My most recent post, “Antisemitism Is a Problem for Everyone, Including Christians,” looked at how antisemitism is gaining ground in the United States. The post contained data from the Anti-Defamation League, talked about how the rise of antisemitism parallels the rise of Christian nationalism, described what antisemitism looked like in the 20th century and showed how it can happen again. Today, we’ll see how Christians should respond.
A Groundbreaking Call to Action
“The United States is facing the greatest crisis of public antisemitism in a century,” according to the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, which represents some 30 organizations working on interfaith issues.
Do you remember your history? What happened 100 years ago? The rise of Nazism, World War II and the Holocaust.
No sensible person wants to repeat that history.
The council sees the recent increase in hate incidents as a crisis and has issued a “groundbreaking call to all American churches to vigorously and proactively combat antisemitism, including identifying and addressing anti-Judaism in prayers, theologies and educational material.”
- It’s shameful that Christian churches have behaved so badly that the statement was necessary.
- It’s demeaning for the victims of antisemitism as well as the perpetrators.
- It’s appalling that any Christian would pray anti-Jewish prayers or model such behavior for their children.
It’s time for Christians and Christian churches to put aside antisemitism and be part of the solution, rather than the problem.
An End to Ugly Myths about Jews
Over the past 2,000 years, Christians have blamed Jews for many things: being disloyal to their home countries, displacing non-Jews in legal and medical professions, controlling the media, misleading the public and trying to destroy the middle class.
But above all, many Christians have blamed the Jews for Christ’s death and have treated them quite badly – forcing Jews to convert to Christianity or face death, taking away their civil rights, destroying their homes and killing them.
The truth is that “the Jews” didn’t kill Christ any more than you or I did, and they shouldn’t be saddled with the blame. In saying “the Jews” did anything, white Christians fall into a trap. It’s like saying “All blacks are criminals.” “All Muslims are terrorists.” “All gays are predators.” None of those statements are true, any more than “All whites are racists” is true. When we repeat those statements, we demonstrate our ignorance.
The ancient Jews weren’t some monolithic group that rose up as one against Christ. Have we forgotten that Christ’s early followers were Jews, and it was those Jews who started the early Christian church?
Do we need to be reminded that Christ’s disciples were Jews, as was the Apostle Paul, as was Jesus himself? And do I need to tell you that Jews wrote a good portion of the Christian Bible?
These Jews had nothing to do with Christ’s death, anymore than today’s Jews killed him. So, let’s put that ugly myth to rest now.
Christ Sees People, People See Differences
Christians need to remember that Christ teaches us to love one another as God loves us. If we truly believe God’s word, we need to remember that God loves the Jews as much as he loves Christians or Hindus or Buddhists; people of color; or the LGBTQ community.
In other words, God doesn’t discriminate against humankind as we do. He sees people for themselves. We see our differences.
When non-Christians look at Christians, they form opinions about Christ himself. They can either see our behavior and be drawn to Christ, or they can see it and be repulsed as many are these days.
The United States is facing the greatest crisis of public antisemitism in a century, and Christians need to do some serious soul-searching. Are we going to continue supporting pastors and churches that teach and preach antisemitism? Are we going to let hate speech go unchallenged? Or are we going to follow the word of God?
Scriptures to Remember
Let’s turn back to the Bible and recall these scriptures about love and hate:
- Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. 1 John 4:8
- If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. 1 John 4:20
- Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart… Proverbs 26:24
- If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
- Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12
Hatred Goes Mainstream
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stated that, “Like all forms of intolerance and discrimination, antisemitism has a profound impact on the whole of society, undermining peace and human rights. Antisemitism is no longer confined to extremist circles and has become increasingly mainstream, including on social media.”
The United States is facing the greatest crisis of public antisemitism in a century, and it’s spreading. However, there is hope.
