense to believe that the Tanakh talks about Jesus only if your religion was founded on Jesus being the fulfillment of the Tanakh. If you’re a Jew, your religion was founded on something else and therefore there is no place for Jesus within Judaism because it is already complete without him. A Christian simply can’t fathom the notion that anything be complete without Jesus, but this is explicitly because his religion was founded by Jesus. I guess it would be the same to say that Judaism just does not make sense without Abraham. This also means that, in an abstract manner of speaking, that Christianity is a “Judaic religion,” because Jesus was a Jew. To a Christian, Jesus’ being Jewish lends it 100% believability in the eyes of a Jew, meaning that a Christian believes that it should be no problem for a Jew to accept Christianity on the merit that Jesus was a Jew. The answer to that is that there have been many Jews in history who have done wrong and their being Jewish was not a litmus test for their validity.

Jews, but I am really just talking about myself, are not anti-Christian in the sense that they hate G-d, because to Jews, Christianity is not representative of G-d. There are people who are anti-Christian along the lines that they don’t like the concept of G-d; Jews are not anti-Christian for this reason, if they even are anti-Christian, but rather for the reason of what Christianity has done to the Jews, and is doing. I for one think that Christianity should be allowed to flourish but in the Christian social context and in the lives of Christians; it should not reach over into the lives of Jews. Let Christians love Jesus, let them pray to him, let them believe that he fulfilled the Torah; this has nothing to do with me.

In a Boston University interview, James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword, said, "I went to Auschwitz in November 1996 not knowing, or having forgotten, about the cross. When I saw it, I was shocked. I knew that there had been a furious dispute about the presence of a convent, and I went to look at the building that had housed the convent. John Paul II had intervened with Polish Catholics and the order of Carmelite nuns, and helped arrange for the convent's move to a site a bit farther from the camp. The sight of the cross was a jolt for me. I had a reaction that I knew I would have to confront. It was a visceral, negative reaction, and I was confused by my reaction. It was the literal beginning of this book."

This is just an interesting picture, a Catholic Bishop meeting Hitler, an indication of the political alliances forming between Hitler and the Bishops and that they were too close for comfort.
Here's an equally shocking snapshot of Bishops during World War II giving the Nazi salute in the vicinity of Hitler.

This picture, a meeting between Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II, and Hitler shows that he was also meddling in the Middle East. He was engaging the Christians in Europe and the Muslims in the Middle East, can we imagine where this was going?

And for the visual learners, a picture of Nazisand Hezba-llah, the Lebanese terrorist group, respectively heiling Hitler and heiling Hassan (Nasra-llah).

My point with this blog is not to induce an unnecessary guilt trip on the faithful (Christians) or to lead to their questioning or breaking their faith (G-d forbid), even if I don't believe in it, but to get them to understand that they cannot make, or try to make, logical distinctions between "true Christians" and "not real Christians" based on (in)conveniences to their faith. I have had too many Christian friends tell me, when I brought up this topic, that anyone who does something bad in the name of Jesus is not a real Christian - how to explain the large cross hanging from the Bishop's neck as he stood face-to-face with Hitler is a good a guess as anybody's. This is a cognizant dissonance, an inability to grapple with real phenomena and events because they do not conform with currently held notions of something, in this case (an individual's understanding of) Christianity. If those Bishops weren't real Christians, Christianity does not exist. We cannot ignore history to save faith and I definitely am not ready to erase one of the worst moments in Jewish history just so that Christians can go to Church Sunday morning with a clear conscience and a happy heart. What happened to the Jews cannot be erased, not from the fiber of existence nor from the Jewish law-violating tattoos nor from the minds of the survivors.

Two Christians meet: Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian and legislator/spokesperson for the Palestinian people and cause meeting with a Cardinal

Further, what would this do to the integrity of Christianity if these things could be forgotten? In what shallow, false, and two dimensional realm would Christianity exist if it remained in a state forgetful of, and therefore unaware of, atrocities carried out under its auspices, detached from what "true Christianity" is? In what "happy-go-lucky" sugary philosophy of love-state would Christianity exist if it insisted that to be a Christian is to love but was unable to realize that Christians have hated? Christianity did not come into existence on your birthdate; it existed before you for two thousand years, and the Christianity of 13th Century Europe is not the Christianity of 21st Century America. Christianity cannot be just a mental structure in the minds or hearts of Christian believers; if Christianity does not exist in this world, it does not exist. You are not a real Christian if you assume that Christianity only figures into your lifetime and leaves you in a state detached from past events done in the name of your religion. Nor am I a real Jew if I live with the assumption that my existence in the 21st Century in America has nothing to do with every single day that has passed in the history of the world. The survivors of the Holocaust coined the phrase "Never Again." It shouldn't be obsessive fear that motivates one to fight against "again," and therefore to remember, rather, the quality of one's identity is reduced to rubble if memory is erased. Imagine a person with amnesia who tries desperately to remember his past; he is valued by it.

