The phrase “In Defense of a Despised Faith” is the subtitle to The Kuzari, a tract written by the Sephardic Jewish scholar Yehuda HaLevi almost one thousand years ago. The Kuzari
is the principal literary source for one of the most fascinating stories
in history: the conversation of the militarily powerful Khazar empire
in the Russian steppe to Judaism.
The Kuzari is also a polemic against Greek philosophy, Islam, Christianity
and Karaism (Judaism without rabbinical interpretation.) Hence, it
is written “in defense of a despised faith.” Judaism and the Jewish people
have long been despised unfairly by the world. Christians have sometimes
been the cause of this, despite the clear injunctions of Christ and his apostles
not to hate.
Christians have sometimes failed to understand Jews and Judaism. The
“Suffering Servant” in the Book of Isaiah is not ignored in Jewish study,
as some Christians seem to think. Rabbinical Judaism says that the Jewish
people themselves are that “Suffering Servant.” Much sad history supports
Christians often show ignorance of Jewish thought and the wisdom of Judaism
outside the literary boundaries of the Tanakh. An example of the beauty of
this commentary can be found in the allegorical story of the friends of Job
who confront the Blessed Creator of the Universe in the afterlife and ask
why He allowed Job to suffer unjustly: “Why did You not send someone to help
Job?” they asked. The Blessed Creator answers: “I did. I sent you.”
This is a powerful example of the Jewish commitment to practical help in
the reality of human suffering.
But Judaism is not the only despised faith and the Jewish people are not
the only despised people on earth. Christianity is despised by
the world and Christians are despised by the world as well. Appreciating
this truth is vitally important to anyone who treasures the Judeo-Christian
faith. It is as easy to forget this critical fact just as it is to
forget - or to go through life never learning - that the first millions murdered
for their faith in the Twentieth Century were Christians for being Christians
and not Jews for being Jews.
The reaction to Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion, shows how contempt
for Christianity can become a chic bigotry. His politically incorrect crime
was fidelity to the Gospel which has inspired more good on Earth than any
other literary collection in human history.
Christians often fall prey to the same disingenuous arguments that pagans
level against America, which was founded as the Christian Jerusalem: the
high moral standards set by Christianity are impossible to reach, and consequently
all Christians are that worst creature in Leftist zoology - hypocrites.
Christians are expected to always love our neighbors, and yet we obviously
fail. We are commanded to abandon earthly goods for the treasures of
Heaven, and yet we obviously fail. We are enjoined by God to do many
things which we do not. Does this make us hypocrites? No.
Christian doctrine makes it very clear that we all sin, we all fail, we all
flounder upon the shoals on wickedness. If that is a core principal
of our doctrine, then Christians are the very least hypocritical people on
Earth. The striving toward what God wants, however, has made Christianity
the greatest good in human history.
Christianity has been the fountainhead of almost every benign movement in
human history - emancipation of slaves, prevention of cruelty to animals,
equality of all before the law, equal rights for women, and protection of
children - to name a few. Cynics will note that Christians have acted
contrary toward these Christian virtues. Quite true. But Christians,
and Christians alone, have raised the first banners of these noble causes.
The same is true of science. Although Christianity is often mocked
as superstitious mumbo-jumbo, the reality is that everything in human history
except for the Judeo-Christian tradition is superstitious mumbo-jumbo.
Science, as we know it, was exclusively the invention of Christians.
Aside from a few ancient Greeks - notably Pythagoras and Archimedes - science
as an explanation for reality did not exist among the ancients.
Islam produced a smattering of mathematical geniuses, but no great physical
scientists at all. India and China were vastly wealthier than Europe,
but science simply did not exist in either of these ancient civilizations.
The Amerindian societies of the Inca and Maya both achieved prodigious technological
feats, but no science.
More significantly - and this ties in directly to the complaints about Mel Gibson and The Passion
- science arose exclusively out of Christian and not out of Judeo-Christian
tradition. The mockery often made of medieval reaction to Galileo and Copernicus
has produced a legend of intolerant Christians.
It was rather specifically the tolerance of science, the tolerance of differences,
the tolerance of those seeking fearlessly the truth of a loving God that
made science the exclusive province of professing or at least nominal Christians.
Galileo, Copernicus, Pascal, and Napier were all orthodox and serious Christians.
Newton and Kepler were nominal Christians who were deeply concerned about
religion. These men created science as we know it.
