On July 4, 2020, Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation Of Islam (NOI), delivered a 3 hour speech. After listening to Farrakhan’s 3 hour diatribe, I was appalled. Not just by his bigoted rants, but by the deafening silence from our leaders and influencers. We can’t control what someone else says, but we can choose how we respond. No one can stop Farrakhan from sowing seeds of hate, but we are morally culpable if we’ve provided fertile soil for those seeds of hate to grow. Farrakhan, like all bigots, uses a combination of outright lies, half-truths and distortions. When you give careful thought to what any bigot says, in the end, all bigots sound like the character Archie Bunker from the sitcom All In The Family. Upon close examination, Farrakhan’s bigoted claims are no less ridiculous than the ramblings of Archie Bunker. But this is no sitcom we’re living in. These remarks are dangerous. Over the last several years, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise. There were mass shootings in two synagogues within the last two years–one in Pittsburgh, the other in San Diego. Farrakhan vehemently denies that he’s an anti-Semite. Yet I am not aware of any public statements that he made condemning the shootings. Is it too much to ask that a well known leader condemn synagogue shootings? Those of us of good will, who want equality for all people, must speak up and condemn bigotry where ever we see it. Here I will fact check what I believe to be Farrakhan’s most outrageous comments from his 7/4/2020 speech. For the convenience of the reader, I have put the hour/minute/second where these comments are found. You can find the speech on YouTube.
- White people are “dominant by nature”: (59:00 and 1:26:00) Farrakhan said that Whites are “dominant by nature”, that they aren’t a natural people, they’re a grafted people, their father was a liar and a murderer so Whites are born with lies and murder in their hearts.
FACT CHECK: If this isn’t patently racist, then there is no such thing as racism. Here are some facts that Farrakhan ignores. Prior to White Christians (not Jews) enslaving Africans, there was no such thing as White Supremacy in the world. For example, the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans had no concept of discrimination based on skin color. White Supremacy was born in the 1500’s in order to justify enslaving Blacks. If racism is in the DNA of Whites, then why weren’t Whites racist prior to the 1500’s?
- Jews have sinned by creating and following the Talmud: (1:03:40, 1:06:00, 1:07:30, 1:44:30, 2:56:30) Farrakhan said that Jews have taken the words of the Talmud and elevated them above the words of God in the Torah, that the Talmud is the enemy of the Torah and Jews should reject it. He doesn’t give specific examples of evil Talmud content, except by making a remark that there was a woman in the Talmud by the name of Zana, who he implies may have been poisoned in order to test her holiness. This remark about Zana seems to serve no purpose other than to leave the listener with the impression that the Talmud condones trial by ordeal–poisoning someone to test their holiness. If they survive the poison that proves they’re holy, if they die, that proves they were unholy.
FACT CHECK: What makes these remarks anti-Semitic isn’t just so much what Farrakhan says, but what he doesn’t say. One can mislead without telling an explicit lie, but by telling only part of the truth, and this is what Farrakhan did. He called the Talmud evil, without going into much detail about what exactly is evil about it. He doesn’t mention the karaite Jews (who do not recognize the Talmud as having any authority). If his intention was to make a theological argument against the Talmud, he could’ve been specific about that parts of the Talmud he finds offensive and he could’ve praised the karaite Jews, but he did neither. Instead he kept lambasting “the Jews” for following the Talmud. His remarks about a woman in the Talmud he called Zana is presented in a way that disparages Jews, implying that the Talmud condones something primitive or barbaric–trial by ordeal. What Farrakhan failed to mention is that in the Gospels, Jesus condoned trial by ordeal. Jesus told his disciples that when they’re trying to convert people to Christianity, they should be able to prove they’re really his disciples by drinking poisonous snake venom without being harmed (Mark 16:15-18). In 2007, the United Nations urged African nations, especially Liberia, to outlaw trial by ordeal. At the time there was a common practice in Liberia of forcing criminal suspects to drink poison and if they lived, that was proof of their innocence. What Farrakhan did is a common practice of bigots–to judge the targets of their hate by a different standard than they judge others. By omitting that Jesus himself condoned the drinking of poison to test holiness and that other cultures (including Black Africans) use trail by ordeal, Farrakhan leaves the listener with the impression that this practice is uniquely Jewish. The clear implication being made is that Jews are evil. Farrakhan’s criticism that the Jews should reject the Talmud because the Talmud contains the words of men, whereas the Torah contains the words of God, rings hollow. Here again, Farrakhan employs a double standard to Jews in order to justify his anti-Semitism. If Jews are wrong to follow the Talmud, then Christians are wrong to follow much of modern Christian orthodoxy. Much of Christian doctrine comes not from the words of Jesus, but rather from the writings of the Apostle Paul. For example, the Protestant doctrine of “justification by faith” (which means you go to heaven because of your beliefs rather than your deeds) is never mentioned by Jesus, but is championed by Paul. Paul wrote decades after the crucifixion and Paul never met Jesus in person, yet many Christians accept the teachings of Paul over the teachings of Jesus. Another example of this in Christianity is our holidays. Consider that the most important Christian holidays are Christmas and Easter, yet Jesus never mentioned or sanctioned either of them. Yet Farrakhan didn’t criticize Christians for this. Mainstream Muslims are also guilty of elevating the words of men above the words of God. Farrakhan himself talked about how Muslims are enamored about the Mahdi (someone who they believe will come to destroy evil in the world). But the Mahdi is not mentioned in the Koran (the words of God), he’s only mentioned in the Hadith (the commentaries of the Prophet Muhammad–a man). Farrakhan didn’t criticize the Muslims for this. Most ironic of all is Farrakhan’s confession that he personally altered some of the teachings of Elijah Muhammad (who was the founder of the NOI). The NOI teaches that Elijah Muhammad was a messenger from God and that his teachings were divinely inspired. Yet, Farrakhan said that he “expanded” Elijah Muhammad’s teaching because he had “received insight”. It’s natural for religions to evolve. All human institutions evolve, and religion is no different. There’s nothing inherently sinister about that. Except, apparently, when Jews do it. Farrakhan is ok with Christianity and Islam evolving. He’s more than ok with his own religion evaluating–he was an agent of such evolution in his own faith. Yet when the Jews do this, he finds it evil and sinister.
