“In Defense of a Despised Faith” - Christianity

From Men's News Daily

August 12, 2003

by Bruce Walker

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 conversion 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 this interpretation.

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 faith 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 most 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 and more ancient 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 or kooks.

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. 

Mel Gibson 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 antipathetical to pogroms and bigotry as is Torah is antipathetical to an accidental universe of meaningless life. 

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 the 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 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 be 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.

Email to Bruce Walker

[COMMENT:  Walker does about a good a job as any writer on this subject I am aware of.  Gloria Dei...   One begins to understand the reasons for this hostility as one begins to understand the worldview issues.  The line of spiritual warfare is defined by the line between the Biblical worldview (open system) and the secular/pagan worldviews (closed systems).   See Worldview Library for more info.    E. Fox]


Bruce Walker writes regular, original, weekly columns for Enter Stage Right and Conservative Truth. His articles have also appeared in a variety of print and electronic periodicals, including Christian Science Monitor, Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law and Order, Legal Secretary Today, and The Docket. Bruce also wrote a regular column for several years entitled "Law and You" for The Single Parent, the national journal of Parents Without Partners. His professional career includes five years as Executive Director of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, three years as Administrator of the Oklahoma Child Support Enforcement Program, and six years as Managing Attorney of the Tulsa Child Support Office.

 

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