Monday, August 03, 2015

Decline of Christianity = Good for the Jews.

Those of you who've been here for a while already know my feelings on the subject of declining Church attendance, and the secularization of the Western world. But to recap for newbies...

Xtianity = idolatry & falsehood. Less of it the better.
Seeing that Christianity has been the cause of untold suffering, particularly Jewish suffering, I hold, of course, that the decline Christian fervor is one of the great blessings of our time.

This is a point GOP Jews don't like to face: Christianity is false, and categorically the same as the idol worship our forefathers were bidden to wipe out. If we Jews shed no tears over the disapearence of Baal and Thor cults, why do so many of us weep for vanishing Christianity?

(Yes, I know some rishonim wrote that it is permissible for a non-Jew to worship as a Christian. But it doesn't follow from this that the teachings of the religion are true, nor is this an argument for the survival of the falsehoods it promotes. I'm quite sure the Rishonim who made this ruling would be pleased to learn that Christianity has lost it's teeth and no longer menaces the Jewish people.)

Xtianity is historically anti-freedom and anti-Judaism... less of that is also better
The counterargument to this is "Christianity has changed." I agree, it has changed but not by choice. See, while it is true Christians no longer lock people in ghettos, or teach that Jews "through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery" we must remember how this happened. The Church didn't embrace liberal ideas on its own; rather it was dragged kicking and screaming into something approaching common sense by liberals and reformers.

Why move backwards? Out of some strange conviction that Orthodox Judaism won't flourish unless the gentiles are also religious? Hasn't the American experience shown us the very opposite? As America becomes less religious, its the heterodox movements who have trouble holding members, not the Orthodox. Thanks to the freedoms and protections offered by secular America, Orthodox Judaism is stronger than ever and shuls and yeshivas are easier to build and fund. (Here's a cynical take on how secular America helps Orthodoxy flourish: Skeptics, doubters and others who might help move Orthodoxy in a more liberal direction, were they forced, as in days of old, to remain part of the community, are able to drop out instead.)

If the fox lost interest in eating chickens, what kind of crazy bird wld say that's a bad thing?
Again, I'm amazed that some of the same people who criticize me for doubting Sages are themselves willing to to do the same, and to cast aside traditional teachings when it becomes convinient. Our daily religious life is full of Chazal-instituted reminders that gentile religion is to be despised. These include "sfoch chamoscha" at the end of the seder, "l'malshinim" in the Amidah, "Av Harachamin" on shabbos, dozens of kinos, as well as the rules of bishul akum, and pas akum. To suggest that gentile religion has been rehabilitated is akin to suggesting that the Sages lacked devine wisdom when they instituted these practices and safeguards. If you're ready to start second-guessing Chazal, that's fine with me, but don't hold me to a standard you can't keep yourself. 


(1) I recognize the the Catholic Church has made some serious attempts to reform its views on Jews. I respect and admire these efforts. However, I wish to issue some important qualifications:

The changes the Church made occurred over the protests of traditionalists, and weren't the result of careful study and introspection. The changes were made not for reasons of truth, but for reasons of politics. After 2000 years, the Church woke up to the fact that its teachings on Jews were no longer viable, and that if it wished to remain relevant in the post-Holocaust world, the teachings that helped make the Holocaust possible needed to be reformed. 

Though the Church, perhaps, deserves some credit for this, its rather like the credit we might give to someone in 2015 who has finally updated from Windows 3.x. In other words, it was about freaking time. 

Ultimately, the victory belongs to liberalism, for it was liberalism that dragged the Church into Vatican II, and it must be remembered that the changes came at the expense of traditional Church teachings which were modified long after sensible people already knew that these teachings were dangerous and wrong.

The work of reform is not yet done. Though Vatican II removed specific obscenities from the Catholic liturgy and announced that Jews and Christians are equally responsible for the death of Christ, more work is required. For instance, the Church might further revises its theology and acknowledge that Jews, in fact, are not at all responsible for Jesus's death. Also, the Vatican still must revise its theology-tainted policy toward Israel, repudiate the dozens of anti-Semitic popes (some of whom, the Vatican, instead, hopes to canonize), and repent for its own role in paving the way to the Holocaust. As Leon Wieseltier has aptly observed, until these steps are taken, the Vatican is a tovel v'sheretz b'yado (one who immerses himself in purifying waters while he holds in his hand an insect that makes him impure.)

(2)  I recognize that individual Catholics have already taken some of these steps, and have fully repudiated their Church on these matters. I think that's great, and note that this represents  a defeat for the Church. If I haven't yet made it clear, let me do it now: The problem is Church doctrine and policy, not the beliefs and behaviors of individual Catholics who rejected these doctrines and policies. Christians who no longer accept offensive Christian doctrines are, in a some sense, "less Christian" which is something to be encouraged. Likewise, many non-Catholics have repudiated their sect's anti-Jewish teachings, and this is also something to respected and encouraged.

(3) I also wish to acknowledge that just as all Christians are not created equal, some Christian sects are less offensive than others. Some sects, like some Christians, have broken faith with older teachings. (the Catholics at Vatican II for instance.) Perhaps someone would like to rank the sects by how much or how little they hate Jews?

(4) My overarching point remains: Christianity has become less dangerous to Jews only as it moved away from traditional teachings, becoming, in effect, "less Christian" and "more liberal." I hope that the transition of Christianity into something new, something that is unthreatening to Jews, continues

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