Sunday, 21 August 2011

Why do you persecute?

This post will probably be very naive, but the enormity of the persecution of those of Jewish faith is too much for me to comprehend at times. I'm not talking about Nazism or the contemporary Middle East either - these are incomprehensible situations, but I've learned enough to know and even understand a little about them. But I'm talking further back, to the Spanish Inquisition, and the pervading negative attitudes towards Jews in history.

I've grown up realising that Jews have had an extremely rough ride of it, from the early Hebrew slaves, through the Jews blamed for the crucifixion of Jesus, to their problems today. Now I'm sure Hitler was a very bad man (= understatement.) The Palestinian-Israeli conflict (a complicated situation I don't feel qualified to comment on) are usually presented as an Islam versus Judaism problem. But realising just quite how much hate, violence and fear has been doled out to people of Jewish in the name of  Christianity makes my blood run cold.

I can only ask - why? (Well, first of all I would ask the question why all this war and terrorism was ever done in the name of religion at all, but that's another - huge - topic.) Fanaticism and hysteria may be rolled out as an excuse but ultimately, whole empires (particularly British and Spanish, as I understand it) attempted to wipe out any other belief system than Christianity over sustained periods in history.

At first I thought it was perhaps a cultural thing - see how Dickens portrays the greedy, criminal Fagin in his novel Oliver Twist, for example, and how entire communities of Jews were distrusted (and displaced.) But ultimately, the stereotypes of Jews as bad, greedy, physically unattractive and not worthy of anything, could boil down to one thing - these people, like Muslims, 'merely' accept Jesus as a prophet rather than a Messiah; they don't believe what Christians believe. (Oh, apart from the Old Testament.) And, yes, that some people hold the Jewish race as responsible for the death of Jesus (although, wait a minute, wasn't that all pre-destined, anyway?).

But I hadn't realised that Jews hold Jesus responsible for the persecution of their faith, people and culture.

I was watching the fantastic celebrity genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are (which SecondSister's godfather writes music for, incidentally) and in a programme focusing on Jewish ancestors, learned that rather than sign their name with a cross if they were illiterate, Jews would draw a circle because the symbol of the cross represented so much devastation to them. We're talking about Jews no longer in Israel who were trying to find a home being constantly moved on, mistreated and expelled. In Jesus' name!!

I should add that I also struggle getting my head around Zionism and am obviously ignorant about so many of the issues which I am thinking about here. And I know that we don't have to revisit our troubled Christian past every day. But how do I accept, as a Christian, that we should cause harm to people because they don't believe what we do. If I have encountered Jesus, surely this should inspire me to Love those who haven't, rather than abuse them for it. And sadly, this is one of things that stops people being open to God.

Let's pray for a better future.

(Also - I went to this page on Wikipedia which gives some further information on Christianity and Anti-Semitism. It's a start, and any more comprehensive sources people can pass my way would help also.)

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