How do Christians and Jews view each other today?

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been reading up on Judaism.  The history of that religion is filled to the brim with prejudice and persecution.  I think it would be hard being Jewish and coming to trust even that my Gentile friends were free of that prejudice.  This history may explain why, years ago, as we were becoming friends, Bookworm tried to explain why she liked me mostly by saying what I was not, starting with not anti-Semitic. 

She’s right; I’m not anti-Semitic.  I suppose that’s because there was not a trace of anti-Semitism in my home or church as I was growing up.  According to my father and grandfather and Sunday School teachers and pastors, the Jews were very much like us Christians.  They worshipped the same God.  They believed in a large part of the same Bible.  It was sad, though, that they would not be going to Heaven, because they had not accepted Christ as their Savior.  Some even said that the Jews might get a second change to accept Christ on Judgment Day, so they might be saved anyway.  But they were not portrayed as in any fundamental way different from me or from my teachers.  In history class, I was taught that the Holocaust was more about Hitler’s need to rally his people around him by defining and persecuting an “out-group.”  The history books sort of implied it could have been anybody; the Jews were just a convenient scapegoat.  The books were oddly silent on how a whole “civilized” nation was persuaded to support the mass killing of any group of innocent people (more on that tomorrow, I think).  But they did not portray the Jews in a negative light.

As the song in South Pacific goes, prejudice has to be careful taught and I was never taught prejudice against Jews.  (Racial prejudice was another matter; my Dad and Granddad were racists.  Fortunately, that teaching did not stick.)  But my reading got me wondering (reading is dangerous that way!).  Today, how do Jews and Christians perceive each other?  It’s not something we talk about much, even here in the Bookwormroom.  So,of course, I just have to ask.  If you are Jewish, how do you view Christians?  To what extent do you feel you can trust them, engage in their society, yet retain your Jewish identity?  To what extent do you even want to engage in the larger society?  To what extent do you want to maintain your separate identity?  If you are Christian, how do you view Jews?  Were you taught, as I was, that they are decent people, but that they will not be saved?  If so, does that disturb you, such that you wish to convert them?  Does it even matter to you whether your friends, neighbor or co-workers are Jewish?  Do you even think about their religion?

Taking it a step further, the vast majority of American Jews hew to the left, perhaps because liberals have historically been more tolerant of Jews and supportive of Jewish rights.  But a growing number of American Jews are making common cause with the Christian right, recognize that the right is actually more supportive of Israel and perhaps even more supportive of Jews generally.  After all, as I mentioned in a post last night, the Christian right is now looked down upon by the intellectual leftist elite as ignorant followers of superstitions in a manner not altogether dissimilar to the way Jews have often been viewed over the years.  To what extent does our view of each other’s religion affect our view of each other’s politics?  And vice versa?  As always, I look forward to your comments.

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  • Ymarsakar

    perhaps because liberals have historically been more tolerant of Jews and supportive of Jewish rights
    It’s a fiction. Like saying historical Libs have been historically more inclined to cover for civil liberties on behalf of blacks. Those weren’t the people in question. It’s not just that the people in history are dead. It’s that there is no lineage connection to today.

    As for my take, I forget that people are Jewish unless they remind me of it recently. It’s not a particularly important factor in predicting their actions. At least not here.
    The Jews were relatively well off in Germany. Thus they served much like how capitalist oil CEOs are viewed today. If he could get rid of the Jews, their property would become the state’s and then he could reward more subordinates and gain more power. Soros was involved in such wealth redistribution.
    Wealth distribution, in fact, is the entire point of totalitarianism, especially for Leftists. It was happening even before you got to the mass purges and executions and invasions of foreign countries. It’s a prerequisite, in fact.

  • kali

    DQ, you might be interested in the discussion in this thread: , in particular the comments about a poll that seems to find consistent anti-semitism among evangelical Christians. Odd, when you consider that the most rabid Jew-hatred these days emanates from the educated Left.
    In my own upbringing in the sixties and seventies, I don’t remember any anti-semitic comments by family members, and do remember being the guest at Shabbos dinner more than a few times. Combine this with a knowledge of modern history, and of how decently Israel has comported itself overall, and my appreciation of Jewish culture becomes only natural.