UNESCO counters antisemitic messages with information and educational tools for teachers, policymakers and others to share with students. Just as antisemites use the internet to spread hatred, UNESCO and other people of goodwill use it to correct disinformation.
As a Christian, perhaps you might join the effort to counter antisemitism. You can learn more about UNESCO’s work by clicking here.
Hate Speech – A Global Problem
Given the depth and breadth of the problem, let’s focus on one form of antisemitism: hate speech.
Hate speech is a global problem that dehumanizes the victims as well as the offenders. And it’s spreading faster than ever because of social media. It can be difficult to detect at times, but this list from UNESCO may help you identify hate speech when you hear it.
Forms of antisemitism:
- Derogatory language
- Conspiracy theories
- Denial and distortion of historical events such as the Holocaust
- Threats against individual people and groups
Ordinary Christians can combat hate speech by speaking up and reporting it. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) suggests the following:
- Report hate speech online to social media platforms using the links in ADL Cyber Safety Action Guide here.
- Report hate crimes and incidents to the police, of course, but also notify the ADL here.
- Make sure that you don’t use or allow your children to use hate speech.
- Speak out when you hear someone tell hateful jokes and use slurs.
- Contact media representatives — newspaper editors, television reporters, etc. — and express your displeasure when you encounter hate speech in newspapers, magazines or television news reports.
Fight Antisemitism at Church
- Urge your pastor and lay leaders to stay informed about social justice issues and to take a stand against hate incidents.
- Invite Jewish leaders in your community to present programs at your church.
- Invite religious leaders from other churches, synagogues and mosques to your church to present programs on persecution and hate crimes.
- Organize an interfaith retreat for young people, where they discuss hate speech and hate crimes.
- Encourage your pastor to work with other clergy to fight hate incidents in your community.
Combat Hatred on College Campuses
- Challenge antisemitic speakers who present programs on campus.
- Ask the organization that presented the antisemitic program to offer a rebuttal program.
- Report antisemitic incidents to the college administration.
Take a Stand at Work
- Encourage your employer to have a zero-tolerance policy on hate incidents.
- Ask your human resources department to present programs on hate crimes and hate speech for employees.
- Organize a brown bag lunch to discuss hate incidents.
- Encourage your company to be visible and vocal about hate incidents.
Oppose Hatred in Your Community & Beyond
The Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, which you can reach by clicking here, offers a number of suggestions.
- Work with your local Jewish community. Get to know some of the people and find out about the issues that concern them.
- Contact your school board to support Holocaust education.
- Encourage your children’s teachers to discuss hate crimes and assign projects to their classes.
- Suggest that your children’s school invite speakers to talk about hate crimes.
- Hold a fundraiser such as a car wash and donate the proceeds to a group that fights hate speech and hate crimes.
- Encourage local civic groups to sponsor an essay or speech contest on the subject of hate speech and hate crimes.
- Invite a Holocaust survivor to speak at your church.
Involve Your Government Officials
- Contact your elected officials at the local, state and federal levels about hate incidents in your community.
- Speak up when government officials use antisemitic speech or other forms of hate speech.
- Publicly commend government officials who take a stand against antisemitism.
- Create online petitions in response to antisemitic incidents and submit the petitions to the appropriate authorities.
- Encourage local civic and professional groups to invite speakers to present programs on hate speech and crimes.
- Ask your local newspapers, television and radio stations to present programs on antisemitism in your community.
- Develop, produce and distribute bumper stickers and other materials that challenge antisemitism.
- Request a meeting with your local newspaper editor to discuss ways to combat antisemitism in your community.
For more ideas, click here.
The Greatest Antisemitic Crisis in a Century
The United States is facing the greatest crisis of public antisemitism in a century. Actually, the problem spreads beyond the borders of the U.S.
But the outcome that the world saw in the 1930s and 1940s need not be repeated – not if Christians and other people of goodwill take a strong stand against antisemitism.
We know the depths to which people will go when hatred consumes them, and Christians cannot let it happen again.