The complete domination of science by Christians continued through the Middle
Ages and well into the modern era. James Clerk Maxwell, arguably a
greater scientific genius than either Newton or Einstein, was a profoundly
serious Christian. Lord Kelvin, to whom we owe the law of entropy,
chaos theory, the finite limits of thermodynamic activity (absolute zero),
and most of the principles of thermodynamics, was equally pious.
The immense and dramatic contribution of later Jewish scientists - Michaelson,
Einstein, Bohr, Pauli and many others - did not come until long after Christians
had created modern science. Medieval Judaism, like Islam and Hinduism
and Buddhism and every other metaphysical system except Christianity, was
hostile to science.
Why does this matter? Because one of the charges against Mel Gibson and The Passion
is that reliance upon the Gospels is typical Christian hillbilly mentality
- and yet this is the precise belief structure that created the vast majority
of intellectual understanding of the modern world. Fidelity to truth,
confidence that our truth is the shadowy outline of a loving Creator, and
unprecedented genius which flowed directly from that confidence is the surest
evidence serious Christians cannot be dismissed by serious critics as hayseeds
Intellectual brilliance, however, is not everything. Have not Christians
participated in anti-Semitism? Yes - but Christians are also the only
goyim who made anti-Semitism a vice, and this happened very early in the
history of the Christian church - and Christophobia has been as serious a
vice as anti-Semitism. Both are reprehensible, and both had been the vices
of men born as Christians or born as Jews.
The horror of the Holocaust, including special and particularly odious treatment
of six million Jews in that terrible crime, was committed by men who were
born Christians, but rejection of Christianity and profession of agnosticism
was a requirement for joining the Schutzstaffel and Nazism despised Christianity intensely.
The first mass murders, the first cattle cars traveling days to camps with
children and families cramped like sardines, the first millions of horrific
deaths were committed in the Soviet Union by Communists. Substantial percentages
- wildly disproportionate percentages - of those who perpetrated these crimes
against humanity were born Jewish, but the rejection of Judaism and the embrace
of atheism was a requirement for joining the Communist Party or being an
operative in the Cheka or its later monstrous reincarnations.
The world is familiar with names like Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann, heretics
to Christianity, but the world seldom hears the names Yagoda, Kaganovich
or Beria, democidal monsters and mass torturers of millions in the Soviet
Union and traitors to Judaism and to the Jewish people. Both of those
groups of names represent grotesque exceptions to the traditions of Christianity
and Judaism. It is as wrong to place Himmler beside a cross is it is
to wrap Yagoda beside a menorah.
is scripting his film from a book that both the sadists of the SS and of
the OGPU rejected. The life of Jesus, whether accepted as holy truth
or fanciful myth, is as antithetical to pogroms and bigotry as is Torah is
antithetical to an accidental universe of meaningless life.
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Josephus, the Jewish historian, may or may not have included in his writings
text that details the crucifixion in ways that strongly parallel the traditional
Christian account. References in the Babylonian Talmud may or may not
be slanders of Jesus. We have no time machine and believing people have faith,
not videotapes, about what important events have happened in human history.
Pontius Pilate was a scoundrel (the Gospels hardly portray him as a saint)
and if the villains in the Gospel were Jews, the heros were Jews as well.
Whitewashing bad Jews is contrary to the whole saga of Judaism. Indeed, most
of the Tanakh is the story of wayward Jews and of the wayward Jewish people
returning to God.
The conscious decision by Jews not to edit out this unflattering portrait
of Jews as evidence of the seriousness that Jews have taken toward the Bible,
so the unflattering portrait of disciples is evidence of the seriousness
that Christians have taken toward the Bible as well. Both these decisions
should be given the deep respect that they deserve.
The Passion and the Gospels are about the continuing tradition - very much
within Jewish tradition - of drawing moral lines in the sand and insisting
that the more one knows about the divine nature of man, the higher the moral
duty of the individual.
This is also the broader Judeo-Christian foundation upon which all blessings
of life rest. Only within this foundation have both Christians and
Jews been able to survive and flourish. Christians who believe in the
Gospel make the world safer for Jews and Jews who believe in Torah make the
world safer for Christians.
Fidelity to the traditions of these two despised faiths is not the source
of hatred or slaughter in the world. It is rather infidelity to Torah
or to the Gospels which unshackles the monsters of history. Genuine
Jews and Christians seeks the ways of the Lord, and His ways are ways of
gentleness and all his paths are peace.
Bruce Walker's articles can be found at the Conservative Truth.
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