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April 15, 1983 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I

tA. 31 r7It';`,1

12 - friday, -April 15,4983 . •-•—THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS - -

Christian Looks at Missionaries and the Jews

By REV. FRANKLIN
LITTELL

National Institute
on the Holocaust

PHILADELPHIA —
Some readers have asked
me how I view Christian
missionary agencies that
target the Jews. Answer: I
am against them. They are
wrong — religiously and
historically.
For Christians, the
baseline issue remains this:
How do you view the survi-
val of the Jewish people —
with regret or with rejoic-
ing?
For Jews, the baseline
issue remains this: We do
not intend to disappear —
neither by mass murder nor
by assimilation.
One of the finest Chris-
tians I have been
privileged to know was
the late Dr. Johan Pion,
founder of Nes Ammim
(an international Chris-
tian movhav neighboring
Lohamei Haghettaot in
Upper Galilee). Dr. Pilon
went out to the province
of Palestine in the British
Empire as a Hebrew
Christian missionary.
Seeing how the young
survivor state,_a restored
Israel, had to fight for its
life in 1948-1949, he had
what he thereafter called
his "second conversion."
It came to Dr. Pilon that
Christian missionizing of
the Jews" was no longer, if
it ever had been, an authen-
tic stance. The burden of
the Holocaust was upon
him; the hope of a restored
Israel turned him around
(the New Testament word is
metanoia). His wife and he
made a vow to gather a
community of volunteers to
do something fraternal and

credible: to help build up the
land.
At first the community
was Dutch; now there are
young volunteers working
the rose beds and avocado
orchards from all over the'
world.
Dr. Pilon was a person
who took history seriously,
who did not deal in abstract
propositions or generaliza-
tions — either "fundamen-
talist" Christian or "liberal"
Christian. In the younger
generation of Christian
theologians, among those
who have confronted the
two most important events
in recent history — the
Holocaust and a restored Is-
rael — such a "second con-
version" is_no longer neces-
sary. On the contrary, pro-
selytizing ofJewa is rejected
from the start: it is recog-
nized that the survival of
the Jewish people is provi-
dential.

REV. LITTELL

carry over errors and foot-
faults. This is true however
well-meaning the writer or
speaker may be. That is why
Christian observance of
Yom Haahoah and
Christian-Jewish coopera-
tion in many common con-
cerns are so important. For
we are educated (and re-
, Recognition of this educated!) not by rational
truth involved not only arguments alone, however
purging preaching and replete with footnotes. We
teaching of centuries-old_ are educated (and re-
Christian anti-Semitism educated!) in a large meas-
("the teaching of con- ure by what the Danish
tempt"). It involves a thinker Soren Kierkegaard
much more difficult task: called "the thoughts that
the affirmation of teach- wound from behind."
ings of amity and frater-
What we learn in our
nal concern. In this task, sleep, what we learn, when
the most important we are ostensibly concerned
theological frontier in with another matter, what
contemporary Christian takes us by surprise, will in
writing, the best of our the-long haul rise to the sur-
younger Protestant and face and change our .logical
Roman Catholic theolo- and intentional position. In
gians are now engaged.
purging Christianity of
It should be obvious that anti-Semitism, both the
the task undertaken is a formal dogmas and doc-
monumental one, and that trines and the knee-jerk
many of the early efforts at reactions must be changed.
re-stating the relationship
A dozen crucial questions
of Christian faith to the come to the surface once the
Jewish people will still scholar realizes that tradi-

