Anti-Semitism in Europe

37% of British people think anti-Semitism has worsened in the last ten years. A recent poll has discovered that 32% of the population think Jews always defend Israel, even when it has done wrong, and 15% think they talk too much about the Holocaust. However 89% believe Israel has a right to exist. Another British poll found that 21% think Jews have too much power in the business and financial worlds, 15% think they have too much influence in global affairs and 12% that they have too much power over the global media.

Shmuley Boteach, a prominent US rabbi who ministered at Oxford University, said in November 2015 that the “UK is known as a country that is hostile to Israel.” He added: “British academics are arguably the most virulently anti-Israel group in Europe today. It’s quite widespread throughout British academia. They come out constantly with these boycotts.”
The (Jewish) Community Security Trust reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the UK rose by 53% in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period the previous year. The Metropolitan Police reported that there had been a 61% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in 2015. These figures may to some extent be due to more reporting by fearful Jewish victims. John Mann MP commented: “I am confident that the UK is leading the world in efforts to combat antisemitism. However our parliamentary visits to France, Germany, Ireland and Holland last year gave serious cause for concern about European antisemitism. The meetings we had in Paris were particularly worrying, as in some cases members of the community feared for their lives.”
Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress said in October 2015 “Over the past few years, tens of thousands of Jews have left [the EU] to seek a safer home elsewhere, and today, one-third of Europe’s nearly 2.5 million Jews are considering emigration.” The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency reported that 76% of Jewish respondents said that anti-Semitism had risen since 2009.

The President of the World Jewish Congress said recently that anti-Semitism in Europe is as bad as it was in the 1930s and that “European Jews live in fear.” However Jonathan Arkush, Vice President of The Board of Deputies of British Jews, says it is different from the 1930s when Nazis were stirring up anti-Semitism whereas “Today, anti-Semitism is strongly opposed and condemned by governments across Europe.”

Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust, which advises synagogues and Jewish schools, said: “The situation today is very different, but the anxiety felt by many European Jews about antisemitism and jihadist terrorism is real and justified.”

One evidence of the positive attitudes of European governments is the offer from the Spanish government that descendants of the Sephardic Jewish community which was expelled from Spain in 1492 would be granted legal rights to apply for Spanish citizenship. The government stated: “This law acts as a [historic] recognition of the pain and the damage that was suffered in Spain by the Jews after everything they had contributed here.”

ISIS threats

In October 2015 ISIS produced a video in Hebrew for the first time in which a masked member said: “not one Jew will remain in Jerusalem … Do what you want in the meantime, but then we will make you pay ten times over … “look what happens to you after a number of stabbing and car attacks from our brothers in Palestine. You’ve been turned on your head,” he said, using the Hebrew slang for losing control. You’re afraid of every speeding driver and every person holding something in their hand … This is not just talk, this will hit you from every direction, north and south, and our account with you grows daily.”

The New Anti-Semitism

Many commentators believe that anti-Semitism has changed. Irwin Cotler was Member of Parliament in Canada from 1999 to 2015. He was also Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada also Professor of Law at McGill University and a leading scholar of human rights. He speaks of the UN clearly condemning Israel far more than any other country in the world, including those guilty of great crimes against humanity. He wrote:

Globally, we are witnessing a new, sophisticated, virulent, and even lethal anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 1930s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War … the new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the international community, with the state of Israel as the targeted collective Jew among the nations ….
The laundering of anti-Semitism under the protective cover of the UN found dramatic expression in December, when the General Assembly — in yet another annual discriminatory ritual — adopted 20 resolutions of condemnation against Israel, and only four against the rest of the world combined.

And the laundering of anti-Semitism through the culture of human rights occurs each time the UN Human Rights Council singles out Israel for discriminatory treatment. This singling-out is starkly illustrated by the juxtaposition of the Council’s permanent agenda item 7 —“violations by Israel of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories” — and permanent agenda item 8: “human rights violations in the rest of the world.” …..

The UN Human Rights Council, [has condemned] one member state – Israel – in 80% of its twenty-five country-specific resolutions, while the major human rights violators of our time enjoyed exculpatory immunity. Indeed, five special sessions, two fact-finding missions, and a high level commission of inquiry have been devoted to a single purpose: the singling-out of Israel.

