Theology

Reckoning with anti-semitism on Good Friday

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I feel like I should be more upset that I’ll be spending my first Easter as an official Anglican at home this year (thanks, coronavirus). But while I look forward to the hope of resurrection, the entire Easter season carries baggage of anti-Jewish rhetoric from even the most progressive of Christians for me to get truly excited about celebrating it.

Yesterday, I was reading a devotional essay by theologian NT Wright, whom I generally appreciate and respect. It was all well and good until this line: “Judaism put Jesus on the cross.”

This is fuel for blood libel. Has been for centuries.

We can talk about Good Friday as an act of sacrificial love. We can talk about nailing our sin to the cross. We can talk about a God who entered into suffering so that he might walk through the valley with us in our own darkest hours. There is so much there, from the Last Supper to the resurrection, that can inspire sermons, discussion groups, and devotional material.

Vilifying Judaism to elevate Jesus is completely unnecessary and inexcusable in the 21st century.

The problem is that there are centuries of anti-semitic rhetoric baked in to many Christian traditions, to a point that even well-meaning people don’t see it. Like using the termPharisee” as a synonym for “hypocrite, for example.

Christians, I implore you to please listen to the Jews when they tell you that certain terms (like “pharisee”) or events (like Christian “seders“) are offensive. Your good intentions do not matter. Your impact, like it or not, is hurtful when you do these things. It’s harmful to your witness, and further damages an already badly burned bridge between the two faiths.

Do not be that type of Christian.

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5 thoughts on “Reckoning with anti-semitism on Good Friday”

  1. Excellent post Sarahbeth! You’re right on target, as my friend Richard H. points out. At this time of year the problem intensifies, but it remains with us the rest of the year. This is precisely what prompted my wife Dr. Patrice and me a few years ago to write a short book called The Distortion.

    Thanks again for your post.
    Doc Fisch

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    1. also – can you give the reference for the quote? – see here – N.T. Wright, an Anglican New Testament scholar and theologian, has stated, “The tragic and horrible later use of Mt. 27.25 (‘his blood be on us, and on our children’) as an excuse for soi-disant ‘Christian’ anti-semitism is a gross distortion of its original meaning, where the reference is surely to the fall of Jerusalem.”[7]

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      1. I would strongly recommend Mark Kinzer’s book “Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen: The Resurrected Messiah, the Jewish People, and the Land of Promise” which is a substantial engagement with the work of NTW

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