    I grew up and am still a member of a Lutheran denomination which is predominately ethnic German (although my own congregation has a goodly number of hispanic members).  I myself am ethnically German, although fourth-generation American.
    I do not recall any teaching at church, school (including parochial school), or home which couldbe described as “anti-Semitism”.  In particular (referencing the article kali linked to), there was nothing indicating that Jews were specifically or uniquely responsible for Jesus’ crucifiction.
    Quite the contrary:  the Christian belief was emphasized, namely that every single person, through his or her own sin, is guilty of Christ’s death. This was emphasized so strongly that when I first heard of the term “Christ-killer” refering to a Jew — not personally, but in a first-person-singular essay — I was amazed at the stupidity and poor theology involved in that accusation.
    However, since becoming an adult, I have encountered anti-Semitism within the denomination. Almost without exception, it has appeared in the older cohorts: over 65 almost exclusively, and none under age 40. What is interesting, is that it tends to crop up in those who are more on the political fringes, and, in my experience, more common on the left side of the political spectrum. My observation also is that it is more prevalent in Roman Catholic circles than in Conservative Christian circles, though I’ve observed it so seldom, it is difficult to make a statistically valid observation.
    I also wonder if there might be a false perception.  During my college years, I once visited my grandfather, and a Jewish friend (female) was along.  (He was very religious and a parochial school teacher.)  All went well:  it was only a visit of at most an hour or so, and he and Eve got along normally for people with a two-generation age difference.  A few days later he asked my how my ” Jewess” friend was doing.  To him, that was a very neutral and descriptive term; to me, it was one I really never used (I used ‘Jew’ without regard to sex); but some of my Jewish friends told me they viewed it as insulting.  Needless to say, the potential for a false perception was there.
    Back to the question.  In my own life and relationships with people, their Jewishness (or lack of it) has only been important to the extent that they thought it important concerning their identity, and then only when it arose.
    Otherwise, people are people
    As for the relationship between faith and politics:  that would require multiple volumes of books.

  • excathedra

    One unpleasant truth, of which this discussion is an example, is that there are…and I think there have to be..different “rules” for individuals and groups. It seems no less irrational to me to judge a group…con or a few individuals than it is to judge an individual a priori because of his group.
    Currently, I have known a few Muslims personally. Very nice people and not at all inclined to impose Sharia on me. But as a group, Muslims are deeply problematic for this country and all the West. Anyone who overestimates the importance of some nice individuals should consult the Stanford prison experiment. In the end, I fear, group identity almost always trumps individual identity. Those who do not fall into it are rightly seen as exceptional, even heroic.
    In addition to having Jewish friends and colleagues and family members, I am a student of world religions and have a lot of respect for Judaism. Jews as a group, however, are no less ambiguous than any other group. From a political point of view, I could make a case that because of their overwhelming identification with liberalism (and worse), they have been problematic for America. I will frankly admit that people like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky provoke anti-Jewish feelings in me. Thank God for Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer, etc.
    The Jews are a unique people. By their own definition as well as by historical fact. Their influence, especially in the West, is all out of proportion to their numbers. This is so not only because of their accomplishments –astonishing— but because through Christianity they have become part of the West’s foundation. Athens and Jerusalem.
    One of the surely unintended results of the renewed Muslim jihad is that it has given Christians and Jews a reason to be allies. That is an ironic blessing, for which I am grateful. But it is not simple, for either of us.
    But it is because of their uniqueness, their specialness and their historical apartness that I recognize a particular emotional shape to my Gentile reaction to people like Chomsky and Zinn. When I think of someone like Michael Moore, an American gentile, I think of him “simply” as a loathsome traitor. But given the unparalleled welcome Jews have received in America, I think of Jewish types like him as being guilty of a special and heinous kind of ingratitude.
    Not the whole story, but part of it.


    Let’s substitute Jewish/Christian for children. How would any of else feel if, someone we didn’t know or only knew barely- maybe a teacher told us that No.1 child was rude, pushy or not playing by the rules. No. 2 child was ‘acting out’ – he/she didn’t want to participate as outlined by the social structure in school. Sure, we may acknowledge some or all of their deficits as well accomplishments, but we know the broader character of the child. After all, the child is an extension in many ways of the parents and the larger family. To hear a relative express concern or disappointment is balanced with love and acceptance into the family group. I am sure every family has the ‘odd’ relative, but is still invited to dinners. We often make room for the ‘odd ball’ at the end of the table because most of us understand the family history.

    If it’s Mr. or Mrs. Neighbor or teacher starting in on the kids or said negative things about the ‘odd ball’ at the end of the table, we would not take kindly to it. In fact, we’d become damn aggressive and protective. It’s not the message, it’s the messenger and the messenger has already told us that they didn’t like our life style much to begin with.
    I won’t say anything negative about your purple shutters, if you don’t castigate me about the pink flamingos on my lawn. I don’t have to like the color purple, but I’ll respect your choice until you try and paint mine the same color.

  • Mosonny

    I’m an Orthodox Jew, as way of introduction.  My dad was a Holocaust survivor, lost his parents, my grandparents, in Auschwitz.  My mom’s parents, who I did know, grew up on Russia/Poland;  my grandfather’s father was murdered in front of my grandfather in the 1905 Revolution, but mainly because he was a Jew.  My grandmother recalled the anti-Semitism of the Catholics in Poland against the Jews. 

