Imagine yourself as a Russian Jew living in a ghetto in more or less continuous fear of Christian reprisals against your assumed beliefs and insults against their religion. You actually have nothing against Christians personally, and you know many decent and friendly Christians out there, but the paranoid fringe groups associated with their religion are beyond the control of your Christian friends. All you can really hope is that no idiots among them find excuses for attacking you and your family.
Now imagine that a pamphlet is published in England (the country perceived to have the strongest Jewish influences in Europe) with the explicit purpose of insulting Christianity from a presumably Jewish perspective. It starts out telling of a group of priests who are having a party molesting choir boys together when they decide that they need to encourage their parishioners go destroy a few Jewish ghettos. Next it tells of a Jewish doctor and his family running and hiding from the angry mob, and the doctor explaining to his family how evil Christians are in general. The doctor in this tract then tells a story to his family of the birth of Christianity.
He starts out with Jesus’ mother being an underage prostitute, getting pregnant accidentally and knowing that her simple carpenter boyfriend is not stupid enough to believe that it is his. One of her clients, a Roman soldier (perhaps the biological father) tells her to convince this boyfriend that she is in fact still a virgin and that she is carrying the son of God.
From their it tells how this young man grew up to be an uncontrollable rebel, always being nasty to his respectable Jewish elders, frequently getting drunk, being a regular customer of prostitutes himself and trying to put together an underground militia to attack both the Romans and the Jews so that he will be king of the universe. Eventually both the Romans and the Jews realize that this little megalomaniac is not only crazy but dangerous and they have him killed, but from there his followers start to claim that he was more powerful than death, and they start to commit all sorts of fresh atrocities in his name. “That,” this fictional Jewish doctor tells his family, “is the essence of Christianity.”
Along the way this story is embellished with accounts of how Jesus bragged about his power while drunk, about outlandish promises he made to his favorite prostitutes, about how he liked to Sodomize children every now and again, and how he absurdly claimed to be more moral than any of the Jewish priests. All this presumably explaining the proper Jewish perspective on Christianity.
How would you, as a Jew at genuine risk of attack by simple-minded Christians, feel about such a pamphlet? You would of course know from bitter personal experience that it is will give rise to all sorts of attacks on your people. These attacks will not in themselves be justifiable, but at the same time you understand what there is about the pamphlet in question that would get the Christians upset. You realize that the picture that such a pamphlet paints of Christianity, while loosely based on Christian sources, is profoundly insulting and untrue. You would hope that your Christian friends would be smart enough to realize that this publication by no means reflects your attitude towards Christians nor the attitude of your people in general towards Christians, but you can’t safely assume such common sense among your neighbors.
Now imagine, to make matters worse, a radical Zionist Rabbi from the Netherlands declares that he is going to have a public reading of this pamphlet, followed by a show trial where Jesus can freshly be condemned to death.
This might quite literally make you sick. You would automatically know that nothing good can come of this. Why would anyone do such a thing?! Perhaps there are genuine radical Christian haters among your fellow Jews who feel that this is the best way to radicalize their brothers into action against the Christians. Perhaps they believe that drawing Christian mobs out into reprehensible violent reaction is the best way to further their cause. Or perhaps this whole thing is a forgery designed by anti-Semitic forces in Europe just looking for an excuse to incite mob violence against Jews.
Now imagine that before the inevitable bloodshed from this absurdity a peace-loving Polish Rabbi issues an official statement roundly condemning the publication in question, stating that it does not speak for him or his people and appreciating the level of offence that Christians could take at this vile attack against their faith. But as the violence over this absurdity spreads, radical Zionists accuse this Rabbi of apologizing for being Jewish and condoning the attacks on Jews around Europe. What can you say to such people?
In such a case there is no denying the evil of the Anti-Semitism that this pamphlet was designed to inflame, but does that mean that Christianity as a whole is inherently evil or warmongering? If moderate Christian leaders take a stand against such offensive propaganda against what they hold dear, does that make them guilty by association with the mobs that swarm and kill Jews over such an incident? Would there be any way of stopping this cycle of violence short of a full scale religious war?
In case you missed it, this is actually the story of the events in the Middle East last week (the second week of September, 2012), only the names and setting have been changed to protect the ignorant.
Be careful who you decide to condemn as inherently warlike, or weak, or unnecessarily apologetic in such cases.
Be careful how far you generalize the blame for the hateful actions of a few nasty radicals on each side.
Please choose not to buy the goods that hate-mongers are peddling .
Support efforts to bring those who cynically and intentionally cause the deaths of hundreds of innocent people for the furtherance of their causes to justice. What has been done here really is a few degrees worse than yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre a hundred years ago.