When we now listen to the religious minority’s stories of injury and insult, we take the first step toward religious reformation. Awareness births empathy–empathy births a passion for righteousness. At least, that’s the way goodwill Baptists ought to respond morally.
At a recent screening of our DVD, “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews,” at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, N.C., the Jewish woman told an audience of several hundred people: “I had a situation where somebody had come up and asked to see my scars, where my horns where removed.”
She was referring to the myth that Jews grow horns, a myth rooted in the mistranslation of a biblical passage in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, advanced in Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses with bumps jutting from his forehead and heard in Nazi Germany.
The woman reported that the request came from one who said she had been taught that view “in her church.”
“Just when I think I’ve heard it all,” responded Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Greensboro and one of the panelists, to the groans in the room.
Pat Cronin, another panelist and pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, said, “We’re not teaching that at our church ¦That is so mean and disrespectful.”
“Honestly, it’s probably up to Baptist like me to address Baptists like that. Jewish people can’t correct Baptists. Baptists need to correct Baptists,” said Massey. “I would love to know who is teaching that where. And I would be glad to rebuke them in Jesus’ name.”
Another Jewish participant prefaced her remarks by saying that “being a minority is not good.”
When she went to a meeting held at Summerfield’s First Baptist Church to meet Maurice “Mo” Green, the new school superintendent of Guilford County Schools, the church’s pastor called the meeting to prayer, thanking God for the crucifixion.
She said that she had her head bowed and that to raise her head would have been disrespectful.
“I was forced to keep my head down. I felt that I was betraying my own beliefs. I was really uncomfortable,” she shared.
A Jewish attorney expressed his disappointment with the University of Mobile, which is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention, at another DVD screening held at the First Baptist Church of Mobile at the end of October.
Ralph Holberg, a member of Springhill Avenue Temple and a screening panelist, acknowledged that Baptists and Jews in Mobile had not had much of an institutional dialogue.
He told some 50 Baptist and Jewish attendees: “I’m a little disappointed, for example, in Mobile College, now the University of Mobile,” he said. “They seem to have a policy against the retention of Jewish professors.”
“As far as I know they don’t have a religion course that encompasses Judaism. How can you really understand Christianity until you begin to understand Judaism and to know where you’ve been,” he said.
Holberg later noted that members of Mobile’s Jewish community gave land for the Baptist school, as well as funding.
These types of stories challenge goodwill Baptists to remember that we were once a rejected religious minority on the road to religious liberty and political power.
When we now listen to the religious minority’s stories of injury and insult, we take the first step toward religious reformation. Awareness births empathy ”empathy births a passion for righteousness. At least, that’s the way goodwill Baptists ought to respond morally.
When we do the right thing for our Jewish neighbors, we create new allies in the quest for social justice. Their welfare, our welfare and the welfare of the city are wrapped up together.
During the Greensboro screening, Fred Guttman, rabbi at Temple Emanuel, said, “I think the movie really is a courageous movie for the Baptist Center for Ethics to make ¦it’s a wonderful, wonderful movie.”
And then he concluded the event with a word of praise which should be credited to every supporter of BCE/EthicsDaily.com.
Referring to the “wonderful work that the Baptist Center for Ethics is doing,” Guttman said, “It is, from my perspective as a Jew, it is holy work of the highest order. And I feel that the work you do with the Baptist Center for Ethics literally brings a smile to the face of God.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.