This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Discussion this morning with an incredibly inquisitive student from Fiji who hadn’t thought about her Christian religion except as a force for good in her life and the world. She was wearing a Cross – it didn’t look like a simple adornment – so I asked her if she was a Christian. She is. She told me how she reads the Old Testament on a regular basis to which I replied that her Old Testament was my Hebrew Bible. Calling it the Old Testament is a colonial statement.Full-stop.
My Fiji friend was quite surprised and asked me to elaborate. I then digressed into Christianity as a colonial imposition on the majority of the Christians in the world today – in previous times these Christians were conquered by the Gospel. In Fiji, as well, in one way or another, no doubt.
As part of the (un)civilized masses of the non-European world, I assume that Christianity was brought to Fiji as a civilizing force no matter the manner it was brought in. If it was brought in peacefully, the Christian colonial structures were ready to facilitate Christianity’s entry. With the arrival of colonial Christianity, indigenous Fiji life was derided in one way or another. It survives in remnants in the dark basements of the colonized self. That’s my hunch.
True of Jews to some extent as well. At least we had been treated by European Christians as their (un)deserving Other – though also as the ones who had given birth to them, an explosive combination as we know through history, the Holocaust included. In short, Jews were treated the same way within Europe as Third World peoples were treated by Christianity outside of Europe.
So we are bonded in history. But adopting the colonial model of Christianity – where else could she now turn for religion since the indigenous would be the reappearance of the uncivilized and where would that get her or them? – she now expropriates my scriptures for her use. The “Old” Testament is theft, Christian colonial style. It’s no different than expropriating land.
Internally, the “Old” Testament is a reenactment of a religious expropriation which occurs in the context of a wider political and economic expropriation. Expropriation comes in packages. Religion is only part of the whole. Yes, one part, but an internal invasion, everything of depth consumed and transformed into another religious constellation. It is the first and major step toward the modern, which destroys everything in its wake, except itself. Or including itself, since modernity is increasingly harder to find within the modern. Post-modern is simply another term for modernity devouring self- destruction and the destruction of others, except for those who continue to ride the modern crest of affluence and power. For how long, though, is the question of questions. We might call the Modern Question.
Jews as the quintessential survivors of Christian colonialism and now, understandably, have decided to join the Christian ranks – as Jews. Let’s just say that we are honorary Christians now, thus we are allowed to wield our power alongside the Christian powerful. Against the (un)civilized Muslims?
Not to let Islam off the hook, as yet another colonial missionary religion. Which is how Islam, like Christianity, went global. We don’t want to be left out in this scramble for survival and dominance so Jews are trying to go global too – minus, of course, the population numbers. Thinking of the billion or so Christians and the billion or so Muslims, our thirteen or so million Jews seem puny by the numbers game. But, oh, how our influence exceeds our numerical insignificance!
Israel’s global reach is only possible within Jewish global reach. Though – credit where credit is due – Jewish global reach occurs mainly through American global reach. American global reach secures Israel’s global reach. A triangular relationship with the important partnership of a chastened but still empowered or an empowered (disguised and chastened) post-Holocaust Christianity. Where would we be without the globally imperial Christianity that emanated in Europe and brought Jewish bodies to be burned in the death camps of a thoroughly Christianized Europe that is now our soul partner?
The Christian-Jewish buddy system – arrayed against the world. Wouldn’t you chose this partnership if you were underneath a violent Christianity for fifteen hundred years? Makes sense if history is only a cycle of violence and atrocity. Choosing to be on top rather than the bottom of history is the way to go even if that means others being on the bottom and even, making sure that you stay on top, you partner with your Still/Former enemy.
So many Still/Formers – it’s not just about Jews of Conscience and Jewish Israelis, all of whom are fleeing, among other things, this new partnership in crime.
The Jewish-Christian partnership is an empire enabling partnership – which excludes a good percentage of Jews and a huge percentage of Christians, all the while pretending to be the definitive act of civilized religion, culture, economics and politics. A universal, it claims, that excludes or dominates the many. This is how universality is typically defined, the particular defined as universal and the universal defined as in need of a new infusion of forced civilization.
Universality, the illusion. Whose specialty is uprooting. Root(s) debris all around. Marked by the Cross.