The last year or so has seen an explosive growth of anti-Semitism. Two terrible incidents of violence, in Pittsburgh and near San Diego, took numerous lives in synagogues. In New York, the number of hate crimes against Jews has doubled. In Germany, presenting oneself as Jewish invites attack. A German official advised Jews to stop wearing the kippa (AKA yarmukle) in public. (In response, a German newspaper printed a kippa on the front page that readers could cut out and wear to show solidarity with the Jews. I want one!)
does anti-Semitism come from? The two violent attacks in synagogues came from
radical right wingers; I suspect most of the New York attacks come from Muslim
immigrants; the German government claims
that the vast majority of attacks come from the extreme right (but with the one
million Middle Eastern refugees Germany welcomed, I find that a little hard to
believe). Several U. S. politicians have been castigated for anti-Semitic
remarks. The New York Times
international edition published two cartoons that were seen as
anti-Semitic. It seems to be everywhere.
I would like, however, to point out a fact that is little talked about. Most
mainline American churches are rabidly anti-Semitic. It’s not that they preach hatred of Jews. But they preach hatred of the nation of Israel.
Now, criticizing Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. It’s not a perfect country—no country is. However…if Israel is the only country that one criticizes…if one ignores countries that are much more oppressive than Israel, and focuses exclusively on Israel…then one is anti-Semitic. If the focus is only the Jewish country, then the attack is clearly anti-Semitic.
Almost every mainline American church issued statements attacking Israel and no other country. Some have called for a cut-off of American aid for the Jewish state. Others have signed on to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement, where the church sells off any investments it has in companies that do business in the Jewish state.
I would never suggest that Israel is pristine or holy. But in the Middle Eastern context, it smells like a rose. It’s a democracy. Heck, it doesn’t even have the death penalty—in a region where frivolous executions are commonplace. It may indeed have stolen some land…but that’s how human history goes. The entire country of Turkey was stolen from the Greeks (and, as a recent book confirms, Turkey wiped out most of its Christian population in the late 19th/early 20th century). And before we Yanks point fingers, let’s remember our own Native peoples.
Compare Israel with mainland China: China has a million Muslims in concentration camps. Some of them are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. On Israel’s worst day, it comes nowhere near this level of evil. But where are the calls from churches to boycott China? I don’t hear them. It’s Israel that bears the brunt of the churches’ rage.
Sometimes these churches are downright deceptive when it comes to demonizing Israel. I read a study guide put out by a denomination that I belonged to in my boyhood. The guide managed to tell the story of modern Palestine without once mentioning the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. That’s a little like telling the story of Hamlet without mentioning…well, Hamlet. Because the Grand Mufti was the spiritual head of the Palestinian people, and is considered the father of Palestinian nationalism. There’s a reason why this church left the Mufti out of their study guide. The Grand Mufti met with Hitler, broadcast for the Nazis, and recruited a Muslim SS division in Yugoslavia. People might be a little more sympathetic to Israel if they realized that the chief enemy of the Jews in Palestine was a fervent supporter of the Nazis.
One thing I find especially heartbreaking is that most of the churches are pretty much silent on Christian persecution in the Middle East. The Christians in that region are hanging on by a thread—they are threatened with genocide and non-existence. But the churches are so obsessed with hating Israel (which is not on Open Doors’ list of the top 50 persecutors of Christianity) that they basically ignore Christian persecution. When the Presiding Bishop of one American mainline church finally got around to addressing Christian persecution, she said: “It’s a complex issue.” I don’t recall any of the anti-Israel resolutions passed by the churches ever saying that Israel/Palestine is “a complex issue.” No, for them it’s a simple issue: the Jews are always wrong.
I take pride in our church, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, because we have managed to avoid Israel hatred. It’s not that we think that Israel is a holy country founded by and blessed by God, the way many evangelical Christians do. No, it’s simpler than that. The Missouri Synod doesn’t do politics unless absolutely necessary.
As Christ’s church, we have more important things to talk about than Middle Eastern policy. Instead of obsessing over what Jewish people thousands of miles away are doing…we obsess over what a Jewish man did thousands of years ago. Even as St. Paul obsessed over Him: “I resolved to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2.) We have no political wisdom to offer. Instead we focus on “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:24) That’s what the church is here for. Not to meddle in politics, but to lift high the cross of Christ, and proclaim His love to all, Jew and Gentile.
I almost never criticize other churches. But with the rising tide of anti-Semitism, it’s time to call the mainline churches out—and urge them to take a leaf from the Missouri Synod book…and to “cool their duals” over the hatred of Israel. Transfer all that passion from hating Israel to proclaiming Jesus! Lifting high His cross—and not dictating Middle Eastern policy—is what the church is all about!
God loves you and so do I!
Pastor David W. Anglin