Clergy Confessional (80) Hating the Jews
I was raised by an anti-Semitic father who believed that all of the problems in his life were caused by the Jews. My mother did not hold this belief, but she still would chide me if I dated a Jewish girl. If you know where I grew up (Monsey, NY), you might understand how difficult it was at the time to not date a Jewish girl. Most of the people I went to school with were Jewish, and it made absolutely no difference to me. Some of them would make fun of my German last name, but that was a minimal issue. Kids do and say dumb things sometimes.
I learned about the Holocaust every year, and I came to understand the pain and suffering Jews had experienced throughout history. I attended a small, middle of the road church, and while there was never a negative word said about Jewish people, I would hear the scripture every Easter - mostly the Gospel of John - blaming THE Jews for the death of Jesus. I watched as my neighborhood became increasingly populated by the Hasidic community, and listened to the people I knew - Jews and Gentiles - talk about how terrible this was. It seemed that nobody liked the ultra-orthodox Jews.
6 months ago, we witnessed a horrible attack on a Reform Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and this last week it happened again against a Chabad community in California. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise for over a decade in America, and even longer around the world. We have also seen increased hatred of Muslims, immigrants, and African Americans popping up everywhere. There seems to be no end - or solution - in sight.
Why is there so much hatred for the Jews? Or for Muslims? Or Immigrants or African Americans? I know that no race or culture or religion has a lock on hating or being hated, but doesn't it seem that white people seems to be angry all the time? And if you point that out, it makes them angrier! Is it because white folks have been in control of the world for so long, and now they see their hegemony fading? Is there something inherently inferior about being white that makes us so hateful (doesn't feel good, does it?) I understand doing anything to survive- including being violent - and I understand jealousy and greed, but why do these emotions so often seem to end up in hateful behavior and words?
Could it be that I have been reading the wrong Bible? I am a Christian precisely because, as a follower of Jesus, I am not allowed to hate people. One could make an argument that there are scripture passages in many different faith documents that allow for hate, but it is pretty clear to me that Jesus was against it. In fact, I just had two more people contact me about how wrong it is for my congregation to welcome the LGBT community. They would say it isn't about hate, but I would beg to differ.
Is hate increasing? I have no idea - we only know what we see and what we read, and much of that can't be trusted. I will say this - if your religion tells you to hate others, it is not a religion that comes from God. If hate is at your core, you need to be very careful - I don't think God much appreciates being blamed for your foolishness. Hate destroys everything and everyone it touches - including the one doing the hating. Peace.
Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary UCC in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), and MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a DMin in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD from Alvernia University (PA)