Antisemitism never dies, and sadly, the number of hate crimes against Jewish people in the U.S. is rising once again. As more and more people are assaulted, Christians need to remember that antisemitism is everyone’s problem.
We cannot sit silently and idly on the sidelines if we truly embrace Christ’s message of love and inclusion. Doing nothing in the face of hatred is unacceptable. And it’s unchristian.
Hatred in Their Hearts
Right-wing “Christian” extremists claim that they follow Christ. Some seem to believe that they’re more Christian than the rest of us, but the hatred in their hearts is quite apparent in their words and behaviors.
Someone needs to remind them of these words from the New Testament: If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. – 1 John 2:9.
My pastor – who is a very wise woman – says, “Hatred in our hearts leaves no room for Christ.” She’s right. (Read my post on hatred by clicking here.) The truth is that a heart filled with hatred and anger leaves little room for any kind of love.
Hatred destroyed millions of lives in the last century. If you know anything about history, you know what happened in the 1930s and 1940s when many good people did nothing in the face of unchecked hatred. Adolf Hitler came to power and made antisemitism and other forms of hatred not only acceptable but also state policy.
Hitler took away the rights and property of Jewish people one step at a time. He excluded them from holding state jobs, prevented them from working in various professions such as law and medicine, established quotas in public schools and universities, made antisemitism part of school curriculums, and forbade Jewish actors from appearing on stage or screen, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia.
Hitler and his cronies also outlawed marriages and other sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews and destroyed their synagogues. After confiscating Jewish homes, he isolated the people in terrible ghettos, and eventually, shipped them to concentration camps where millions of Jews died — all because they were Jewish.
One of the best books about Hitler and Nazism is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. For a much shorter read, click here to read a post called Hitler’s Antisemitism. Why Did He Hate the Jews?
To learn more about Germans’ anger over being blamed for World War I, read Britannica’s article, Rise to Power of Adolf Hitler here.
Am I being hysterical? I don’t think so. As a long-time student of history, I see a creeping ugliness in America that deeply concerns me. Antisemitism is becoming acceptable, as is hatred of anyone who isn’t straight and white. Sometimes, I barely recognize the country in which I live and have lived for my entire life.
Consider these facts. In the United States, incidents against Jews reached the highest level on record in 2022, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) several days ago. Admittedly, no one has been killed, but deadly violence is logically the next step.
New data from the FBI supports the ADL findings. It reveals a 12 percent increase in hate crimes in 2021. More than 12,000 people were reportedly victims of hate crimes in the U.S., the FBI said, and approximately 65 percent were targeted because of their race or ethnicity.
Think about that for a minute. Then, remember that antisemitism is everyone’s problem.
Growing Hatred, Growing Nationalism
Growing antisemitism in America parallels the growth of Christian nationalism. Proponents of Christian nationalism often harbor a deep hatred of Jewish people. However, Jews aren’t the only targets of right-wing hatred. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians also are under fire, as are the LGBTQ community, Muslims and other non-Christian religious groups.
Before we delve any deeper into antisemitism in particular and hate in general, I would like to emphasize these points:
- First, this article specifically addresses antisemitism, but my words apply to the blind hatred of any group or individual. Hate-driven stereotypes are never accurate. They are demeaning and ugly.
- Second, I mention Christian nationalists, but I’m not condemning all of them. Many of them hate Jews, but some do not.
- Third, my goal in writing this piece is to encourage fair-minded Christians to take a stand against antisemitism and other forms of hatred wherever they find it.
It Can Happen Again
Hitler took depravity to new heights in the 1930s and early 1940s. People around the world were horrified when they learned about Nazi atrocities during World War II and promised, “Never again!”
The terrible truth is that it can happen again if people of goodwill — including and especially Christians — do nothing. Christians are the major religion in the United States and in the world, and we can make a positive difference.
You may wonder why I’m broaching this subject so soon after writing about the Holocaust. My incentive was the Anti-Defamation League’s new report on rising antisemitism in America. The report was released a few days ago and made the news, which stirred my interest. (You can read my earlier post, Never Again, here.)
The ADL has tracked antisemitic incidents since 1979, and its new report said that antisemitic assaults, acts of vandalism and harassment against Jews in the U.S. increased by 36 percent in 2022. Thirty-six percent! It’s “the third time in the past five years that the year-end total has been the highest number ever recorded,” ADL noted.
The U.S.-based civil rights organization said the increases “cannot be attributed to any one cause or ideology,” although it noted a significant increase in white supremacist propaganda, as well as “deeply troubling percentage increases” in attacks against Orthodox Jews and bomb threats against Jewish organizations.
“This escalation in antisemitic incidents comes just as ADL has reported on Americans’ highest level of antisemitic attitudes in decades,” the organization stated in its Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2022.
The highest number of incidents occurred in New York, followed by California, New Jersey, Florida and Texas. “Combined, these five states account for 54 percent of the total incidents,” the organization said. To read the ADL’s report, click here.
“A Canary in the Coal Mine” for Hate
“Hate crimes more broadly have also been on the rise over the past few years,” according to National Public Radio (NPR). “Experts sometimes refer to antisemitism as ‘a canary in the coal mine’ for hate generally.
“Whenever a minority group is blamed for some real or perceived harm, such narratives almost always find ways to also attack Jews based on centuries-old myths about Jewish control and disloyalty,” NPR said.
When hatred rears its ugly head, Christians need to remember some of Christ’s teachings.
Christ tells his followers to “love thy neighbors,” for example. And he probably is horrified that some so-called Christians ignore his words and actions and listen to the hate-filled rhetoric of right-wing politicians and preachers.
