A Jewish Christmas message to the unsaved world

Israel/Palestine
on 58 Comments
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

It’s the Sunday before Christmas. Pope Francis has already delivered his Christian message to the world. Some have described his message as a “tongue lashing.” He wants to get the church’s house in order. Rather than Christmas cheer, I wish him the best of luck.

I have a Christian message as well, or rather some random thoughts about the season that drives me – and some Christians I know – bonkers. As with Pope Francis, some might describe my message as a tongue lashing. I’d love to get the world in order. Wish me – and all of us – the best of luck.

For what it’s worth, then, here is my Jewish Christmas message – to the unsaved world.

Every Christian in the world seems to be listening to Handel’s Messiah. A few years ago the New York Times  listened too. What they found was an intensive debate about the anti-Jewish content of this perennial favorite.

Read the article for yourself. See how the chorus sounds afterwards.

The corruption of life is endless. Our inheritance is so often covered with blood it’s difficult to find a place to stand without being overwhelmed by the stink.

Our longing for innocence is natural. So, too, is our desire to wave away the prophetic voice. The prophets remind us of the imperative need for justice.

That’s our usual take on the prophetic. It isn’t the whole prophetic story.

Finding our prophetic voice isn’t easy. It’s each to her own in this troubled terrain.

But then the opposite – assimilation to power – is easy to spot. And yes so difficult to resist.

These past weeks Christians and non-Christians alike have endured the endless Merry Christmas greetings at the checkout counters in America. This as the number of refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere continue to grow. For many, the cries of the suffering are drowned out by the rousing chorus of Handel’s Messiah.

With salvation ringing in our collective ears, we are tone deaf to our own injustice.

Preachers and their cohorts spend so much time reflecting on what Christmas means for the intact world, perhaps it’s time take a more sober approach. It’s time to reflect on what the Christmas season doesn’t tell us about life in our world of dislocation and death.

Contra the Christian story, the world of dislocation and death tells us that the world has not been redeemed and the process theology gloss that the world is in the process of being saved should be bracketed. Better to toss it altogether.

In an unredeemed world we are on our own – together.

Much of my Christmas angst comes from a renewed contact with Palestinian Christians and their accompaniers, mostly American and European Christians, in one of the (un)holiest places in the entire world, Jerusalem. The intersection of American Department Store Christianity and Christmas Tree Lighting Bethlehem Christianity drives me crazy.

If that’s not enough to send you into Christian shock therapy, think about the United Nations. They’re now opining about the recent wave of house demolitions in the West Bank.  Note that they have “serious concern” about the situation.

One commentator on the report asked why the UN isn’t outraged. Obviously they don’t understand the role of the UN.

During this Christmas season, think of the UN as “intermediate enablers.” Almost everything the UN touches continues on its bloody way for decades.

Like university academics, bureaucratic justice seekers can’t afford outrage. Their office travel decorations suffice.

The UN was on the spot when Israel became a state. It’s still there in full force almost 70 years later

UNRWA is almost as omnipresent in Israel/Palestine as the Israeli military. When is the UN finally going to take a stand? Perhaps, like Handel’s Messiah, the less we know the better

UN reports are Muzak – elevator music for those who frequent the halls of power. Their reports over the years make good stocking-stuffers. This year’s report is no different.

Like our UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, who graced the Central African Republic with her presence – for one day. Those she visited should remember her commitment to Palestinian freedom. She bartered away Palestine for her own advancement. I don’t think she’ll give up much for Africa this Christmas.

Now silent on Syria. With millions on the run.

Now silent on Egypt. About to start the Stalinist show trial of the 21st century.

Should Jews join the Muzak crowd this Christmas season?

We already have.

So it is on Christmas – in our unsaved world.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Future of the Prophetic: Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-Presented.

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58 Responses

  1. RudyM
    December 22, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Thank god I don’t have any religion to worry over.

    • DanH
      December 22, 2013, 11:47 pm

      May the peace and goodwill of a Jewish baby whose spirit was nurtured by Jewish Women, Mary and Elizabeth for sure, whose spirit in turn nurtured untold numbers of insignificant, powerless foreigners, native Americans, and the rest of our motley crew (it’s a big and diverse world) to have Hope, confronting the arrogant and powerful of the World – we know ourselves (by our lack of humility and resistance to magnanimity). Of these with the nurtured spirit, The Forward said “Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Jewish Women!, and the New York Times demeaned and ridiculed them.

      Psalm 2 from the Jerusalem Bible, verse 3

      Let me proclaim Yahweh’s decree;
      he has told me, “You are my son, (and daughter? sic)
      today I have become your father.
      Ask and I will give you the nations for your heritage,
      the ends of the earth for your domain.
      With iron scepter you will break them,
      shatter them like potter’s ware”

      So be joyful, happy to have the Word, merry even, because as a daughter or son of God you have the power. Unfairness, meanness, arrogance, brutality ‘shall be shattered like potter’s ware’.

