Aaron David Fruh

Christian Antisemitism, Freud’s Devouring Mother, and the Infantilizing of Jesus

In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory “The Devouring Mother,” he examines the relationship a controlling mother has with her child. A mother who manipulates and devours her child is often the result of a broken home or an emotionally absent father. It can also be the result of borderline personality disorder or narcissism. This mother, having lost the intimacy with her husband, finds that her only identity and reason for being is to keep her child forever in an emotional state of infancy— unable to express his own identity or independence apart from her control. By infantilizing the child, the devouring mother keeps the child dependent on her alone. Fearful the child will gain freedom and autonomy from her, the devouring mother shapes the narrative of the child’s life so that he becomes an extension and expression of who she is rather than his true self.

The mother church—the church we see today in all its expressions—was created out of a broken family after gentile Christians severed ties from the Jewish fathers of their faith. Having no identity apart from Jewish scriptures, Jewish morals, and Jewish values, the church manipulated the narrative and infantilized Jesus—making him a non-Jew and suppressing his identity. The new false persona of Jesus as one who stood in opposition to Judaism easily allowed the devouring mother church to create theologies like Supersessionism—the age-long belief that proclaims the church has replaced (superseded) the Jews, becoming the new Israel of God—a narcissistic theology that continues to foment arrogantly in Christian seminaries and church pulpits today.

By infantilizing Jesus, the devouring mother church created a Jesus void of autonomy and unable to speak for himself. In this way, doctrines like Deicide could flourish in Christian teaching. Deicide proclaims Jesus was murdered by Jews, and as a result, Jews are forever under a curse from God. But according to all New Testament accounts, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. Furthermore, Jesus, as a thinking and autonomous individual, said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

By infantilizing Jesus and removing his self-will and Jewish identity, the devouring mother church made him the first Christian martyr—murdered by the religion of Judaism. But, in reality, Jesus was killed by the Romans precisely because he was a Jew—a fact the devouring mother church choked out of the narrative.

By infantilizing Jesus and presenting him as a non-Jew void of the trappings of Judaism, the devouring mother church also infantilizes its members by “protecting” them from the requirements of a righteous life. In my world of Evangelicalism, Jesus’s concept of salvation rooted in Judaism has been conveniently minimized. Salvation comes through praying a simple prayer of repentance and believing in Jesus. The recipient now turns her attention to a heavenly home where she will live in bliss for eternity. But Jesus’s view of salvation has more to do with doing than believing and with how a person lives in this life than where she dwells for eternity. In many Christian circles, it is taught that the deeds done in this life do not have a bearing on a person’s entrance into heaven. This reflects an attempt to reject the teaching of Jesus rooted in Judaism that focuses on an individual’s responsibility to follow God’s commandments in favor of a hyper-grace-filled approach to salvation. The reasoning that Christians are under grace seems to give those who hold to this view of eternal salvation license to live however they choose and still receive entrance into heaven. However, Jesus, the Jewish theologian, rejects this view when he states, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Andy Stanley, pastor of one of America’s largest churches, numbering 30,000 members, encourages his members to disconnect from the Jewishness of Jesus because his Judaism makes Christianity resistible. To make Christianity irresistible, Stanley rejects the Jewish Jesus for an infantilized Jesus and encourages his followers to “unhitch” their faith from “Jewish scriptures” and from a scripturally Jewish “worldview and value system.” In his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World, Stanley writes the following:

[Paul] knew the legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and exclusivity that characterized ancient Judaism would eventually seep into and erode the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the church of Jesus . . . careless mixing and matching of old and new covenant values and imperatives [is what makes] the current version of our faith unnecessarily resistible. . . . Participants in the new covenant are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles . . . the Ten Commandments are from the old covenant. (146)

Stanley has, in effect, infantilized Jesus—forcibly severing his profound connection to Judaism and erasing his Jewish background. However, the Christian scriptures are more Torah-centric than many think: “Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the mitzvot” (Matthew 19:6-7). Presuming one can gain eternal life while not living a righteous life in the present is not taught in Judaism or in the Christian scriptures. Mercy towards others is required: “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Pastor Stanley is a contemporary example of Christianity’s historical propensity to be the devouring mother who selfishly makes Jesus an extension of herself—formed and manipulated into her image. Stanley not only infantilizes Jesus, but also the members of his congregation by protecting them from Jesus the Jew.

If the church is ever to repair the relationship with its Jewish elders and acknowledge its long history of brutal antisemitism, it must begin with the realization of its dark narcissistic psychosis that resulted in her becoming the devouring mother—forcibly infantilizing Jesus by delegitimizing his Jewish identity and creating her own religion apart from the Jewish foundation of her faith. Wonderfully, a remnant of Christians has already begun to heal the breach.

About the Author
Aaron David Fruh is a Research Fellow at The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and the President of Israel Team Advocates, whose mission it is to change the growing anti-Israel narrative on college campuses. Aaron is the author of five books including The Casualty of Contempt: the alarming rise of Antisemitism and what can be done to stop it (editor), and Two Minute Warning: why it’s time to honor the Jewish people before the clock runs out. Aaron has written for The Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner.
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