Have you arrived to read this post because you don’t like the sound of the title? Does it piss you off? Good.
A repost from last election season.
Listen. When I was a child, in Catholic School, I was told (by the nuns, older kids in school, and some other adults) not to trust the Jews. It was literally true that the Catholic rhetoric in this small but significant city in an an Eastern US state was that “The Jews killed our God.”
I was told to not go near the Jewish Temple, especially on Friday or Saturday, because it would be too easy to stumble on a ceremony. In second grade, I was told that if I saw a Jewish Ceremony, as a baptized catholic, I would turn to a skeleton. I am not making this up.
None of these overtly racist antisemitic conversations happened inside my family. Nor did the conversations I heard on the street about African Americans or gays. But these were assertions made on a regular basis in school, on the street, and in a variety of settings involving a variety of people with authority. The role models were training me to be anti-semitic and racially discriminatory.
Here, I mostly want to stick with the antisemitism. This is because even though overt and explicit antisemitic rhetoric did not come from my family, even there I heard the indirect insidious form of it. The phrase to “jew someone” (or “jew someone down”) was commonly used by my parents and other adults who otherwise spoke out against discrimination. “The Jews” had a special place in the local culture and economy, and with it a special reputation. All young Jews wanted to become lawyers or doctors, but it was known that all Jewish Mothers thought their son to be the Messiah. And these jokes seemed to be accepted as normal even among our Jewish friends. Looking back I do not believe this was really accepted, and certainly it was not acceptable.
I remember an incident when I was about 22. My best friend owned a bookstore. One day she was a bit upset about something, and related this story: A mutual friend of ours, who was ethnically Christian/Italian, had been in the store earlier that day and in reference to some transaction impending in her life (buying something from someone) she used the term “I’ll try to jew him down.” This upset my friend (who was Jewish, but who would have been upset anyway) as well as my wife (who was Jewish but would have been upset anyway). More upset than anyone were my friend’s Goyim husband and me. We all knew our mutual friend was not particularly antisemitic, but needed to find a way to tell her that she had to unlearn this knee-jerk phrase. We worked it out, eventually. I tell this story only because it is an example of the length of time over which anti-semitic phrases clung to culture, even in a counter-cultural liberal/Democratic philosophically aware (‘PC’) community.
Today, the same thing happens with the term “atheist” at least to some extent. The North Carolina Senate race has reinvigorated a more public conversation about anti-atheism and faith-biased thinking that many of us are always involved in or seeing the effects of. You know, today, my daughter is taking a huge risk in school. The assignment in social studies: Find a current news story that involves discrimination and write a page and a half on it. She picked the Dole/Hagan comments regarding atheism and “godless money.” When I think of how her rather snarky (but I think pretty good) social studies teacher is going to handle this, I laugh. Ha!
Is there anything about the following that diverges significantly from the viewpoint of 90% of American Christians today?
This is basically a Christian Nation. But we ‘tolerate’ Jews and occasionally allow them in, or even welcome them to, important positions of responsibility especially having to do with money. We do gripe occasionally about the Jewish Conspiracy and all, but since it seems mainly to be a conspiracy to a) make lots of cool Hollywood movies and b) support Israel which is the enemy of our enemies, the Jews are OK most of the time. Muslims, we tolerate to a degree, but we would really like it if the passive Muslims would do more to acknowledge that the Koran is a book of violence and that all their fellow Muslims are walking around with bombs strapped to them. The Hindus and Buddhists are colorful and cute and as long as they obey the laws about soliciting donations on the streets and airports, they don’t seem to be doing much harm.
But at least all these people have faith, even if it is the wrong faith. The faithless … the godless … that is an entirely different story….
I think not.
I think this has to end.