Essay, Research Paper: Christian Anti-Semitism

Religion

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For sixteen hundred years, the Jewish people have been persecuted and murdered
by people who worship a Jewish man as their savior: the Christians. Why did
Christian anti-Semitism, a seemingly illogical belief given that Jesus himself
was a Jew, develop? How did it evolve, and why has it persisted for centuries?
In the Biblical gospels, despite three of the four being ostensibly written by
Jews, enemies of Jesus are referred to as “the Jews.” Early Christians found
themselves in a quandary. The savior they worship, himself a Jew, purportedly
was killed by Jews. Since at least the fourth century, some groups of Christians
have actively practiced anti-Semitism, taking revenge on Jewish people for
“murdering” the God of Christianity. Christians have called Jews devils,
demons and antichrists. Persecution by church officials, both Catholic and
Protestant, was consistent and deadly for over a thousand years. Hundreds of
thousands, possibly millions of Jews, were massacred by so-called Christians
centuries before the Holocaust. Emperor Constantine the Great converted to
Christianity in 312 A.D. Attributing his military successes to God, he issued
the Edict of Milan, making Christianity the Roman Empire's official religion. It
was here in the fourth century that open anti-Semitism emerged. A great number
of superficial converts (wanting to be on the winning side) joined the church,
which was placing overwhelming emphasis on the sacraments. The sacraments were
thought by many to have a magical content, supernaturally protecting against
attacks from the devil. Those outside the sacramental community -- primarily
unconverted Jews -- became seen as people through whom the devil could work his
evil purposes. (1) Jews were thought to be sorcerers, cannibals, and
child-murderers. Attacks by "church fathers" became increasingly
venomous. Gregory of Nyasa, a Cappadocian bishop, wrote that Jews are
"Companions of the devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators,
darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed ....
" (2) St. John Chrysostom (354-407) urged Christians at Antioch to avoid
the synagogue and curb their curiosity about Judaism: Brothel and theater, the
synagogue is also a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts.... Living for
their belly, mouth forever gaping, the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats
in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony. (3) In 1095, the
Crusades began when Pope Urban II called upon Christians to save the Holy Land
from the infidels; he promised the remission of sins to all who participated.
Huge armies gathered. For two centuries these armies, while making their way to
the Middle East, persecuted or slaughtered any Jews they happened to encounter.
(4) One mob, according to an eyewitness, "...decided to avenge Christ upon
the pagans and the Jews. This is why they killed 900 Jews in the city of Mainz
without sparing the women and children...." (5) The slaughter of Jews by
so-called "Christians" is historical truth, not the invention of
anti-Christian humanists and historical revisionists. Hal Lindsey, the
fundamentalist Bible teacher and best-selling author of The Late Great Planet
Earth, admits: When the Crusaders ... captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, they
first entered the city through the Jewish quarter. A terrible slaughter took
place. The surviving Jews were sold as slaves. The Jewish community of Jerusalem
was obliterated. In all, tens of thousands of Jews were massacred in the name of
Christianity as a consequence of the first Crusade. (6) Another mob of
Jew-killers wandered from city to city in the German districts of Rottingen and
Bavaria in the year 1298, burning Jewish communities and slaughtering any Jew
who would not forcibly "convert" to Christianity. One historical
chronicler suggests that they killed as many as 100,000 Jews. (7) Beginning in
1320, a group of peasants in northern France, led by friars, set out for the
Holy Land in what would become known as the Shepherd's Crusade. Pillaging as
they went, they spilled Jewish blood throughout the province of Aquitaine.
Hundreds were slaughtered at the village of Verdun-sur-Garonne. (8) One priest,
Peter of Cluny, wrote, "God does not want them to be destroyed, but like
Cain, who murdered his brother, they are to continue to exist under great
suffering and in great shame so that life may be more bitter for them than
death." (9) In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council of Pope Innocent III
institutionalized the Inquisition, issuing the following decree: In the
countries where Christians do not distinguish themselves from Jews and Saracens
by their garments, relations are maintained between Christians and Jews or
Saracens, or vice versa. In order that such wickedness in the future be not
excused by error, it is decreed that henceforth Jews of both sexes will be
distinguished from other peoples by their garments, as moreover has been
prescribed unto them by Moses. They will not show themselves in public during
Holy Week, for some among them on these days wear their finest garments and mock
Christians clad in mourning. Trespassers will be duly punished by the secular
powers, in order that they no longer dare flout Christ in the presence of
Christians. (10) In Poland, Jews were required to wear a pointed green hat; in
England, strips of cloth sewn across the chest were mandated. (11) By the middle
of the twelfth century, rumors and superstitions emerged accusing Jews of ritual
murder, usually the murder of Christian children in alleged mock re-enactments
of the crucifixion. It was believed that Jews needed innocent Christian blood
for use in Satanic/Jewish rituals. For centuries, the unexplained murder of any
Christian child could set off waves of rioting and persecution. The first
recorded ritual murder allegation occurred in England in 1144. On Good Friday of
that year, the body of a young Christian was found in the woods near Norwich.