Cotler lists nine aspects of the New Anti-Semitism:

1. Genocidal antisemitism: Calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.
2. Political antisemitism: Denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, de-legitimisation of Israel as a state, attributions to Israel of all the world’s evils.
3. Ideological antisemitism: ‘Nazifying’ Israel by comparing Zionism and racism.
4. Theological antisemitism: Convergence of Islamic antisemitism and Christian “replacement” theology, drawing on the classical hatred of Jews.
5. Cultural antisemitism: The emergence of anti-Israel attitudes, sentiments, and discourse in ‘fashionable’ salon intellectuals
6. Economic antisemitism: BDS [boycott] movements and the extra-territorial application of restrictive covenants against countries trading with Israel.
7. Holocaust denial
8. Anti-Jewish racist terrorism
9. International legal discrimination (“Denial to Israel of equality before the law in the international arena”): Differential and discriminatory treatment towards Israel in the international arena.

Others stress that the old form of anti-Semitism is very much alive and well in the world. Some dispute that there is a new form of anti-Semitism but it is clear that there is a growing antagonism towards Israel (some of it created by Israel’s failings) and that the UN is comparatively unjust in its treatment of Israel.

The Vatican document on relations between Catholics and Jews

The Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has published a paper entitled: “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable.” There are many good statements in this document. One thing is clear: the Catholic Church is strongly against anti-Semitism and also against “Replacement Theology” – the idea that the church has replaced the Jewish people because God has no continuing purpose for them. However I am profoundly disturbed by some of the statements it makes.

The document states that Jews are our “elder brothers” and we can’t understand the teaching of Jesus or the disciples without understanding its Jewish context. “Given Jesus’ Jewish origins, coming to terms with Judaism in one way or another is indispensable for Christians” (para 14). “Jews and Christians have the same mother and can be seen, as it were, as two siblings who – as is the normal course of events for siblings – have developed in different directions” (para 15). It goes on to disagree with Replacement Theology (also known as Supersessionism, i.e. the idea that the church has superseded and replaced the Jewish community) (para 17).

So, in these times of growing anti-Semitism it is good to have the Roman Catholic Church speaking very positively about the Jewish community.

However, I have to say that I find the Vatican document disturbing in certain aspects about salvation for Jewish people. It is important to say that it makes some statements I wholeheartedly agree with, e.g. “while it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah…” (para 13). “The theory that there may be two different paths to salvation, the Jewish path without Christ and the path with the Christ, whom Christians believe is Jesus of Nazareth, would in fact endanger the foundations of Christian faith … Jesus Christ is the universal mediator of salvation, and that there is no “other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12) (para 35).

My problem is that the document goes on to say: “From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God … That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery” (para 36).

It also states: “God revealed himself in his Word, so that it may be understood by humanity in actual historical situations. … For Jews this Word can be learned through the Torah [the Law] and the traditions based on it. The Torah is the instruction for a successful life in right relationship with God. Whoever observes the Torah has life in its fullness … By observing the Torah the Jew receives a share in communion with God. In this regard, Pope Francis has stated: “…. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word. In seeking a right attitude towards God, Christians turn to Christ as the fount of new life, and Jews to the teaching of the Torah” (para 24).

It continues: “Judaism and the Christian faith as seen in the New Testament are two ways by which God’s people can make the Sacred Scriptures of Israel their own. The Scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament is open therefore to both ways. A response to God’s word of salvation that accords with one or the other tradition can thus open up access to God … Therefore there are not two paths to salvation according to the expression “Jews hold to the Torah, Christians hold to Christ” (para 25).

I have serious difficulties with the statements in paras 24, 25 and 36. The only way of salvation for both Jew and Gentile is through faith in Christ. The document does not refer to John 14: 6 where Jesus says: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Nor does it refer to 1 Jn 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father” or 1 Jn 5:11-12 “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” I find it disturbing that the document doesn’t refer to these passages

Jewish people cannot be saved through the Torah. I have no problems with Jewish Christians (who call themselves Messianic Believers) celebrating their Jewish heritage, including festivals, as part of their commitment to Christ. But if they don’t have a faith commitment to Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach in Hebrew) they do not have eternal life.

The Vatican document goes on to say that in view of its statements in paras 24, 25 and 36: “The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust]” (para 40).

I’d be the first to agree that because of the dreadful way the church has treated the Jewish people in the past we have to be very sensitive indeed about Jewish evangelism – we are treading on egg shells. But as someone whom God called to head up a mission to Jewish people, I am bound to say I don’t think God agrees with the statements in paras 24, 25 and 36.

So, whereas I’m very pleased by much of what the Vatican document says and its clear witness against anti-Semitism, I think it is also a warning to those of us who are positive towards the Jewish people and believe God has a purpose for them that we must be careful not to compromise the uniqueness of Christ as the only saviour. We must combat anti-Semitism but we must not compromise the Gospel.

Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism September 2006

I will end this paper by pointing out another danger in combatting Anti-Semitism. The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism stated in it 2006 report: “Broadly, it is our view that any remark, insult or act the purpose or effect of which is to violate a Jewish person’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him is antisemitic. This reflects the definition of harassment under the Race Relations Act 1976. This definition can be applied to individuals and to the Jewish community as a whole” (para 4).

