Christian AntiSemitism Essay Research Paper For sixteen

Christian Anti-Semitism Essay, Research Paper

For sixteen hundred years, the Jewish people have been persecuted and murdered

by people who worship a Jewish man as their savior: the Christians. Why did

Christian anti-Semitism, a seemingly illogical belief given that Jesus himself

was a Jew, develop? How did it evolve, and why has it persisted for centuries?

In the Biblical gospels, despite three of the four being ostensibly written by

Jews, enemies of Jesus are referred to as ?the Jews.? Early Christians found

themselves in a quandary. The savior they worship, himself a Jew, purportedly

was killed by Jews. Since at least the fourth century, some groups of Christians

have actively practiced anti-Semitism, taking revenge on Jewish people for

?murdering? the God of Christianity. Christians have called Jews devils,

demons and antichrists. Persecution by church officials, both Catholic and

Protestant, was consistent and deadly for over a thousand years. Hundreds of

thousands, possibly millions of Jews, were massacred by so-called Christians

centuries before the Holocaust. Emperor Constantine the Great converted to

Christianity in 312 A.D. Attributing his military successes to God, he issued

the Edict of Milan, making Christianity the Roman Empire’s official religion. It

was here in the fourth century that open anti-Semitism emerged. A great number

of superficial converts (wanting to be on the winning side) joined the church,

which was placing overwhelming emphasis on the sacraments. The sacraments were

thought by many to have a magical content, supernaturally protecting against

attacks from the devil. Those outside the sacramental community — primarily

unconverted Jews — became seen as people through whom the devil could work his

evil purposes. (1) Jews were thought to be sorcerers, cannibals, and

child-murderers. Attacks by "church fathers" became increasingly

venomous. Gregory of Nyasa, a Cappadocian bishop, wrote that Jews are

"Companions of the devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators,

darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed ….

" (2) St. John Chrysostom (354-407) urged Christians at Antioch to avoid

the synagogue and curb their curiosity about Judaism: Brothel and theater, the

synagogue is also a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts…. Living for

their belly, mouth forever gaping, the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats

in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony. (3) In 1095, the

Crusades began when Pope Urban II called upon Christians to save the Holy Land

from the infidels; he promised the remission of sins to all who participated.

Huge armies gathered. For two centuries these armies, while making their way to

the Middle East, persecuted or slaughtered any Jews they happened to encounter.

(4) One mob, according to an eyewitness, "…decided to avenge Christ upon

the pagans and the Jews. This is why they killed 900 Jews in the city of Mainz

without sparing the women and children…." (5) The slaughter of Jews by

so-called "Christians" is historical truth, not the invention of

anti-Christian humanists and historical revisionists. Hal Lindsey, the

fundamentalist Bible teacher and best-selling author of The Late Great Planet

Earth, admits: When the Crusaders … captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, they

first entered the city through the Jewish quarter. A terrible slaughter took

place. The surviving Jews were sold as slaves. The Jewish community of Jerusalem

was obliterated. In all, tens of thousands of Jews were massacred in the name of

Christianity as a consequence of the first Crusade. (6) Another mob of

Jew-killers wandered from city to city in the German districts of Rottingen and

Bavaria in the year 1298, burning Jewish communities and slaughtering any Jew

who would not forcibly "convert" to Christianity. One historical

chronicler suggests that they killed as many as 100,000 Jews. (7) Beginning in

1320, a group of peasants in northern France, led by friars, set out for the

Holy Land in what would become known as the Shepherd’s Crusade. Pillaging as

they went, they spilled Jewish blood throughout the province of Aquitaine.

Hundreds were slaughtered at the village of Verdun-sur-Garonne. (8) One priest,

Peter of Cluny, wrote, "God does not want them to be destroyed, but like

Cain, who murdered his brother, they are to continue to exist under great

suffering and in great shame so that life may be more bitter for them than

death." (9) In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council of Pope Innocent III

institutionalized the Inquisition, issuing the following decree: In the

countries where Christians do not distinguish themselves from Jews and Saracens

by their garments, relations are maintained between Christians and Jews or

Saracens, or vice versa. In order that such wickedness in the future be not

excused by error, it is decreed that henceforth Jews of both sexes will be

distinguished from other peoples by their garments, as moreover has been

prescribed unto them by Moses. They will not show themselves in public during

Holy Week, for some among them on these days wear their finest garments and mock

Christians clad in mourning. Trespassers will be duly punished by the secular

powers, in order that they no longer dare flout Christ in the presence of

Christians. (10) In Poland, Jews were required to wear a pointed green hat; in

England, strips of cloth sewn across the chest were mandated. (11) By the middle

of the twelfth century, rumors and superstitions emerged accusing Jews of ritual

murder, usually the murder of Christian children in alleged mock re-enactments

of the crucifixion. It was believed that Jews needed innocent Christian blood

for use in Satanic/Jewish rituals. For centuries, the unexplained murder of any

Christian child could set off waves of rioting and persecution. The first

recorded ritual murder allegation occurred in England in 1144. On Good Friday of

that year, the body of a young Christian was found in the woods near Norwich.

