Dancing Around Anti-Semitism

Posted on February 14, 2019

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The recent, and some not so recent, remarks by our two new Muslim Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, has raised a hullaballoo among many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans.

The issue is portrayed as the Muslim desire to eradicate the state of Israel in favor of a Palestinian nation in its place. Israel is described as our staunchest ally in the Middle East, and perhaps even the world, a haven for Jews, and a bastion of real democracy in an autocratic Middle East governed by Sheiks, Muslim potentates, imams and the other detritus thrown up by political and religious turmoil and bigotry, from Iran to Egypt. There are exceptions of civility and constitutional order bordering on the sane, but let’s stick with the majority.

The issue is not political, strategic, or military. It is religious discrimination. Its roots are not in the existence of modern Israel. They are in the long-standing struggle for spiritual truth between the three great faiths that all have their roots in the Bible: Hebrews, Christians, and Muslims. The political and cultural differences are symptoms of a much deeper and more profound differences between the three faiths. To ignore these differences is to stick your proverbial head in the proverbial sand, and gingerly sidestep the truth.

In the Bible take a look at the Pentateuch, or the first five books authored by Moses and others. It describes the clear relationship that God—Jehovah, Yahweh, other names—established with Abraham and his descendants. God choose Abraham and those who descended from him to be his “chosen” people, set aside as a chosen instrument to bring the truth to the world, that there is only one God—monotheism—and he will bring his message to the world, then and thereafter for all time, through the lives of his chosen people, the Israelites.

Embodied in this message were all the commandments and rules to promote obedience and faithfulness and reap the blessings of God. If the Israelites strayed from God’s rule—making idols, child sacrifice, etc.—then the curses would kick in. Read Deuteronomy 28 for a nice rundown of the blessings and curses.

And because the Israelites were sometimes so disobedient and sinful, they paid the consequences, including horrendous defeats in battle and exile. However, the silver lining was the promise by God to send them a Messiah, a deliverer, in the same fashion as Moses was to the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians for over 400 years. The Messiah would deliver them from oppression, and, even more important, from sin, and ultimately if they believed and had faith, from death. The Messiah was Jesus Christ.

Jesus was quite obviously Jewish, a long line in the prophets of the Israelites, with one big exception. He was also the son of God, the son in the Holy Trinity which Christians believe in–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Spirit if you prefer). And he was given divine power by his father God to forgive sins and so save men (girls, children, I’m not going to pander here to all the inclusivity demanded by moderns) from eternal hell. Jesus took on the sins of man at the Cross—he was the sacrifice demanded by God—and, if men sought him, believed him, received him, and truly repented, then they would receive eternal salvation, or in the words of many denominations, be saved.

About six centuries later, a man named Muhammad (571-632 CE) arose in the desert regions of Arabia, in the cities of Mecca and Medina, and preached that both Jews and Christians had it all wrong. Jesus was not the son of God, not divine. He was downgraded to prophet, along with other prophets in the Bible, think Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc. Furthermore, Muhammad received direct revelations from God, Allah in Arabic, that became the Koran, the teachings of God through his servant Muhammad. His followers, called many names including Muslims, spread like wildfire across the Middle East and especially across North Africa and eventually to Europe in the eighth century.

Like Christianity, which had spread throughout the Roman Empire and eventually became the official religion of the Empire under the Emperor Constantine in 324 C.E, Islam (another term for Muslim) was an evangelizing faith, exhorting its followers to spread the word, the truth, and convert the people. That Christianity and Islam soon came into conflict is a part of history that still is with us today. It is the root cause of anti-Semitism.

Islam challenged Christianity in two direct ways: one spiritual and one political/strategic/even military. In 711 C.E. Moorish (another word used in Spain for Muslims) crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula for Islam. Their armies even struck through the Pyrenees into southern France before a Christian army led by Charles the Hammer (aka Charles Martel) stopped them at the Battle of Tours, 732 C.E.

Thereafter, for the next millennium and into modern times, Islam and Christianity have been at odds, one for the souls of men and the truth of Jesus and God, and two for secular control of the lands and people of Europe and parts of Africa and Asia.

Indeed, in the late eleventh century, the Pope in Rome issued a call for a Crusade led by Christian kings, lords and knights to gather and strike into the Holy Land (much of the land occupied today by Israel, Egypt, Palestine, and parts of Lebanon and even Syria) and recapture Jerusalem from the Muslim infidels. Infidels meant roughly non-believers and the word stunk in the nostrils of the knights and warriors of Christendom. To kill an infidel was forgiven by God, and Muslims responded with the same violence on Christians.

The first crusade was eventually followed by six more in the following centuries as Christians and Muslims waged war for the hearts and souls of people across parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. Jews, by the way, were not exactly innocent onlookers in this whole evolving picture of war and competition between Christians and Muslims. But Jews were always a small minority who had to tread lightly between Muslim and Christian rulers, usually somewhat tolerant of Jews, but always suspicious of them because they were not true believers. They too denied the divinity of Jesus Christ which was absolutely central to Christians. As the Apostle Paul put it, if Christians did not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, then their faith was worthless. Or, better in Paul’s words than mine,  If we have put our hope[c] in Christ in this life only, we are of all people most pitiable. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since through a man [Adam] came death, also through a man came the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:19-21)

Today’s political competitors, like the two Muslim women now in Congress, are manifesting an old religious battle between Muslims and Christians. Jews have been the targets of hate by Muslims since the establishment of the Jewish state in their very midst in 1948—modern Israel—which was done largely by Christian nations acting through the United Nations. It was the old Christian sword across their backs. It is no wonder that in some parts of the world, like Syria, Iraq, and Iran, American military are sometimes scornfully referred to as “Crusaders.”

Jews—and hence Israel–are supported by Americans, especially the Christian community, since Jesus Christ has said he will return a second time to fulfill Scriptural prophecies, especially as described in prophetic references in the Book of Revelations. And his return will be through the Holy Land. And the remnant–modern Jews–will be converted to the true faith.

Not so the Muslims, unless they were dramatically to reject the violence and injury on others demanded by the Koran, and embrace the peace and love taught by Jesus, and accept Jesus as divine.

Nothing is impossible, but to now there has been discord between Islam and Christianity, driven largely by deep spiritual differences. No amount of politicking, even in our world of free speech and mutual respect and tolerance demanded by our Constitution, our laws, our traditions, will change these differences.  Let’s not dance around and denounce with great piety that Muslim pronouncements are injurious and ill-conceived and badly reflect on our republican values. Let’s call it for what it is, a spiritual battle being fought out in a secular context.

Muslims and Christians have, by the way, lived in peace and even cooperation at least one time in history. But, for that we have to return to the Spain of the eleventh and twelfth centuries which is another lesson for another time.

Posted in: History