Obviously I agree we must combat anti-Semitism but the problem is that Jewish people can easily take offence at Christians who are sensitively proclaiming the Gospel and pointing out that Jesus is the Messiah and only way of salvation. Does this behaviour contravene the Race Relations Act? I fear it will eventually be seen to do so, even if it is not so regarded at present.

Conclusion

Anti-Semitism is demonic and we must strongly oppose it. But the worst form of Anti-Semitism is to deny Jewish people the Gospel.

Tofik (not his real name) was taught to hate Christianity, beat Christians and attack churches. Then he was trained and became a prominent Imam in West Africa. However in 2002 he had a dream one night. “In the vision I saw Jesus very clearly telling me to follow him.” He started to attend church. But the local Muslim community set fire to his house, stole his cattle and beat him almost to death. Initially, he took legal action against those who had destroyed his house but then decided to forgive them. He now travels around preaching the Gospel. We must pray for more such conversions.

A positive way of combatting the ‘Islamic State.’ It is reported that members of Boko Haram (which is affiliated to the ‘Islamic State’) are being won to faith is Christ. This shows the power of the Gospel. Obviously, they and their families are in grave danger from the Islamists. The message is: You personally can combat ‘Islamic State’ – pray for their conversion to Christ. See http://www.christiantoday.com/article/inspired.by.christian.missionaries.boko.haram.members.convert.to.christianity/58329.htm

UPDATED 23.06.13 MESSAGE 8

 

This Post only contains shorter messages. There are separate articles on Eschatology which are listed on the Welcome Post above.

Message 1

Richard Dawkins says religion “peddles false explanations” but he hasn’t a credible clue about what caused the Big Bang and why we are here.

Message 2

Government Minister Lady Warsi says “People who do God, do good.”

 

Archbishop Welby says the church has the greatest opportunity since 1945 – to fill the void caused by a dwindling welfare state

 

In the light of eternity it isn’t enough to do good. The church must also major on prayer and proclaiming Jesus as Saviour. It often doesn’t.

Message 3

Congratulations to our son Mike who has just been appointed Professor of Theology and Ministry at Durham University. He went to Cambridge to do Maths but eventually switched to the family business (theology – Patricia and I met whilst we were studying for a degree in theology). Part of his new job will be academic research and writing. But the other part is a strategic role within the Church of England (and partner churches). In co-operation with the Archbishops’ Council’s Ministry Division, he will take a lead in advising over ministerial education and formation, i.e. ordination training. Durham University has been awarded the sole contract for the Church of England Ministry Training and Validation in the UK, and Mike will lead this on behalf of the University. It will validate ministerial qualifications at certificate, diploma, degree and master’s level. He will be working with staff at theological colleges and facilitating those staff members doing higher degrees. Other denominations and international partners may also join the validation scheme. We are thrilled about this and so grateful to God for giving Mike such opportunities to serve him.

Message 4

Canon Giles Fraser, writing in the Guardian, cynically wrote off the Evangelical emphasis on having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” I know that can be used as a cliché and could, in some people’s minds, turn Jesus simply into an innocuous friend. But to me it is incredibly meaningful. I want to ask Giles: “How can you love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength without having a personal relationship with him? We might express ourselves in different ways but if we are not at least beginning to be aware of having a personal relationship with God we are not experiencing the real thing as far as Christianity is concerned. The relationship is there for the asking. Jesus is more ready to become a Friend than we are to ask him to be.

Message 5

On Good Friday, as I do every day, I checked the TV programme list to see if there was anything worth recording. I didn’t find anything connected with Good Friday (except an old film about Barabbas). I found this sad and yet, somehow, meaningful. I was reminded of the words: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering…?”

Message 6

Michael McCarthy, environment editor of The Independent, has written an article entitled “Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth – but at least we greens made him wait” (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/man-is-fallen-and-will-destroy-the-earth–but-at-least-we-greens-made-him-wait-8554548.html)   McCarthy is not a Christian but he has come to doubt the liberal secular humanist opinion that humanity is basically benign and says our maltreatment of the environment has made him conclude: “that there is something fundamentally wrong with Homo sapiens himself. Man seems to be Earth’s problem child.”  He refers to: “our terrible potential for destruction, for causing suffering to others and, indeed, now, for destroying our own home (all of which liberal secular humanism prefers not to look at). In the Christian world view, humankind is not basically benign. People are not good.” I agree with him over the environment and commend him for discovering the Fall of Man

Message 7

I might write something down when I’m angry but I never convey it to other people until I have calmed down and re-examined my comments. But I’m still angry about something in today’s Guardian even eight hours later. Before continuing, let me say that I have enjoyed and valued some of the things Canon Giles Fraser writes. But today he began his article with: “I hate Jesus. Yes, you read that right. I do. I hate Jesus.” He then continued with some psycho-babble about ambivalence and contradictory feelings and a mother hating her over-demanding baby, which she also loves (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2013/mar/29/jesus-not-destroyed-by-our-hatred) .