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tional Christian teaching in large part reflecting
about the Jewish people is the effort of the gentile
wrong. (That awareness Church Fathers to in-
arises, in human experi- gratiate themselves with
ence, from events in one's the rulers of the Roman
personal history or in one's Empire.
changed perception of gen-
With the triumph of the
eral history. And once it has • Emperor Constantine and
arisen, the consequences his dominance over church
are sweeping in their impli- synods and councils, and
cations.)
with the legal codes of Em-
A large measure of tra- perors Theodosius and Jus-
ditional Christian pro- tinian, the gentile Chris-
selytizing is based upon tian teachings against "the
negative judgments Jews" were articulated in
toward "the Jews." How repression and persecution
are we to understand, for by law.
example, certain pas-
From this distance it be-
sages in the Christian comes clear that the.lossof
scriptures (the "New Tes- Jerusalem as the primary
tament") which seem to religious center was a disas-
be "anti-Semitic"? If we - ter for Christians as well as
view thesepassages pro- Jews. The eminence of Con-
positionally, as abstract tantinople and Rome as
truths good for all times Christian centers affected
and places, a reconstruc- church doctrine and ad-
fion of the Christian mid- ministration in ways nega-
rashim is impossible.
tive to the Jewish people.
Lifted out of context, used
What is usually ignored
like a sliderule by another by establishment writers
people in another age, such (Christians and Jews alike)
prooftexts indeed carry an is the profoundly negative
anti-Semitic slant. If, how- effect upon Christian life
ever, we view such passages and teaching as well as
historically-theologically, a Jewish life. In point of fact,
more hopeful situation the worst periods of perse-
emerges.
cution for Jews have been
periods of persecution for
We do not accuse the Christian churches that did
prophets in the Hebrew not fit the imperial and
scriptures or the Qumran triumphalist design either.
sectarians of ' "anti-
Emperors Constantine,
Semitism" because of their
Theodosius
and Justi-
harsh words against the
Temple party, against the nian made life hard for
Judeans, or occasionally the Jews. They also per-
against the whole people. secuted Christian "here-
And it is doubtful practice to tics": Donatists, Arians,
accuse the Jewish writers of Jacobites, Copts and
the "Christian apostolic Armenians. Pope Inno-
writings" (later called "the cent III ordered, Jews to
New Testament") of anti- wear the yel'ow badge in
public and ardently sup-
Semitism.
Using such passages pro- ported the Crusades. The
positionally, to reinforce Crusades not only
proselytizing, compounds brought death to
thousands ofJews: under
the mischief.
Systematic alienation, the same leadership,
rejection of the Jewish thousands of Walden-
people elaborated into a sians, Albigensians and
superseding myth ('the Bogomili (Christian
New Israel, the church, "heretics") were mur-
replaces the Old Israel"), dered.
was an invention of the
- Martin Luther, in his last
gentile Church Fathers. years, turned bitterly
There is not one passage against the Jews. And he
in the Christian New Tes- also urged the death pen-
tament, even one mis- alty for Christian "heretics"
used, to justify that myth. — Schwenckfelders, Men-
It is based upon tradition, nonites, Hutterites, etc.
post-scriptural, in good During the Spanish Inquisi-
part motivated by envy, tion, evangelical Christians

also went to the rack or the
stake.
The same Russian czars
who loosed pogroms against
Jews also cut off the right
hands of thousands of "Old
Believers" (a Russian Or-
thodox dissenting group)
and shipped many more to
slavery in Siberia. The
Fuhrer of the Third Reich
killed Jews, and also many
of those Christians who
stayed Christian during the
Great Apostasy of Chris-
tendom, 1933-1945.
The Soviet dictatorship
that makes life miserable
for Jews who are loyal to
their heritage also perse-
cutes Christians (Pentecos-
tals, Baptists, Roman
Catholics, etc.) who refuse
to accommodate to the rul-
ing ideology (Marxism).
The lesson seems to me
abundantly clear: both
Jews and Christians who
are in earnest, and not
merely nominal adhe-
rents, need to stand to-
gether against
monolithic policies and
pressures — and for the
rights of conscience, reli-
gious liberty and
pluralism. We who are
protected by the First
Amendment from re-
pression and persecution
should stand together as
loyal citizens against
every effort, however,
apparently well-
intentioned, to put gov-
ernment(s) back into the
business of monitoring
religious practices and
opinions.
Yet, I am opposed to
targetting Jews. But, sur-
veying the centuries of per-
secution, Lam glad that so-
called sects and cults
(whether Hare Krishna,
Maoist,
• Trotskyite, -
-Jehovah's
Witness,
"Moonies" or "Jews for
Jesus") come at us today
with pamphlets rather than
swords.
If Maoists or "Moonies"
come at me with a pam-
phlet, I have two or three of
my own to give them. And
one of mine affirms the
Christian obligation to
stand up for Jewish survival
— in Israel, in the Soviet
Union, in the Muslim world,
and also in the "Christian"
nations.



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