Accusers charged that a group of rabbis located in Narbonne had conspired to
kill a Christian child every year on Good Friday in mockery of the crucifixion.
Anti-Jewish riots in Norwich led to the murder of one of the city's prominent
Jews. The murdered Christian youth was canonized, and for centuries pilgrimages
to his tomb were encouraged by the Church. (12) Three years later, the corpse of
another young Christian was discovered in Wurzburg. Jews were hunted down and
lynched. Alleged child murders led to the burning at the stake of thirty-eight
Jews in Blois in 1171; twenty years later nearly one hundred Jews were burned at
Bray-sur-Seine. For centuries the pattern continued. Murdered children were
canonized, pilgrimages were recommended and miracles were alleged. Nine Jews
were executed at Trent in the Tyrol in 1473 for the murder of a little boy named
Simon. The Church named him St. Simon of Trent in 1582, a chapel was erected at
his tomb and miracles were reported by Catholic pilgrims. Historians have
records of more than one hundred similar cases right up to the 1800s. (13) The
myth of the Jew as ritual child-killer has never faded. Thomas E. Watson, a
Southern Baptist attorney and politician, publicly proclaimed that ritual murder
was a common Jewish practice. This type of rhetoric gained Watson a million
votes as a third-party vice-presidential candidate in 1896, and it won him
election to the U.S. Senate in 1920. (14) In 1928, when a four-year-old girl
disappeared in Massena, New York, two days before Yom Kippur, the mayor of
Massena publicly speculated that the child had been murdered by Jews who wanted
to use her blood in a Yom Kippur ritual. (15) Christian anti-Semites spread the
rumor that Jews had kidnapped Charles Lindbergh's baby in 1932 for use in a
ritual sacrifice. (16) When the Black Plague swept through Europe in the
fourteenth century — killing millions — the Jews were blamed. It was
believed they had poisoned the sources of drinking water. (17) Hal Lindsey
suggests that suspicions were raised because Orthodox Jews, obedient to Mosaic
laws of handwashing and hygienic food handling, seldom contracted the disease.
(18) Simultaneously, anti-Semitism in medieval satires, legends, ballads,
sculptures and paintings was universal. Medieval plays cast Jews in the role of
villain, devil and antichrist. In a Middle Ages version of historical
revisionism, one playwright reinvented the pagan Roman leader Titus as a
Christian knight who destroyed Jerusalem to kill its Jews in the name of the
Virgin Mary. (19) In the 1600s, Pierre de Lancre executed a large number of Jews
alleged to be witches by burning them at the stake in southern France; he wrote
that Jews are "more perfidious and faithless than demons." (20)
Persecution of Jews continued right into the Reformation and became more
vicious. Identification of Jews with Satan became increasingly explicit. Erasmus
(1466-1536), the Dutch philosopher and theologian, wrote, "If it is the
part of a good Christian to detest the Jews, then we are all good
Christians." (21) Lest one should place all this anti-Semitism at the door
of the Catholic Church, no less a Protestant hero than Martin Luther denounced
Jews as children of the devil. In 1542 Luther published Against the Jews and
Their Lies, a 200-page rant which includes the following: Know, O adored Christ,
and make no mistake, that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous,
more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew....
Now, whoever wishes to accept venomous serpents, desperate enemies of the Lord,
and to honor them, to let himself be robbed, pillaged, corrupted, and cursed by
them, need only turn to the Jews. (22) Later, Luther added, "In short, they
are children of the devil, condemned to the flames of hell .... " (23)
German writers in the 1500s and 1600s followed Luther's lead, producing
pamphlets with titles such as The Sack of Jewish Serpents. (24) Centuries later,
Hitler quoted Luther to justify his "final solution" to the
"Jewish problem." Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism cannot be
assigned entirely to the past; anti-Semitism has always lurked inside
Christianity, sometimes at its center, sometimes at its fringes. The 1930s, for
example, was a period of rising international anti-Semitism which ultimately
resulted in the Holocaust, and nominal Christians were active participants.
