…but it seems to be a little quiet regarding a subject filling the headlines lately.
There are lots of difficult things happening in this country. We sense we’re at a turning point regarding the ongoing pain of systemic racial injustice, “gotcha” travel bans, ICE’s new wave of aggressive immigration policing, or the stew of legal and ethical questions about gender and sexuality, just to cherry-pick a few issues off the top of my head. You can probably add a few more to my list.
Each one of these issues affects me first as a follower of Jesus, and next as a citizen of the United States. But perhaps no other issue hits closer to home for me than the rising wave of anti-Semitism in this country and abroad. Between the bomb threats targeting Jewish organizations during the last month (including a new round today), the desecration in the last week two Jewish cemeteries in two different states, and the various accounts of vandalism of Jewish homes, synagogues and businesses (like this, earlier this month in Chicago), I am a little unsettled these days.
I exist in a funny sort of no-man’s land. I am Jewish, yet most within my own Jewish community would label me as a “convert” and tell me I’m no longer considered Jewish because I believe the Jewish Jesus is the Messiah. It has always been a point of amazement to me that a Jewish person can be an atheist or a Buddhist or a member of the mafia or whatever, and still be considered Jewish. Yet my faith makes me a bit of a pariah in my own community. I like to point out to people that if Adolph Hitler was here rounding people up, he and his minions would have no problem whatsoever putting me in line to go to the gas chambers (along with my husband, whose mom is Jewish, and my Jewish children and grandchildren). He would not be remotely interested in my confession of faith in Jesus. All that mattered to the Nazis would have been the fact that I have Jewish blood running through my veins. I’ve been on the receiving end of some disconcerting anti-Semitism in recent years – enough to know that while the Jewish community may stumble over the way in which I express my faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people who hate Jews have no problem at all hating me, too. Because I’m Jewish.
I’ve been watching how my grafted-in Gentile brothers and sisters in the Lord have been responding to these stories of anti-Semitism, both in real life and in the funhouse world of social media. I’m heartened by the outrage of many friends over these stories and concern for me and my family. But I am also watching how some of the Christian microphone-holders are responding to this wave of anti-Semitism, and I’m a little discouraged. Not surprised, but discouraged nonetheless.
I didn’t hear much from Evangelical leaders and influencers about the weak (!) sad (!) sotto voce response by Donald Trump to this rash of anti-Semitic activity, worrisome in light of the rabid MAGA nationalism of his guru, Steve Bannon. (Yes, I know Trump’s son-in-law is Jewish. Yes, it was nice to see Vice President Pence stopping by the desecrated cemetery in St. Louis, and yes, I appreciated the fundraising efforts of the Muslim community in order to help clean up the mess – and now the mess in Philly.)
I know that for some Evangelical leaders, immigration and refugee issues are front-burner topics right now, as they should be. But it should go without saying that anti-Semitism is not disconnected from these things. I’m saying it here, because “should” is not what “is” right now. What is deeply concerning to me is the way too many Christian leaders have bought into either Trump-style nationalism as part of their worldview (the oft-cited stat that 81% of Evangelicals voted for Trump means that many influencers were cheering on this choice) OR they’re already flat-out hostile toward Israel, thus, offering support to American Jews (diaspora members of that “illegitimate aggressor state”) is not really on their radar.
I’m listening carefully, but I’m hearing crickets when I think I should be hearing a roar.
So I’m throwing the question out there to you, readers. What are you hearing about this wave of anti-Semitism from your pastors? From the leaders and influencers you read online or to whom you listen via podcast?