The this week’s chapter from the my book beta-test was intended to have a brief discussion of Christian-Jewish relations, but on re-reading what I initially wrote, I began to wonder whether my take was quite accurate, and also got worried about a lack of good examples of what I had in mind. Instead of posting what I initially wrote, I’m going to start off by quoting from the post I did two months ago on Mormon baptism of the dead:
Since a lot of the outcry about the Mormon baptism thing is coming from Jews, it’s worth noting that (from what I gather) plenty of Jews are quite sensitive to the fact that many Christians expect them to burn in Hell. The reason we’re hearing so much about Mormon baptisms right now probably has a lot to do with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
But why don’t people check to see if Christian presidential candidates belong to churches that preach nasty things about non-Christians? I suppose that, even for people who feel the way I do about the issue, there’s a sense of resignation, that that’s not a fight that can be won. And as for the Jews who are speaking out against Mormon baptism, maybe a lot of them really are taken in by the professions of bigoted preachers that they support Jews (not realizing that translates, “we support Israel to help usher in the Second Coming, at which point Jews will have the choice to convert or burn.”)
I think everything I wrote there is strictly speaking true, but on the other hand the examples that spring most readily to mind of Jews getting upset about the “all non-Christians are gonna burn in Hell” thing come from individual, very secular Jews (namely Al Franken and Mikey Weinstein). With Jewish groups that are in the business of trying to call out antisemitism, though, it can sometimes seem like they have an implicit bargain with Christians along the lines of “you can think we’re eternally damned as long as you don’t say so too loudly.”
One example (though I feel not quite the best example of what I want to illustrate) comes from a controversy that happened in 2001 over an installment of the comic strip B.C., which at the time was drawn by fundamentalist Christian Johnny Hart (after Hart’s death in 2007, it passed on to his daughter and grandsons.) From an LA Times story that ran at the time:
Johnny Hart’s Stone Age comic “B.C.” usually spoofs the human condition, but this Sunday’s solemn panels are devoted to the last words of Jesus Christ during crucifixion. The comic strip depicts the candles of a menorah being extinguished one by one until the Judaic symbol is finally transformed into a cross.
The strip, which can be seen on the Internet, already has disappointed and angered some readers, religious leaders and newspapers, many of which are writing about the controversy and soliciting reader feedback. Critics argue Hart’s message is that Christianity replaced Judaism as a viable religion 2,000 years ago, in much the same way as Judaism supplanted paganism in the ancient world.
Now I can understand objecting to the message (if it was the intended message) “that Christianity replaced Judaism as a viable religion 2,000 years ago.” What I can’t understand is acting like it’s a big shock that a Christian would believe this. Of course Christians believe this; Romans and Acts are pretty clear on the idea that things like circumcision and keeping kosher ceased to be important after Jesus came.
I mean, I grew up in a pretty liberal church where the confirmation class required us to learn about other religions, but I was taught that message even there. If you soften the meaning of “viable religion” in a way so it doesn’t entail people without viable religions are going to burn in Hell for eternity, I’m not even sure I find the claim all that horrible (though obviously I think no religion is the true religion, and when the controversy happened Hart had already been quoted as saying, “Jews and Muslims who don’t accept Jesus will burn in hell.”)
All that makes me think that the objection there wasn’t to Hart’s beliefs, but that he dared so much as hint at them in such a public way. But I don’t really know. Maybe other people can point me towards evidence that Jewish groups mostly take the sane position on this issue (i.e. that the people who say Jews are going to Hell are insane). But maybe there are even better examples than the Johnny Hart case confirming my suspicions. I’m asking for people’s help on this one.