Accusers charged that a group of rabbis located in Narbonne had conspired to

kill a Christian child every year on Good Friday in mockery of the crucifixion.

Anti-Jewish riots in Norwich led to the murder of one of the city’s prominent

Jews. The murdered Christian youth was canonized, and for centuries pilgrimages

to his tomb were encouraged by the Church. (12) Three years later, the corpse of

another young Christian was discovered in Wurzburg. Jews were hunted down and

lynched. Alleged child murders led to the burning at the stake of thirty-eight

Jews in Blois in 1171; twenty years later nearly one hundred Jews were burned at

Bray-sur-Seine. For centuries the pattern continued. Murdered children were

canonized, pilgrimages were recommended and miracles were alleged. Nine Jews

were executed at Trent in the Tyrol in 1473 for the murder of a little boy named

Simon. The Church named him St. Simon of Trent in 1582, a chapel was erected at

his tomb and miracles were reported by Catholic pilgrims. Historians have

records of more than one hundred similar cases right up to the 1800s. (13) The

myth of the Jew as ritual child-killer has never faded. Thomas E. Watson, a

Southern Baptist attorney and politician, publicly proclaimed that ritual murder

was a common Jewish practice. This type of rhetoric gained Watson a million

votes as a third-party vice-presidential candidate in 1896, and it won him

election to the U.S. Senate in 1920. (14) In 1928, when a four-year-old girl

disappeared in Massena, New York, two days before Yom Kippur, the mayor of

Massena publicly speculated that the child had been murdered by Jews who wanted

to use her blood in a Yom Kippur ritual. (15) Christian anti-Semites spread the

rumor that Jews had kidnapped Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932 for use in a

ritual sacrifice. (16) When the Black Plague swept through Europe in the

fourteenth century ? killing millions ? the Jews were blamed. It was

believed they had poisoned the sources of drinking water. (17) Hal Lindsey

suggests that suspicions were raised because Orthodox Jews, obedient to Mosaic

laws of handwashing and hygienic food handling, seldom contracted the disease.

(18) Simultaneously, anti-Semitism in medieval satires, legends, ballads,

sculptures and paintings was universal. Medieval plays cast Jews in the role of

villain, devil and antichrist. In a Middle Ages version of historical

revisionism, one playwright reinvented the pagan Roman leader Titus as a

Christian knight who destroyed Jerusalem to kill its Jews in the name of the

Virgin Mary. (19) In the 1600s, Pierre de Lancre executed a large number of Jews

alleged to be witches by burning them at the stake in southern France; he wrote

that Jews are "more perfidious and faithless than demons." (20)

Persecution of Jews continued right into the Reformation and became more

vicious. Identification of Jews with Satan became increasingly explicit. Erasmus

(1466-1536), the Dutch philosopher and theologian, wrote, "If it is the

part of a good Christian to detest the Jews, then we are all good

Christians." (21) Lest one should place all this anti-Semitism at the door

of the Catholic Church, no less a Protestant hero than Martin Luther denounced

Jews as children of the devil. In 1542 Luther published Against the Jews and

Their Lies, a 200-page rant which includes the following: Know, O adored Christ,

and make no mistake, that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous,

more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew….

Now, whoever wishes to accept venomous serpents, desperate enemies of the Lord,

and to honor them, to let himself be robbed, pillaged, corrupted, and cursed by

them, need only turn to the Jews. (22) Later, Luther added, "In short, they

are children of the devil, condemned to the flames of hell …. " (23)

German writers in the 1500s and 1600s followed Luther’s lead, producing

pamphlets with titles such as The Sack of Jewish Serpents. (24) Centuries later,

Hitler quoted Luther to justify his "final solution" to the

"Jewish problem." Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism cannot be

assigned entirely to the past; anti-Semitism has always lurked inside

Christianity, sometimes at its center, sometimes at its fringes. The 1930s, for

example, was a period of rising international anti-Semitism which ultimately

resulted in the Holocaust, and nominal Christians were active participants.

Kansas evangelist Gerald Winrod (1900-1957), founder of the Defenders of the

Christian Faith, and third-party presidential candidate Gerald L.K. Smith

(1898-1976), who called himself a Baptist minister, preached vicious

anti-Semitism in a decade when Americans were looking for scapegoats to make

sense of suffering caused by the Depression. In Smith’s magazine The Cross and

the Flag, he taught that Jews are in fact "sons of Satan." (25) Smith

continued preaching and publishing until his death in 1976. Winrod and Smith

were both sons of evangelical preachers, but both ended up as supporters of

Hitler and opponents of American participation in World War II. Smith, who began

his career as an organizer for Louisiana populist Huey Long, argued that Jews

hated Hitler because the fuhrer was a devout, Bible-believing Christian. (26)

