Dear Sarah

Sarah Cobb is one of the brightest, most earnest, impassioned, and forthright people I, for the past nearly 20 years, have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend. Sarah is Jewish. She is more than a friend and Jewish or a friend who is Jewish. Sarah, from time to time, serves as…is my external righteous conscience, especially about Christianity’s attitude toward Judaism; in my view, at times, in some lands, and in some sectors of Christendom, rising to the heights or, more accurately, sinking to the depths of antipathy and, historically, largely, I think, characterized by the lethargy of indifference (save, of course, among those Christian evangelists who discern that their primary vocation is to convert all Jews to Christianity).

Over the past few days, Sarah’s various reflections on the so-called “Unite the Right” rally and ensuing violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, have centered on her searing observation that a particularly putrid element of the platform of white supremacy is blatantly anti-Semitic (who, watching and listening to the news accounts, could have missed the out-in-the-open bearing of the swastika-festooned Nazi flag and the ferociously, transparently intentioned chant of the neo-Nazi demonstrators: “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!”?) and her eloquent remonstrations about Christians who, at best, have been slow and, at most, have been silent in their, our, my repudiations of the virulent and vile hatred that is anti-Semitism.

Dear Sarah,

I thank you, once again, for reminding me, summoning me to this aspect of my sacred duty as a Christian, as a follower of the Jesus of unconditional love and justice, to denounce any and all anti-Semitic prejudicial hatred and hostility against my Jewish sisters and brothers and in any and all of its forms, cultural and economic, racial and religious.

As one who wills to do, to be unconditional love and justice, yes, I pray that those who harbor anti-Semitic beliefs repent and renounce them. Yet, whether they do or do not, I will not be silent or slow to speak again in opposition to anti-Semitism.

One final word, Sarah, for now…

I do not excuse, but rather explain my silence or slowness to speak. What happened in Charlottesville terrified me. And, in my fear, I, as an African American, perhaps barely consciously, narrowed my vision, focused my passion primarily, solely on the issue, the reality of white-over-black supremacy. Anxiety, I feel, always stirs the fires of individual (and often selfish) self-interest. Hence, I thank you again, Sarah, for you, in your reminder, your summons to me, illumine and compel me to see anew something I already know. Enlightened, indeed, truest human self-interest embraces the sanctity and the safety of all people.

With deepest love and highest respect,

Paul

anti-Semitism, a “mortal ill prevailing”?

In 2014, Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, releasing the results of an annual study, has reported a global surge in anti-Semitic acts, both in volume, nearly 800, and in violence, a number involving weaponry and deathly assault, especially in North America and Western Europe. This marks a 38% increase over 2013. Quoting the report, “The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous.”

Why this fearsome rise in aggression against Judaism and Jewish people?

A key cause is traced to anger, particularly among Western Europeans, in response to this past summer’s Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The social media, in our cyber-connected world, often rife with anti-Jewish caricatures and satire, has played an undeniable role.

As a citizen of the world, I believe in peace and the essentiality of negotiation rooted in mutual respect, especially a sine qua non in encounters, however historic, between competing, conflicting interests. Therefore, I do not condone the destruction of communities of the Gaza Strip, and the inevitable displacement and death of innocent people, even in the name of state security and border integrity.

As a Christian, I, with heartfelt love and soul-deep respect, am beholden to Judaism, the culture and faith of Jesus of Nazareth, the One I follow, whose life of incarnate love and justice I pledge to live. Therefore, I consider any anti-Semitism to be an expression of a dangerous pathologic self-denial, verily a delusory and deadly schizophrenic loss of connection with reality. Anti-Semitism, to paraphrase Martin Luther (I realize, an ironic, though, I pray, a redemptive choice, as he is justly accused and condemned for his anti-Jewish beliefs and sentiments, writing and preaching), is a mortal ill that must not prevail.