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Friday, August 04, 2006

More notes on the Church, Jews and the Shoah

I understand how difficult it is for Catholics to deal with the Holocaust, the role played in it by Catholics and their Church, and how the Catholic history of antisemitism contributed to it all.

As James Carroll states in his book "Constantine's Sword", Church failures in the Holocaust are only the most recent and violent part of the story - the death camps are a culmination of two thousand years of entrenched anti-Judaism.

The problem originally was anti-Judaism - not a racial or political anti-semitism. Rather, a strong opposition to the religion of Judaism.

You can follow the trail... The anti-Jewish statements in the Gospels to Constantine’s transformation of the cross into the primary Christian symbol, and then transforming it further into a sword. The blood libels, scapegoating the jews. The ghettos.

Much of Christian history was based on a belief that Jesus was in conflict with the Jews, which easily fueled persecuation against Jews. However, Jesus and his disciples were themselves Jews, making any conflict not a struggle between “you” and “us,” but an internal disagreement among us (Jews). Moreover, the Christians failed to realize that there was no single religious entity known as “the Jews.” We have always been a wide variety of groups, with may different perspectives. Yet the Church insisted on perpetuating the myth that the jews, as a people, killed Christ. You can argue now that it was "only a few,' etc., but that is not what the party line was for the 1900 years leading up to the holocaust. We were never a single force for any one group to oppose.

So, Christians turned what was a sectarian conflict among Jews, into something describedin the gospels as "the Jews” -- a single group, wholly blameworthy, in an apparent attempt to gain favor among the Romans, the most likely group to have had any great interest in getting rid of Jesus. ONce this particular perspective was in place, later Christians were able to scapegoat “the Jews” over and over:

In addtion to being made into a historical enemy, the Church made "the Jews" into the enemy of God. The negative against which every positive aspect of Christianity is defined. This demonization of Jews by the first-century followers of Jesus - themselves mostly Jews - and the sanctioning of that demonization in the canonizing of the Scriptures are what made this story murderous down the centuries.

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