Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Jews, Augustine and the Nazis

Kvetching Editor:
Does the world's Jewish community underestimate the power of this doctrine's importance throughout the past 1600+ years? Is it Augustine's (REALLY BACKHANDED) doctrine that has allowed the world to not completely destroy Jews and Judaism? Hitler wasn't too interested in church philosophy, and I honestly don't know his thoughts on Augustine or the "slay them not" doctrine. Anyone know?
Background: In Augustine's time, there was a debate about Jews among the faithful: Shall we kill them all, or keep them as slaves as proof of the truth of their rejection of Jesus?

John Chrysostom, was from the "kill them all "school. During his remarkable career as a preacher of  violence against the Jews, he put it this way:  "When animals are unfit for work they are marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter."

Augustine, disagreed, and lucky for us, his view won the day. Basing himself on a proof-text found in Psalm 59.11 , he argued that the Jews should be kept alive, in a demoralized and decrepit state, to serve as proof that God had rejected them. His model was Cain, a type for the Jews, who had murdered Able, a type for Jesus, and was likewise made into a despised wanderer as punishment (The mark of Cain (Gen. 4:15), per Tanchuma, may have been a horn; early Catholic interpreters say it was dark skin.)

Answer to Kvetching Editor's Question: Hitler clearly rejected Augustine, as it was his goal to "slay them all" and his mission, as has been laboriously documented by several well-qualified historians, was helped in ways large and small by the age-old Catholic prejudices against Jews. He (like several top Nazis) was a baptized Catholic and a former alter boy, who tapped into centuries of Catholic anti-Semitism, and used the rhetoric of Catholic anti-Semites and their techniques of persecution, including the ghetto and the yellow star. I also recall reading somewhere that Hitler argued to his supporters among the Catholic bishops (there were many) that his campaign against the Jews was the fulfillment of authentic Church doctrine, by which he meant the doctrine of John Chrysostom. 

As for the Jews of 2010, they have no idea about any of this, generally speaking. SOME Orthodox Jews imagine Hitler was a liberal, and that his successes are an argument against democracy and the enlightenment. SOME OF THEM have swallowed whole the Vatican propaganda espoused by JPII about how the Church was a victim of Hitler when in too many cases they were eager allies, instead. SOME OF THEM know nothing of Augustine or Chrysostom and if they think of the early Church at all, its only to remind themselves that Judaism and Christianity stand alone as bulwarks against immoral Islam and immoral liberalism in an increasingly vile world.

Note: Words in caps added to satisfy those who needed help understanding that the words "generally speaking" mean that I will be speaking generally. Also, in all cases by "some" I mean "most".

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