Two interesting videos

In the above video, from 1:15 to about 1:25, it looks like a movement made by Muslims in prayer.

2 comments: said...

It is interesting because many Christians associate the Catholic faith as a well known fast detour to Christianity. The Catholic faith does not teach many things that Jesus seems adamant about. Paul the apostle predicted soon after his death that followers of Christ and the Gospel would be perverted for some time. Catholicism flourished mainly because the average person could not read and had to take the word of the priests. One man wrote that he learn the original Greek and asked a priest if he could have manuscripts of the Bible to read. After studying them in depth he said either this is not Christianity, what you have given me or we are not Christians. In the story of Elijah he speaks to G-d and tells the Father that he is all alone. G-d says to him no, there is a raiment of people that has not bowed a knee to Bail and that I have reserved for myself. Many Christians today believe that even though the faith has been perverted there has always been this raiment that has been present as G-d’s people but the majority is wrong. So, when you say the majority of Christians have done wrong we agree but that does not mean that the Christ’s teachings were false, just his followers.

jjew said...

I hear what you're saying because other (Protestant) Christians have told me something similar, that Catholicism has intermediaries, i.e., Priests that say you have to go through them to get to G-d and that Protestantism cuts them out. However, you can't forget that Catholicism is the original form of Christianity and Protestantism was the reform. Of course, there was a form of Christianity before the Roman Catholic Church was developed and also before the Nicene Creed in 325, but with regards to Catholicism and Protestantism, Catholicism was the original. You'd be hard-pressed to demonstrate that Protestantism, developing later than Catholicism, is closer to something that developed before Catholicism. What I mean is, you have A, B, and C, and you'd be demonstrating how C is closer to A than is B -- A and C are closer to each other than A and B.

This is exactly what Carroll is demonstrating, by the way, and the way he does that is by saying that the Catholic Church (basically from the beginning) introduced elements into the religion of Christianity that were not a part of the original message. He says that this created of a sort of "Christian culture" that was based in things that the Church had to do for other reasons and not based in what Christianity originally was. Protestantism isn't exempt because it started based on a development that was in response to disagreements with the Catholic Church, so it too was a response to reality in the 16th century and therefore to "contemporary" issues, and one of those contemporary issues was Jews. To a degree, Protestantism is as much a perversion of Jesus' teachings as is Catholicism and perhaps the closest thing we have today to what Jesus was saying and doing is Judaism. Christianity eventually realized that and that's probably why "Jews for Jesus" was created, a very clever way to bring Jews to Christianity (and to find its roots).

You tell me, if this religious reform away from the Papal authority of Rome was closer to Jesus' teachings than Catholicism, how is it that vicious anti-Semitism became such a norm amongst Protestants as well? The "high culture" of German civilization, which was both Catholic and Protestant, can be said to have a strong relationship with what eventually happened there. Carroll says that anti-Semitic teachings are lodged within the very text of the Gospels, and he shows examples that you would understand better than me. Remember, he isn’t some idiot blabbering badness about Christianity; he was a Priest for a long time.

And yeah, my intent with this posting was not at all about Christian theology or belief or Jesus but totally on the practice of Christians, i.e., people at certain (and many) points in time. Granted, their beliefs are one component making what they did possible, and Carroll looks at the stance that maybe their beliefs made what they did probable. The whole book is about the reckoning of a (Catholic) Christian of the wrongs done by Christians in one of the worst times of human history during World War II. The thing is that it doesn't exempt any Christian, Catholic or Protestant. The Catholic Church is shown to have been pressured by Hitler to conform to what he wanted and to having let things happen basically under their nose, but of course also to eventually resist him. Protestant ideology is not exempt because Hitler drew largely on ideas coined by Luther, who was very hostile towards Jews, an anti-Semite, and created policy based loosely (or not) on those ideas. What this means is that within the social sphere of Protestantism itself there was a sentiment not friendly to Jews, which Hitler exploited and used. Carroll is not bashing Christianity in this book; he's speaking about the role of Christianity in those atrocities through the eyes of a firm believer and wondering what that implies for his faith. His goal in the book is not to point out the problems and to harp on them, but rather to view time as a stream that could have taken many several turns but for some reason took the path that it did; he focuses on the reasons that it took those paths and how people could have made it take other paths. I urge you to read it - it helped me understand a lot about myself as a Jew, and if a Catholic can offer a Jew insight about his Jewishness, then he can offer another Christian insight as well. Right now I'm lending it to someone, but if you want it after she gives it back that's fine.

Peace, Yaniv...