Kansas evangelist Gerald Winrod (1900-1957), founder of the Defenders of the
Christian Faith, and third-party presidential candidate Gerald L.K. Smith
(1898-1976), who called himself a Baptist minister, preached vicious
anti-Semitism in a decade when Americans were looking for scapegoats to make
sense of suffering caused by the Depression. In Smith's magazine The Cross and
the Flag, he taught that Jews are in fact "sons of Satan." (25) Smith
continued preaching and publishing until his death in 1976. Winrod and Smith
were both sons of evangelical preachers, but both ended up as supporters of
Hitler and opponents of American participation in World War II. Smith, who began
his career as an organizer for Louisiana populist Huey Long, argued that Jews
hated Hitler because the fuhrer was a devout, Bible-believing Christian. (26)
After Long's assassination, Smith moved back to his native midwest and received
32,000 votes in Michigan's 1942 U.S. Senate election. He ran for president in
1944. Three years later, Smith founded the Christian Nationalist Crusade, moving
in 1953 to Los Angeles, home of the nascent “Christian Identity” movement in
the 1950s, where he published tracts with titles such as "Jews Strive for
World Control." (27) Gerald Winrod believed in a Jewish conspiracy to
control the world and dabbled in electoral politics. In 1938 Winrod gained 22
percent of the vote as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Kansas. His Defender
magazine reached 100,000 readers in the 1930s. A fervent supporter of Hitler,
Winrod was indicted for sedition in 1942, but the case ended in a mistrial. (28)
Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism did not end with Hitler's defeat; even
today, vicious anti-Semitism persists among some Christians. Right-wing preacher
David Chilton, who is not a Christian Identity preacher, says, "Israel has
become a demon possessed." (29) Dr. Gary North, a “Christian
Reconstructionist” and founder of the Institute for Christian Economics, looks
forward to the day when Israel is "pushed into the sea by the
Arabs...." (30) Christian Identity doesn't have a single,
"charismatic" leader. Almost everyone in the movement, including its
"pastors," comes from a traditional Christian background. (31)
Hundreds of small Identity churches have popped up all over the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group which keeps track of such
things, reports that Identity churches are in thirty-three states as well as
Canada, England, South Africa and Australia. (32) Identity claims 30,000
hardcore believers and possibly has 400,000 sympathizers. (33) It reaches
millions across North America through the Internet and shortwave radio.
Explaining Identity can be somewhat like nailing Jello to a tree. Identity
churches and pastors differ over the most minute doctrinal details. They prize
their independence of each other; no single church or leader has the power to
impose doctrinal orthodoxy. Some believers wear suits and ties; others wear
combat fatigues. Some appear on Christian television while others are wanted by
the FBI. Yet the movement is united in its essential, bizarre beliefs: that
white, Anglo-Saxon people are the true Israel chosen of God; that black people
are animals without souls; and that Jews are descended directly from Satan
himself and are not human. They believe that Satan, through Cain, is the father
of the Jews, who are a hybrid, demonic, non-human race. "True" Israel
is the white, Anglo-Saxon peoples, who supposedly moved north and west from Old
Testament Israel after the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C. Adam, Noah, Abraham,
David and Jesus were white Anglo-Saxons. Identity cites John 8:44, where Jesus
tells his enemies, “the Jews,” that they belong to "their father,"
the devil. Identity teachers believe this applies to all Jews, not merely the
handful of Pharisees Jesus was addressing (John 8:13). Because Jews are
descended from Satan, Identity believers reason, Jews are not human, and they
don't have souls. Identity provides theological unity and justification to
paramilitary groups such as the Aryan Nations, the Posse Comitatus, and many but
not all neo-Nazi, Klan and militia groups. As a religion underpinning and
uniting these militant and terrorist groups, Christian Identity provides violent
racists and anti-Semites with the dangerous illusion that they are on a mission
from God. Both Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) and Eric Rudolph (the
Atlanta Olympic/Birmingham abortion clinic bomber) were exposed to and familiar
with Christian Identity. McVeigh had contacts with an Identity paramilitary
compound in the Ozarks, while Rudolph is thought to be a “full-blown”
believer. In one sense, Identity is a "brand new thing." Formal
Christian Identity doctrinal statements and organization into churches is barely
thirty years old. On the other hand, all the elements of Identity beliefs are
ancient. The identification of Jews with the devil goes back at least to the
Middle Ages. For sixteen hundred years, anti-Semitism has persisted in some
branches of Christianity, and there is no evidence to indicate that it will
cease at any time in the foreseeable future.Bibliography1. Hannah Vogt, The Jews: A Chronicle for Christian Conscience, trans. Peter
Jacobsohn (New York: Association Press, 1967), p. 47. 2. Quoted in Leon Poliakov,
The History of Anti-Semitism, Volume One: From the Time of Christ to the Court
Jews, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vanguard Press, 1965), p. 25. 3. Ibid. 4.
Vogt, p. 36. 5. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 52. 6. Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust
(New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 21. 7. Poliakov, pp. 99-100. 8. Ibid., pp.
102-103. 9. Quoted in Vogt, p. 58. 10. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 64. 11. Poliakov,
p. 66. 12. Ibid., p. 58. 13. Ibid., pp. 62-63. 14. Vogt, pp. 121-122. 15.
Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press,
1994), p. 101. 16. Glen Jeansonne, Women of the Far Right: The Mothers' Movement
and World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 32. 17.
Richard Abanes, American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 135-136. 18. Lindsey, p. 21. 19.
Poliakov, p. 128. 20. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 153. 21. Ibid., p. 123. 22. Ibid.,
p. 218. 23. Ibid., p. 219. 24. Poliakov, p. 24. 25. Quoted in Michael Barkun,
Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement
(Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p. 56. 26.
Jeansonne, p. 34. 27. John George and Laird Wilcox, American Extremists:
Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others (Amherst, NY:
Prometheus Books, 1996), p. 38. 28. Ibid., pp. 34-35. 29. Quoted in Lindsey, p.
25. 30. Ibid., p. 111. 31. Barkun, p. 187. 32. Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt,
Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed (New York: Plenum Press,
1993), p. 111 33. Abanes, p. 155.
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