The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a problem with me. Well, not with me personally, but with my people. No, not white men in their late 50s who still read comic books; Jews, most of whom are not white, or in their late 50s, or readers of comic books (though we do create a lot of them).
To help themselves overcome their problem with Jews, the Presbyterian Church has published a resource document entitled “Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias.” When you have to publish a book like this to help your members stop their anti-Jewish ideas and biases, you know you have a serious anti-Jewish problem. But still, this document seemed like a good idea. At least they are dealing with the problem.
Or are they?
To test out their ideas the authors of the document sent advance copies to various rabbis. The response was positive. After getting a nod of approval from these Jews, however, the authors of the document removed several of the key passages from the new final version.
Here is one example that I find most heinous. The version of the document shown to the rabbis contained the following sentence:
“We Presbyterians can and should confront stereotypes and biases we may hold regarding Israel, characterize the concerns and positions of Jews accurately, and avoid stereotyping and demonizing the Jewish people.”
This is a very positive and important sentence. In fact, given that the document is all about ending anti-Jewish ideas and bias among Presbyterians, this sentence is crucial to the entire document. And yet, after winning the praise of the rabbis, the sentence was taken out of the final version. So, in their vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and bias it is still OK for Presbyterians to mischaracterize and demonize Jews.
Anyone with a basic understanding of Jew-hatred among Christians knows that demonization of the Jews goes back to the New Testament where Jesus says to the Jews, “You are of your father the Devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires (Jn 8:44). While Jesus was not talking about all Jews (his followers were Jews), and while he may have been speaking metaphorically, later Christians did take it literally and did apply it to all Jews, and used Jesus words to validate the torment, torture and slaughter of millions of Jews from the moment the Church had the power to do so.
While one might applaud the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for honoring its roots and sticking with the demonization of Jews, it doesn’t bode well for my people and me. Is it any wonder why I have no faith in religion?
So let me ask this of my Presbyterian friends. Please, no matter what your denomination tells you, it isn’t OK to demonize Jews. If you want to demonize someone, demonize the Papists.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally on his blog.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro appears in a new Baptist Center for Ethics DVD “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews.”