 

He finished by asking: “How could Christians not hate Jesus” because he challenges them to take up their cross and follow him, which they would hate doing.

 

I have two comments:

It is deeply offensive for a Christian Minister to say, let alone write in a newspaper, that he hates Jesus. Nothing can justify it, including psycho-babble.

If the daunting challenge of “taking up our cross and following Jesus” causes us to hate Jesus, we haven’t even begun on the Christian path. We might waver, run away and fail but how on earth can we hate the One who loved us enough to endure infinitely worse suffering for us even if he asks us to sacrifice for him?

Message 8

 

CURRENT AFFAIRS: ARCHBISHOP ON GAY MARRIAGE

I know and respect John Sentamu, Archbishop of York but I am disturbed at what he said in the House of Lords on Monday, namely: “What do you do with people in same-sex relationships that are committed, loving and Christian? Would you rather bless a sheep and a tree, and not them? However, that is a big question, to which we are going to come. I am afraid that now is not the moment.”  If I understand him correctly, I need to say: “We can’t bless in God’s name what God doesn’t approve of.” (I am talking about same-sex sexual activity, not homosexual people).

 

NOTES

PS 1: In my 15 years on the C of E General Synod I did a great deal of study, discussion, writing and speaking on the issue of homosexual sexual behaviour (alongside such matters as bishops denying the virgin, birth and resurrection, churches undermining the uniqueness of Jesus as the only Saviour etc.,). This included a major debate on sexuality on my private members motion in November 1987 when the synod reaffirmed by a 98% majority that fornication, adultery and ‘homosexual genital acts’ are sinful. I think I’ve said all I want to say on the morality of homosexual sexual activity and I don’t want to be involved in that particular discussion any more, not least because there are many other sins which need to be taken seriously. But I will comment on the wider issues, e.g. the effects on society of same-sex marriage, unhelpful ‘leadership’ in the church on the issue, the oppression of Christians who take an orthodox view, etc.

For those interested, my considered views on the morality of ‘homosexual genital acts’ are available at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/biblehomosexualpractice.pdf and http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf. It is quite clear to me that both the Old and New Testaments teach that homosexual sexual activity is wrong. It is not just to do with procreation. After all, it is perfectly acceptable for a couple to marry if they either can’t have or decided against having children. It is to do with the same-sex aspect which the Bible teaches is fundamentally contrary to God’s order for human beings. I have heard many, many arguments and been involved in endless discussions but the arguments in favour of ‘homosexual genital acts’ are thoroughly unconvincing.

 

PS 2: We should love our homosexual neighbour as we should our heterosexual neighbour. That means showing the fruit of the Spirit to them and seeking to draw them to Christ. Rejection of homosexuals as people is wrong. However we cannot bless wrong behaviour. The problem with equality law is that we are not just asked to regard people as equal (which is right) but we are asked to regard certain wrong behaviour as equal to right behaviour.

 

PS 3: we remember that Jesus in his infinite love for EVERY human being died for their sins. We must all therefore repent of our sins, including homosexuals.

 

Many people, including some church-attenders know about Christ and believe things about him but they don’t actually know him.

However, the New Testament makes it clear that salvation and eternal life depends on knowing Christ. For example, Jesus said: “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3). Paul speaks of “of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Php 3:8-10) and urges Christians to “know him better” (Eph 1:17).

Peter wants Christians to grow in knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Christianity is a heart knowledge of Christ, not simply a head knowledge.

However, what does it mean in practice to “know” Christ? It is helpful to think of what it means to know any other person then to apply it as far as relevant to knowing Christ. The following points should help.

To know Christ is:

To know he lived, died for you, rose again and is alive for ever.

To know he’s there, very close by

To know he accepts you (if you have repented of sin and put your trust in him.

To know you belong to him and have a close connection with him

To know he’s all-loving

To know he’s listening

To know he’s watching.

To know he’s caring

To know he’s wonderful, to take delight in him and to adore him, telling him how wonderful he is.

To love him and to express that love to him. To know Christ is to know him in our hearts – to love him.

How to know Christ better

Start to talk to him

Find a quiet place

Ask him to reveal himself to you

Ask him to forgive you

Ask him to form that close relationship with you

Read about him in The New Testament.