Some of these “Christians” also buy into the myth that Jews are greedy and power-hungry. There are greedy people in any culture, but I daresay that most Jews are busy taking care of their families rather than planning power grabs.
“There are plenty of evangelicals who have views about Jewish power, who assume Jews are controlling things,” historian Daniel Hummel told the Washington Post in an interview in 2019.
Hummel is associated with the University of Wisconsin and authored the book Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews and U.S.-Israeli Relations.
He said that the deeply rooted antisemitism of some evangelicals is cultural as well as ideological. The cultural beliefs come from conservative friends and neighbors, and the ideological come from Christianity’s roots in Judaism, when Christians began to portray themselves as God’s new chosen people.
Let me emphasize that…
- Jesus was Jewish.
- His 12 disciples were Jewish.
- The first Christians were Jewish.
- And modern-day Jews had nothing to do with Christ’s death. Most of them don’t believe Christ is the Son of God, but that’s an issue for each individual and God.
It’s ironic, given all of this Judaism, that antisemites claim to follow Christ.
Not Inherently Antisemitic
Right-wing Christian nationalists will continue to believe the things they want to believe regardless of cold, hard facts. But they aren’t a monolithic group any more than Jews are.
“Evangelicals are not inherently antisemitic,” said historian and researcher Deborah Lipstadt in an interview with the Washington Post.
“… they tend to share these conservative suspicions of the news media and of elites, and view themselves as victims of the elites – a worldview that predisposes some to align themselves with anti-Semites.” Read the Washington Post story – How Anti-Semitic Beliefs Have Taken Hold Among Some Evangelical Christians — here.
Antisemitism Is Everyone’s Problem
As I’ve said, escalating antisemitism is everyone’s problem, and Christians cannot quietly sit on the sidelines – not if they believe the Bible’s teachings about loving one another and God. Loving God, after all, is impossible when your heart is filled with hatred.
An article on the Facing History and Ourselves website offers readers a great deal to ponder. You can read by clicking here. Facing Ourselves and History, by the way, is an educational organization. It began in 1976 and has grown into “a global organization with a network of hundreds of thousands of middle and secondary school educators teaching millions of students worldwide.”
The Why & How of Antisemitism
Its article, Antisemitism and Its Impact, is a clearly written piece that begins by saying humans tend to blame other people for tragedies or situations they cannot explain or control. It also noted that the face of antisemitism is ever-changing.
“Antisemitism is constantly repackaged to reach new generations in new contexts,” according to Facing History and Ourselves. In our time, it may manifest itself in the…
- bullying of Jewish children at school
- sharing of organized white nationalistic ideas
- promoting antisemitic memes
It’s important to know that antisemitic beliefs are so engrained in our culture that even good Christians don’t recognize them. The beliefs are insidious and may exist in communities that have few if any Jewish residents and in people who don’t feel any particular hatred toward Jews.
The organization pointed out that “middle and high school students are particularly at risk of encountering antisemitic content in unmonitored digital spaces – meme culture, social media, and gaming platforms.”
Consequently, it’s important for us to know what antisemitism is, how it reveals itself and how it hurts individual people and communities.
“According to the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, classic antisemitism links Jews to forces of evil. Some common antisemitic conspiracies include the false belief that ‘the Jews’ control the government, banks, and media, and the false belief that Jews are responsible for spreading disease, such as COVID-19.
These lies – let’s call them what they are — rely on widely shared stereotypes, ideas, images, stories and phrases, according to Facing History and Ourselves.
People use code words such as “the Hollywood elite” or simply “elite” to communicate racist beliefs about Jews’ supposed control over the entertainment industry and government. You can identify “Hollywood elite” and other code words when you listen carefully to the things politicians, celebrities and even friends and neighbors say.
Can you image how it feels to be the target of hatred because you are Jewish – or black or Hispanic or Native American or whatever you are?
Facing History quotes several people who have been targeted:
One teenager said, “Before, I guess, I ‘came out’ as Jewish on my TikTok, before people knew, I was getting almost all positive responses. And now, every single TikTok I’ve made since that video, I’ve received anti-Semitic comments, regardless of the content.”
That’s a good description of blind hatred. This girl got “almost all positive responses” on TikTok until people knew she was Jewish. Then suddenly, she became an object of derision. She hadn’t changed, but people’s perception of her had.
Another young Jewish girl said of her online experiences, “I’ve gotten death threats. I’ve gotten sexual assault threats. I’ve gotten called lots of slurs, my family’s gotten death threats.”
The New York Police Department reported a 400 percent increase in attacks on Jews in February 2022 as compared to February 2021, and Jewish adults and children have been “punctured, stabbed, bludgeoned, shot, burned by fireworks, verbally assaulted, and spit up while going about their daily lives in their communities,” Facing History and Ourselves reported.
The organization continued by saying, “A Human Rights First report on antisemitism and extremism in France warns that ‘left unchecked, antisemitism leads to…an overall increase in repression and intolerance. An increase in antisemitism is a harbinger of social breakdown.’
“Like any other form of intolerance, hatred, or discrimination, antisemitism is destructive to an entire community because it encourages suppression or even the extinction of difference, rather than bridge building, cultural literacy, empathy and conflict resolution,” Facing History continued.
Do you want to live in a society plagued by blind hatred, repression and intolerance? I certainly don’t.
What can fair-minded Christians do about antisemitism? Read my next article, which I will post in a few days, for my thoughts and suggestions on that subject.