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.