Today a growing number of Jews are returning to Israel.[i] In 1948 Israel became a nation in one day and had 800,000 citizens. Now there are over 6 million Jews in Israel. Many Jews across the world feel like it is 1939 all over again. Anti-semetism is on the rise in the United States and across the world and Israel itself lives in threat of annihilation. Returning from where? The Jewish diaspora is the dispersion of Jews dating back to 8th century and 6th century BCE and countless migrations after that as a people without a land. The actual end of the Jewish state some might say was around 70 A.D.[ii] Prominent Influential Jews[iii] are ensuring that the Jewish state and Jewish people living outside Israel are supported and their ancestry and persecution are not forgotten.
Without a fundamental understanding of the Old Testament dating from roughly before 10,000 B.C. from Genesis through Abraham, Jacob, The Exodus, the re-establishment of Israel under David, Babylonian Captivity, the Greek period (Hellenism), and the Roman period (37 B.C to 324 AD) and all the prophets, kings, and various sects within in Judaism it is hard to give current day “Jewishness,” or for that matter Christianity, meaning and context.
The average American Catholic today lacks heart-felt knowledge of the Jewish tradition and experience beyond didactic learning from a pre-adolescent era of learning that relied on historical teaching and painful memorization. Many would criticize the average Catholic today lacking “infused knowledge” of Christianity itself – that is knowledge that includes teaching of the known facts of Christian tenets but guided by connection to God within us, to Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit. That is knowledge greater than our intellect or individual efforts can provide. If we had this infused knowledge the prevalence of hypocrisy today would greatly be diminished. The hypocrisy of white nationalism today and xenophobia globally would not be able to represent mainstream thought.[iv]
What does it mean to reconcile with my Jewish heritage? The Old Testament stories in various literary forms repeats a common theme of the Jewish nation turning away from God: adopting pagan ways of neighbors, directly performing unholy and sinful acts, using priestly status for personal power and wealth, and placing worldly goods above God. These moral and theological principles did not disappear with the arrival of Jesus Christ, if anything; they were stripped of formulaic ritual and laid bare in stark truths with “The great commandment is not to judge one’s neighbor but rather to love one’s neighbor, for judgment is God’s alone.”[v]
We have also through time developed many ritualistic additions as well that have a tint of man-made institutions rather than divinely inspired gifts.
I cannot miss the modern-day peril of Christianity and America with the history of Judaism and Israel. As Christians we live on a pluralistic society among atheist, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and within these large religious systems countless denominations or sects. Additionally the idols of modernity of money, prestige, power, worldly possessions, and pursuing excess human comforts leave little room for living a holy and spiritually infused live style. To reconcile with our Jewish ancestry we must first reconcile what it means to be Christian in a pluralistic society. Our Jewish brethren struggled with this issue than and now as well.
Our Christian leaders today are too easily manipulated into being pawns of political machines under the cover of trying to advance our religious beliefs. We try to mobilize our votes to support a party to legislate values rather than our values legislating behavior based on attraction, love, and living a holy life by example. Losing sight of our own calling to live spiritual lives we turn to others to enforce spirituality. We look outward rather than inward at what is wrong with society today. Sometimes we find reasons to not look at how to think about excess wealth.
We give power to charlatans who are all too willing to find villains for us – at a price that is often opposed to the greatest commandment. They capitalize on our fears of alienation and loss of identity. Some are petrified of diaspora from within – a displacement of our white Christian dominance within the United States and globally. This fear has us resorting to tribalism under the name brand of patriotism or nationalism. As recently demonstrated in Charlottesville Jewish hatred was on display.
How can we Christians actively hate our own brothers by Old Testament biblical definition? The entire Old Testament in our religion foreshadows Jesus Christ coming for all Jews and all people.
When our Jewish brothers are threatened we are threatened as well. Our morality has already condemned us once before in history when we as a nation and as a religion were passive as the Holocaust was underway. Our morality is condemning us daily today as we passively accept a war on immigrants, on minorities, on Jews, on Muslims, on Women, and on the poor of all nations through our narrow sited policies that are aimed at enriching the wealthy and powerful at the expense of, at a minimum, 4/5ths of the world’s population.
When nations and religions start running for bunkers of isolation and extreme humanely defined purity of what it means to be on the right side of holiness and humanity – we have fallen prey to a dialogue with the Devil – not God.
Within all of our nations, our religious groups, our socio-economic classes, our gender identity groups, our racial and ethnic groups lay some very evil people. They must be contained and made visible without resorting to the must villainous instincts of our predatory natures, of our human nature. For as evil as our enemies are, we have the capacity within us to fall prey to being evil ourselves.
Ask yourself when listening to dinner conversation, lunchroom banter, newspaper by-lines, social media memes, and our political class – is the aim aligned with the greatest commandment?
Very few Christians are called to live in isolation and prayer (Monastic life). We are called to live with and next to people of all cultures and beliefs. We are called to love our neighbors and not to judge our neighbors. We are called to evangelize in a prescribed fashion – not by sword, not by law, not by coercion, not by manipulation – but by living examples of mercy, compassion and love.
As a nation America will have its challenges and will continued to be attacked for its beacon of light and freedom. We will have to defend ourselves for our world is still ruled by men’s laws and not God’s law. Our defense of country and our freedoms should always be carried out in a manner that reflects sober and rationale actions that respect our appropriate use of nation’s power, wealth, and principles.
Just as we are called to exercise appropriate evangelism without judgment – we are called as a nation to use our wealth, our democracy, and our military in a manner that is good for all nations and people. Without the moral imperative applied both domestically and internationally we are bound to suffer the fate of the Israelites.
Our enemies, specifically Russia, recognize that if they can spurn division and hate within our society and between our partners globally they can diminish our freedoms and strength without firing a shot. We have other enemies as well, many of which are reactionary to our economic and political dominance that they feel is abused to the detriment of the world’s poor and oppressed.
Until recently America understood the principle of “Much is given, Much is expected.” Our stewardship of global priorities aligns with our nation’s interest.
Unless our nation continues to use its wealth, power and status to improve global interest we will continue to be a top target of aggrieved toxic terrorist groups from within and outside our invisible walls.
The plight of the Jewish people should enlighten nations today on the dangers of being oppressed, of oppressing people, and putting wealth and power above human interest. The Jewish problem is our problem – and it extends way beyond what it means to be Jewish. It is about humanity itself.
To write about this is in and of itself an insult to all the veterans of WW II and all the victims of the Holocaust. If the Holocaust and WW II could not provide a lasting lesson for humanity we are a purely pathetic species. Is it no wonder we needed a messiah and a paraclete[vi] after he departed? If only we would listen to the image and imprint of the divine that lives sometimes too deeply within our clouded souls.
Unlike the Jews returning to Israel we can return to true Christianity within our own homes, our own communities, within our own hearts. Pope Francis is doing his part to effect the arc of spiritual progression and revelation of the Catholic Church. Now we have to continue to do our part.
[iv] “Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/opinion/sunday/white-nationalism-threat-islam-america.html?_r=0
[vi] Holy spirit or counselor