What will be the consequences of the rising wave of anti-Semitism?
What will be the consequences?
I've often heard conservative Christians repeat a commonplace that goes something like this: "When a nation, or even its leader, blesses the Jewish people, God will bless that country." I have heard it applied to the UK as well, that when a British Prime Minister like Lloyd George or Margaret Thatcher supports Israel, the UK does better. Or that Britain led the world in supporting Jewish people throughout the 19th Century, which resulted in British hegemony around the world.
The same has been said about the USA. George Washington insisted that Jewish people receive the full legal rights of any other American, and as a result, America achieved independence and flourished. Twentieth-century influence and prosperity has also been credited to the United States' positive policies toward Israel and freedom for Jewish people.
The scriptural foundation for these assertions come from Genesis, where the Lord says to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you will I curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (12:3). This promise to Abraham is understood to apply to all of his descendants.
At the same time, the USA and the UK, along with most of the world, were sufficiently prejudiced against the Jewish people that immigration of those fleeing Hitler's Third Reich was curtailed. Ships carrying Jewish immigrants were even sent back to Germany to known certain abuse and death.
Our behavior does not make the biblical principle less true. But neither should it be used in a triumphalist way. It should cause us to ask, "what will be the consequences of the rising wave of anti-Semitism?" Here is a list of just some of the evidence, starting here at home.
- 2018 had the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded from Jewish college students being spat upon by fellow students to increased incidents of grave desecration, swastikas painted on synagogues, to denunciations by Muslim college students.
- The nadir of this trend occurred October 27 in Pittsburgh when eleven Jewish people were gunned down in their synagogue by a self-proclaimed anti-semite. It was the worst such incident in US history.
- A list of anti-Semitic incidents from January - June 2019 runs seventeen pages, as compiled by www.momentmag.com.
- The Guardian national newspaper reported on February 7, 2019 that in 2018 the UK recorded the largest ever number of anti-Semitic incidents. Most occurred in London and Manchester where the largest Jewish populations reside.
- The current leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been cited for anti-Semitic rhetoric.
The Human Rights Watch reported the following on June 6, 2019:
- On May 24, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in the city of Bordeaux, France.
- On May 26, Germany's government anti-Semitism Commissioner warned Jewish men against wearing the kippah in public following a spike in attacks against Jews.
- In a December 2018 survey on experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism in Europe, the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency found 89% of Jews living in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK feel anti-Semitism has increased in their country over the past decade, while 85% believed it to be a serious problem. Almost half worried about being insulted or harassed in public because they are Jewish, and more than a third feared being physically attacked.
As these reports show, once again Jewish people are under a mounting threat just for being Jewish. The facts raise more than one question.
- The total Jewish population is among the smallest of ethnic groups in the world, so what is the reason for a focus on them?
- What is unique about discrimination and persecution of Jewish people from other ethnic minorities?
- How should Christians who take biblical guidelines seriously respond to these facts?
So why is such a small group of people the focus of so much fear and hatred? The answer will not be found in logic. The root of anti-Semitism is demonic. The Lord created the Jewish people for the purpose of redeeming his creation. God's cosmic foe, Satan, invests heavily in dishonoring God by raising prejudice and persecution against the Jewish people who are integral to God's plans.
That leads to the second question: Is persecution of Jewish people different than other ethnic groups? While there are some similarities, Jewish discrimination is different because the root of anti-Semitism is spiritual. While there are other minorities who suffer persecution around the globe, Jewish persecution aims at their complete annihilation.
And finally, what are the implications for Gentile Christians who take the Bible seriously? I would assert three things to be true:
- If we do not honor the Jewish people because the Lord created them for his plan, we are spurning the Lord, and being willfully disobedient. That would be the implication of Genesis 12:3.
- When Jewish people are persecuted, defending and assisting them is what is expected of us.
- Jesus restored our relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Apostle Paul wrote that we Gentiles are grafted into the Jewish olive tree and adopted by God. Not standing with, defending, and assisting Jewish people would be to betray our spiritual family.
There is, perhaps, one more observation to be made. Christians believe that Jesus the Jewish Messiah is the final step in God's plan to redeem His whole creation. It will be accomplished upon Jesus return, with his disciples comprising the new citizens of that kingdom, Jew and Gentile. If Jewish people are to understand this message, it will have to come from Christian Gentiles who prove themselves trustworthy when Jewish persecution comes. Are we ready to pay the price?