    These relatives, and others in my family, with similar stories and backgrounds, did not trust Christians.  However, my father never treated those who worked under him, who were all Christians, in any way but with respect and trust, and they all loved him as a ‘boss’.  But he would tell me that though he loved individuals who were Christians, ultimately, he could never trust Christians as a group; they would always be anti-Semites if push came to shove.
    Who could blame these people for their mistrust?  They had real examples of horrific anti-Semitism. 

    AS for myself, I have a different perspective.  I trust anybody who doesn’t give me reason to NOT trust them.  Most Christians I know, my coworkers are open to listening about Judaism and Israel.  I cannot detect any overt anti-Semitism in them. I have had anti-Semitic slurs thrown my way, as I wear a yarmulke in public, so it’s not that I”m naive about it, but to blame or say all Christians are “guilty” of anti-Semitism is absurd, and I believe that the majority of Christians in the US are either neutral or positive about Israel, and polls, I believe, still back that contention up. 

    I tend to have a more conservative group at work, and I do find that the ones who are more nominally religious tend to be more actively knowledgeable about Israel and pro-Israel.  That’s MY experience, but I did get apoplectic when our local (liberal) Jewish newspaper had an idiotic article worrying about Christian support for Israel, basically hinting we couldn’t trust Christian support.

    It was absurd.  The gist was that since more fundamentalist Christians had conservative values, including, at times, anti-abortion and anti-gay ones, that all Jews…could not trust them!  And, there were hints that the Christians were all out to convert us.

    While I understand that some pro-Israel Christians are out to convert Jews, as this is a theological cause for them, I don’t really give a damn.  Most liberal Jews don’t seem to care if their kids marry non-Jews anyway, and so the irony is, these liberal Jews are letting their kids leave the fold in record numbers.  They don’t NEED the conversion efforts, their kids are already lost to Judaism!  But as an Orthodox Jew, even as I have some obviously big theological differences with religious Christians…there are areas I feel I have almost as much or more in common with them than some of my liberal brethren.  At least I think I understand where they ‘come from’.  

    And I think, let’s not second guess every Christian’s motives for supporting Jews or Israel.  I know some who are extremely pro-Israel and I believe do NOT want us to convert, or even if they do, are not actively trying to recruit us to (at least the ones I know never tried to get me to convert, never even brought it up).  In fact, I give ENORMOUS credit to religious Christians for helping Israel in its darkest hours during the intafada in the mid-80’s….the only ones who visited Israel during that horrible time WERE religious Christians and religious, Orthodox Jews.  The liberal Jews basically abandoned Israel, as far as I’m concerned, during that time. 

    I do not purport to speak for anyone else but myself.  These are my views, but I thought it important to tell the story from one Jew’s perspective.

  • Don Quixote

    Thank you all for your comments.  I especially appreciate your sharing of your perspective, Mosonny.  Bookworm has told me (if I understood her correctly) that the few Christians who have tried to convert her have done so only out of a sincere concern for her eternal soul, a concern she found endearing, not offensive.  I hope your experience is similar.  As for Israel, I think most Americans support it, but for widely divergent reasons.  Personally, I support it more for political reasons than religious ones, though, after the Holocaust, it certainly seemed to make sense to create a “safe haven” as it were for the Jews who remained in the world. Anyway, thanks for writing.

  • suek

    >>after the Holocaust, it certainly seemed to make sense to create a “safe haven” as it were for the Jews who remained in the world. Anyway, thanks for writing.>>
    Personally, I think it’s a darn shame that they are historically attached to a specific location in the mid-east.  I’d like to convince the Israeli’s to pick up and move en masse to a 50 mile strip along our southern border and settle there permanently.  They’d eliminate their Palestinian problem, and would take care of our Mexican problem – all in one fell swoop.    Those guys know how to protect a border!!
    >>And I think, let’s not second guess every Christian’s motives for supporting Jews or Israel. >>
    There are checkers players and there are chess players.  Chess originated in the middle east (where did checkers originate?).  It’s easy to mistrust to the extent that you get locked into inaction.  Remember the Sicilian in Princess Bride?  There are always cheaters and traitors, but there’s a point at which you just have to make a choice and trust somebody.  There’s always the tendency to trust “our own”…and then you have someone like Soros.  Our problem is that when we make a bad choice, we feel like fools instead of recognizing that if you’re not evil, evil people _will_ prey on you.  Blaming the victim for being fooled seems to be a universal attitude – and a wrong one.

  • Ymarsakar

    There are different forms of Chess. Both japan and China have theirs. To seek out the original, I believe you would have to seek out the oldest culture that exited that could also export such things to other places.