After Long’s assassination, Smith moved back to his native midwest and received

32,000 votes in Michigan’s 1942 U.S. Senate election. He ran for president in

1944. Three years later, Smith founded the Christian Nationalist Crusade, moving

in 1953 to Los Angeles, home of the nascent ?Christian Identity? movement in

the 1950s, where he published tracts with titles such as "Jews Strive for

World Control." (27) Gerald Winrod believed in a Jewish conspiracy to

control the world and dabbled in electoral politics. In 1938 Winrod gained 22

percent of the vote as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Kansas. His Defender

magazine reached 100,000 readers in the 1930s. A fervent supporter of Hitler,

Winrod was indicted for sedition in 1942, but the case ended in a mistrial. (28)

Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism did not end with Hitler’s defeat; even

today, vicious anti-Semitism persists among some Christians. Right-wing preacher

David Chilton, who is not a Christian Identity preacher, says, "Israel has

become a demon possessed." (29) Dr. Gary North, a ?Christian

Reconstructionist? and founder of the Institute for Christian Economics, looks

forward to the day when Israel is "pushed into the sea by the

Arabs…." (30) Christian Identity doesn’t have a single,

"charismatic" leader. Almost everyone in the movement, including its

"pastors," comes from a traditional Christian background. (31)

Hundreds of small Identity churches have popped up all over the United States.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group which keeps track of such

things, reports that Identity churches are in thirty-three states as well as

Canada, England, South Africa and Australia. (32) Identity claims 30,000

hardcore believers and possibly has 400,000 sympathizers. (33) It reaches

millions across North America through the Internet and shortwave radio.

Explaining Identity can be somewhat like nailing Jello to a tree. Identity

churches and pastors differ over the most minute doctrinal details. They prize

their independence of each other; no single church or leader has the power to

impose doctrinal orthodoxy. Some believers wear suits and ties; others wear

combat fatigues. Some appear on Christian television while others are wanted by

the FBI. Yet the movement is united in its essential, bizarre beliefs: that

white, Anglo-Saxon people are the true Israel chosen of God; that black people

are animals without souls; and that Jews are descended directly from Satan

himself and are not human. They believe that Satan, through Cain, is the father

of the Jews, who are a hybrid, demonic, non-human race. "True" Israel

is the white, Anglo-Saxon peoples, who supposedly moved north and west from Old

Testament Israel after the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C. Adam, Noah, Abraham,

David and Jesus were white Anglo-Saxons. Identity cites John 8:44, where Jesus

tells his enemies, ?the Jews,? that they belong to "their father,"

the devil. Identity teachers believe this applies to all Jews, not merely the

handful of Pharisees Jesus was addressing (John 8:13). Because Jews are

descended from Satan, Identity believers reason, Jews are not human, and they

don’t have souls. Identity provides theological unity and justification to

paramilitary groups such as the Aryan Nations, the Posse Comitatus, and many but

not all neo-Nazi, Klan and militia groups. As a religion underpinning and

uniting these militant and terrorist groups, Christian Identity provides violent

racists and anti-Semites with the dangerous illusion that they are on a mission

from God. Both Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) and Eric Rudolph (the

Atlanta Olympic/Birmingham abortion clinic bomber) were exposed to and familiar

with Christian Identity. McVeigh had contacts with an Identity paramilitary

compound in the Ozarks, while Rudolph is thought to be a ?full-blown?

believer. In one sense, Identity is a "brand new thing." Formal

Christian Identity doctrinal statements and organization into churches is barely

thirty years old. On the other hand, all the elements of Identity beliefs are

ancient. The identification of Jews with the devil goes back at least to the

Middle Ages. For sixteen hundred years, anti-Semitism has persisted in some

branches of Christianity, and there is no evidence to indicate that it will

cease at any time in the foreseeable future.

1. Hannah Vogt, The Jews: A Chronicle for Christian Conscience, trans. Peter

Jacobsohn (New York: Association Press, 1967), p. 47. 2. Quoted in Leon Poliakov,

The History of Anti-Semitism, Volume One: From the Time of Christ to the Court

Jews, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vanguard Press, 1965), p. 25. 3. Ibid. 4.

Vogt, p. 36. 5. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 52. 6. Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust

(New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 21. 7. Poliakov, pp. 99-100. 8. Ibid., pp.

102-103. 9. Quoted in Vogt, p. 58. 10. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 64. 11. Poliakov,

p. 66. 12. Ibid., p. 58. 13. Ibid., pp. 62-63. 14. Vogt, pp. 121-122. 15.

Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press,

1994), p. 101. 16. Glen Jeansonne, Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement

and World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 32. 17.

Richard Abanes, American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion (Downers

Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 135-136. 18. Lindsey, p. 21. 19.

Poliakov, p. 128. 20. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 153. 21. Ibid., p. 123. 22. Ibid.,

p. 218. 23. Ibid., p. 219. 24. Poliakov, p. 24. 25. Quoted in Michael Barkun,

Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement

(Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p. 56. 26.

Jeansonne, p. 34. 27. John George and Laird Wilcox, American Extremists:

Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others (Amherst, NY:

Prometheus Books, 1996), p. 38. 28. Ibid., pp. 34-35. 29. Quoted in Lindsey, p.

25. 30. Ibid., p. 111. 31. Barkun, p. 187. 32. Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt,

Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed (New York: Plenum Press,

1993), p. 111 33. Abanes, p. 155.

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