- Jesus was not Jewish: (1:45:00, 1:56:40) Farrakhan doesn’t say this explicitly, but it is implied. What Farrakhan does explicitly say is that “Jesus wasn’t anti-Semitic” and Farrakhan then proceeds to discuss a scene in the Gospels where Jesus is preaching to a crowd of people, and Farrakhan says that Jesus happened to be talking to a Jewish crowd.
FACT CHECK: This statement is incredibly misleading. Yes, Jesus was talking to a Jewish crowd, but he didn’t “happen” to be talking to Jews. According the Gospels, Jesus sought an audience with only Jews. Jesus went so far as to explicitly instruct his disciples not to approach gentiles (Matt 10:5-6, Matt 15:24, and John 4:22). This is a common practice of anti-Semites–they attempt to deny or marginalize the Jewishness of Jesus. Unfortunately, the Church is guilty of similar practices.
- Jews are responsible for the death of George Floyd: (2:14:30) Farrakhan said that the cops who killed George Floyd used techniques that are taught by Israeli law enforcement or military members. The clear implication being made is that somehow, Jews are responsible for the death of George Floyd.
FACT CHECK: This is definitely an Archie Bunker moment. The logic being used here is baffling. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the cop who had his knee on George Floyd’s knee was personally trained in Jerusalem by Mossad. How would that make Jews responsible for George Floyd’s death? The Chinese invented gun powder, yet Farrakhan didn’t blame the Chinese when cops shoot Black people unjustifiably. Even more telling is what Farrakhan did not say. If Jews exert so much control over American politicians and the media, and if Jews are so racists against Blacks, then Farrakhan missed an opportunity to make a good case against the Jews. In America, Blacks are about 12% of the population. In Israel, Blacks are about 3% of the population. Blacks are more politically vulnerable in Israel than in America. If Jews have great influence over American policies, then they have even greater influence over Israeli policies. One would expect that Blacks in Israel would be treated much worse than Blacks in America, if Farrakhan’s allegations about Jews are true. Yet, Farrakhan never made such a comparison. If there was a George Floyd of Jerusalem, I’m sure he would’ve mentioned it.
- Jews aren’t native to Israel: (2:18:30), Farrakhan said that Jews aren’t native to Israel, that no one chased Jews from Israel.
FACT CHECK: Jews were in Israel thousands of years ago, but they got kicked out by invaders. In 589 B.C. the Babylonians destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. In 136 A.D , the Romans banned Jews from Jerusalem for 364 days of the year and changed the name of the area from Judea to Palestine.
More troubling than Farrakhan’s bigoted remarks, is the fact that they are so well received by a Christian audience. All bigotry is bad. But Christian anti-Semitism is particularly paradoxical. Christians are the only people in the world that worship a Jewish man. Imagine a Klansman at a cross burning rally, yelling racial slurs about Black people. Then he comes home and there’s a big photo of Dr. Martin Luther King on his living room wall. You wouldn’t expect to see that. That’s what Christian anti-Semitism is like–it can only be maintained by employing tortured logic that borders on schizophrenia. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As Christians, we have an obligation to speak out against bigotry of all kinds, and anti-Semitism especially. The question is, are we willing to pay the price of parting with some of our traditions. Here are some things that every pastor can do–starting now– to help reduce institutional anti-Semitism in the church:
- Show Jesus as a Black Jew: no more photos of Jesus looking like a White gentile. The only Whites in the Bible were the Greeks and the Romans– everybody else was Black or Brown.
- Put the sign back on the crucifix: according to the Gospels, the Roman soldiers nailed a sign above Jesus’ head as he hung on the cross. The sign said, “KING OF THE JEWS”. Why has mainstream Christianity removed that sign? Put it back up there.
- Justify the holidays: explain to your congregation why we celebrate Christmas and Easter that are not in the Bible, but we don’t celebrate holidays that are in the Bible like Passover (Ex 34: 18-23), Chanukah/Feast Of Dedication (John 10:22-23), Yom Kippur (Lev 16:29) etc.
- No more Last Supper: stop referring to the last meal Jesus had with his disciples prior to the crucifixion as the Last Supper. Jesus and his disciples referred to it as a Passover seder (Luke 22:7-16), so that’s what we should call it. From now, call it the Last Passover, not the Last Supper.
- Publicly denounce the “Jews are Christ killers” slander: preach a sermon to your congregation that answers this question: “According to the Gospels, who wanted Jesus dead, and why?”
Criticizing bigotry is good. Actively dismantling bigotry is even better. Dismantling takes work. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy. We can’t sit on our hands and wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting.