Wednesday, May 29, 2002

“Our Elder Brothers”

Holy Scripture nourishes faith, strengthens ecclesial unity and is an important element of our common spiritual patrimony with Abraham's stock, our Jewish brothers and sisters.
--Pope John Paul II, 1987

Thomas Cahill’s excellent book The Gifts of the Jews tells the story of how Judaism made what we now think of as “The West” possible. By taking aside a pagan named Avram and teaching him and his children over the course of centuries that this God called “I am” is not only the greatest of the gods, but the only God, the Father raised all of us from the level of finite and irrelevant, to infinitely important. In becoming Avraham, father of a great nation, Avram bequeathed us the gift of Selfhood. His child Moses then gave us the gift of Law.

Coming down through the centuries, the prophets sounded a constant warning to adhere to the path of Righteousness and foretold of a king who would be anointed to set God’s people free. Long before anyone thought about or was promised eternal life, God demanded that we live as we were created to live: as lovers of His Law. For more than 2,000 years before the birth of His Son, the Father pounded it into our heads that we have but one purpose: not the achievement of eternal life, but the fulfillment of God’s love. Only after centuries of this teaching, did the outcome—eternal life—begin to appear in God’s story.

It is difficult to study this history of what we now call Judaism in the context of the wider world, without noticing something very peculiar. Within a very few centuries of the birth of this religion, the Hebrew people are enslaved in Egypt. 500 years later, they are set free, only to be conquered or controlled successively by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. After Christ, and then the conversion of the Roman Empire, the Italians put them in the first Ghettoes; the Spanish forced their conversion or expelled them; the Russians invented the Pogrom; Poles, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and nearly every other nation of Europe at best ill-treated and at worst simply murdered them. Germans finally tried to do explicitly what had been implicit to a greater or lesser degree for 15 centuries. Today, the Palestinians stall and delay and avoid peace at all costs, waiting for the day when Saddam Hussein will do with missiles what the Germans nearly managed with camps. Down through history, we chase them from our towns and villages as the goat is sent from the city on Yom Kippur.

The peculiar thing about the history of the Jews is this: something recognizable as Judaism has existed for more than 4 millennia. Every part of humanity that has come into contact with these people has spent the better part of those 4,000 years trying to kill them. Christians have, to our everlasting shame, openly espoused this eradication, reading into the fulfillment of the prophets the end of the need for the Nation that produced them. Often, this attempt at the destruction of the Jews is proposed as God’s Will, or God’s Judgment on the Jews.

It would surely be proof of an incompetent god who, with 40 centuries to wipe out a small tribe of desert nomads, failed time and again. Many peoples, tribes and religions have fallen silent in the history of the world, but not the Jews. 2,000 years after sending us the answer to the questions posed by Judaism, He has preserved the questioners from every peril, from more than one near-destruction. (Some demographers have estimated that, had the Hebrew population grown in the same proportion to the world as it had in 33 AD, there would be some 280 million of them today.)

What do they know, that 2,000 years after Christ, God has plainly worked very hard not to destroy them, but to preserve them? What purpose do they serve, that the Darkness has perverted so much of humanity’s creativity to the end of their destruction?

Truly, the answer is that there is no “them.” I have written repeatedly above of “us and them” and committed the same fallacy as those who would drive God’s Chosen ones from the cities. To be a Christian is to be a Jew fulfilled. All of us who accept a Jewish carpenter from the countryside as God’s only Son must accept Judaism, not reject it, persecute, kill it. Christianity cut loose from its roots will surely falter and fail, surrendering to worldliness en masse in a way that so many of us already do individually. Our elder brothers continue to show us perseverance in the face of complacency and indifference, unspeakable horror and terrifying evils.

In other words, fruit plucked from the vine quickly withers and dies.

Perversely, the Wahabi Fascists who would destroy us understand this better than we ourselves do. “Crusaders and Jews” are uttered so often together in Arabic, it may as well be a single word. Today, at this very moment, it is important that all Christians recognize this, and work through prayer as well as economically and militarily once again to preserve our elder brothers. We are all Jews, and the Diabolical Powers once again seek to kill the Vine that gives us Life.


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