I find that Christian leaders who engage in antisemitism are unoriginal and unimaginative – banal. Christian contempt toward Jews has been promulgated for centuries with monotonous predictability. The historical patterns are so blatantly identical that it’s curious few Christians connect the dots. Making the connection is what computer science calls “String-matching algorithms.” A process that finds patterns in texts.
Last week, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, appealed to the Methodist Church to back away from their ongoing promotion of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction of Israel (BDS): “I am deeply disappointed and saddened to learn” said Rabbi Mirvis, “that the Methodist Church Conference has again voted in favor of BDS.” I give Methodists worldwide who support BDS an F for zero originality because the boycott of Jews by Christians is – yawn – old news.
German Christian nationalists led a boycott of Jewish shops on April 1, 1933. But wait! The Nazis were the epitome of unoriginality because they borrowed their Jewish boycott idea from – wait for it – Christians. In his book, The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg connects the Nazi policies against Jews to the medieval antisemitic canonical laws of the church.
The Nazi decree of July 25th, 1938, to boycott Jewish doctors was established as a church law from the Trulanic Synod of 692. The Nazis also enforced the law against overcrowding of German schools and universities on April 25th, 1933, and boycotted all Jews from higher education. This same boycott was first established by Christian antisemites in 1434 in the church Council of Basel when Jews were not permitted to obtain academic degrees. And what? We thought Methodists were the first to think of boycotting Jews? Sadly, history proves otherwise.
Christian Nationalist Nick Fuentes, the founder of the America First Political Action Committee, also lacks imagination. Fuentes must have believed he had come up with an original idea when two weeks ago, he proclaimed to his thousands of followers, “If Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jewish woman, didn’t die last year, so that Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic woman, could be appointed to the bench, we would still have Roe v. Wade. Now you tell me that this is a Judeo-Christian country…You tell me that it doesn’t matter that we have a lot of Jewish people in government…we need a government of Christians…Jewish people can be here, but they can’t make our laws.”
By calling for Jews to be removed from government, Fuentes borrowed from the Church Synod of Clermont in 535, making it illegal for Jews to hold public office. The Nazis drew from the same Church Synod when on April 7th, 1933, they established the law of the Re-establishment of the Professional Civil Service in which Jews were dismissed from government institutions.
Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Bob Roberts from Keller, Texas, promotes his anti-Zionism through building relationships with like-minded radical Islamists. He regularly boasts that his approach is unique only to him – that being a Christian ambassador who stands with Israel’s enemies is his idea. He deems himself an Evangelical anomaly – a prodigy of sorts. But Bob, too, is banal – void of originality. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, appealed to Pope Pius XII on July 23, 1947, in order to help him suppress the birth of the State of Israel. The leader who delivered the message to the Pope was al-Husseini’s close confidant, anti-Zionist Archbishop George Hakim (Maximos V). Archbishop Hakim has been called “the Mufti’s emissary in the priestly robe” by the Israeli press. So, Pastor Roberts is not the first anti-Zionist Christian emissary for radical Islam; therefore, his claim of originality is false.
Dr. Gary Burge, former professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, also lacks imagination. In his book, Whose Land? Whose Promise? Burge wrongly interprets John 15:6 to apply to Jewish non-conversion: “Branches (Burge is speaking of Israelis) that attempt living in the land (Israel) which refuse to be attached to Jesus will be cast out and burned.” Not surprisingly, John 15:6 is the same verse used during the Spanish Inquisition established in 1478 to justify burning Jews at the stake for refusing conversion to Christianity. Burge’s knowing use of the inquisitors’ text to justify a pogrom against non-Christian Israeli Jews is a hideous example of the unoriginality of modern Christian Antisemites.
Rick Wiles, the founder of the cable/radio/online outlet “TruNews” and pastor of Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, Florida, has blamed Jews for the U.S. outbreak of the coronavirus, proclaiming it started at the Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Wiles has also said that, “God is spreading it (the coronavirus) in your synagogues! You are under judgment because you oppose his son, Jesus Christ. That is why you have a plague in your synagogues. Repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and the plague will stop.”
There is nothing original in Wiles blaming Jews for a virus because Christians have blamed Jews for many of history’s great tragedies. The Black Death from 1348-1351 is one of them. Jews were falsely accused of poisoning the water wells with the virus in order to kill Christians. In the Strasbourg “Valentine’s Day” massacre on February 14th, 1349, 2000 Jews were burned alive because of the false claim. During the plague, revengeful Christians annihilated over 700 Jewish communities and exterminated over 6,000 Jewish men, women, and children.
I’m not encouraging Christian antisemitic leaders to be more original. I’m encouraging millions of Christians to connect the string-matching algorithms in Church history’s age-long persecution of Jews. If they do, they will realize that today’s Christian antisemites are just unoriginal plagiarists – empty suits regurgitating ancient Christian contempt for Jews that has always led to Jewish bloodshed and brought the integrity of Christian people into question.
Are modern-day Christian antisemites simply unable to think – to process historical information and conclude they are plagiarizing the ugliest parts of Christian history? Does their banality make them ignorantly innocent? I don’t believe so. In her book, People Love Dead Jews, Dara Horn addresses this issue in a discussion about Hannah Arendt’s book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The book is about the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who oversaw the extermination of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. Horn writes:
“…the book is most famous for its assertion of how “banal” the accused appeared, that Eichmann was not a cackling evil genius but rather a boring bureaucratic man. Arendt’s chief argument in that book, I discovered, is actually to convince her readers that the source of Eichmann’s evil was (his) ‘inability to think.’ He was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché, she writes, and later elaborates: ‘He merely… never realized what he was doing…It was sheer thoughtlessness.’ Yet Eichmann, as Arendt describes him, spewing clichés at his trial, did not appear to me at all as a person with an ‘inability to think.’ He seemed rather like the opposite – that is, someone who had spent a rather astonishing amount of time thinking, absorbing ideas and translating them into action. It was just that he had been thinking about bulls—t, and in the process had become buried so deep in it that extraction had become impossible.”
It may be too late to pull antisemitic Christian leaders out of their deep contempt for Jews – “extraction from it” may be impossible, as Dara Horn writes. But it is not too late for their audience to think for themselves. I’m hoping more Christians will be forward-thinking enough to connect the dots of centuries-long Christian Antisemitism and, in the process, reject the banal plagiarism of history practiced by many of their antisemitic leaders. Only when Christianity embraces the reality that the oldest and most lethal form of Jew-hatred has been and continues to be inspired by Christians will it have the opportunity to regain its integrity and identity.