      Lucky us to have the baby who got the message to us, “don’t tread on us, you rich and powerful”. Lucky us to have the Jewish Women in 1902 who brought down the “Beef Combine”, Boycotted till fairness, of sorts, returned.

      How can my Jewish friends be upset with a greeting “Merry Christmas!”, which, when I say it, simply encapsulates the notion that baby did great things for us all, helping us to act in the name of Justice, Fairness, Equality? And more to come!

      BDS

  2. W.Jones
    December 22, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world’s most famous atheist

    Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted he does celebrate Christmas – and enjoys singing traditional Christmas carols each festive season. The writer and evolutionary biologist told singer Jarvis Cocker that he happily wishes everyone a Merry Christmas – and used to have a tree when his daughter was younger.

    ‘I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody,’ Dawkins said. ‘I might sing Christmas carols – once I was privileged to be invited to Kings College, Cambridge, for their Christmas carols and loved it.
    link to dailymail.co.uk

    • Daniel Rich
      December 22, 2013, 5:06 pm

      @ W. Jones,

      I’ll sing Christ’s Mass when I see him [or her]…

      Jesus on a Cross – or why You should feel guilty! My Pontius Pilate cabrio will only take me that far…

      • W.Jones
        December 22, 2013, 7:55 pm
      • W.Jones
        December 22, 2013, 8:18 pm

        I do not think Christmas is really the time to feel guilty. It is more like the ancient Feast of the Building of the Temple. The “guilty” time is more like the ancient Day of Atonement or Exaltation of the Cross holidays. However both of those are also considered cleansing.

  3. Sycamores
    December 22, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Bah Humbug! you will be visit by several ghosts in the early hours of Christmas morning.

  4. pabelmont
    December 22, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Amen.

  5. Daniel Rich
    December 22, 2013, 3:34 pm

    OMG – Oh My God

    OMJ – Oh My Jesus

    OMWAF – Oh My, We Are Funny!.

    lol lol lol lol lol lol lol…

    • bintbiba
      December 22, 2013, 4:38 pm

      In such sad and hopelessly depressing times, a little merriment and ‘jocularity’ is somewhat welcome!

      Thank you, Dr. Marc Ellis for such a thoughtful and thought provoking post.
      Mine isn’t the only heavy heart this December. I was born in Jerusalem….but I don’t ever call it the Holy City.

  6. Fritz
    December 22, 2013, 4:43 pm

    „Christian shock therapy“ on Christmas? Haendel’s Messias reduced on somewhat anit-Jewish content? May be that also prophet Ellis when reading Luke chapters 1+2 will re-think his angry attitudes against some of the most inspiring messages of mankind.

  7. MHughes976
    December 22, 2013, 5:12 pm

    I think Michael Marissen’s 07 NYT article, on which much of this is based, is a bit of a rigmarole and a bit over the top.
    The KJV version of Ps. 2 is clearly a mistake. The Psalmist refers to ‘the nations’, not ‘the heathen’ or ‘the unbelievers’. Handel’s librettist was a man of learning and chose to correct it but the motive must have been not to include the Jews among the raging nations, which would be absurd on any reading, but to maintain the original contrast between the sane and confident people inside Zion and the crazy folks outside.
    Well, yes, Christians tend to think the destruction of the Temple by the Romans was somehow within divine providence: God did not want the Temple cult to continue. This is no more outrageous or anti-Semitic than the idea that the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians was within divine providence because the cult had gone wrong – and you can’t get a more Jewish idea than that.
    When I was twelve one of my teachers who was a pretty extreme evangelical Christian rebuked two of my classmates, one of whom who happened to be Jewish, for saying ‘Crikey!’, pointing out that it meant ‘Christ!’ I never forgot that. Even at the time I could see that this was a contempt of the Christian God only because the believer insisted on examining an etymology that had never occurred to the boys who were using the word. In just the same way I have listened to Handel’s Messiah many times, never once thinking or beginning for half a second to think ‘Down with the Jews!’ It is no more anti-Semitic in average Christian minds than ‘Crikey!’for most schoolboys is anti-Christian blasphemy.

    • Frankie P
      December 22, 2013, 6:00 pm

      @MHughes,

      Yes, Professor Ellis’ new missive, like so many of his other writings, seem to shine more light on his own prejudice and bias than on those he attacks – in most cases Christians. This last article is all over the road – a few lines about the Pope’s message morph into Handel’s Messiah, the corruption of the world, and then ultimately, the weird, the wonderful, the “prophetic”, as if Ellis’ “prophetic” is going to cure the “world of dislocation and death.” Christians, in Ellis’ demented view, can be distilled to their essence, and his description of every component of that essence drips with contempt: “Handel’s Messiah” “anti-Jewish content” “covered with blood” among “the endless Merry Christmas greetings”, a “process theology gloss” driving through “the intersection of American Department Store Christianity and Christmas Tree Lighting Bethlehem Christianity” that results in a terrible accident that will “send you into Christian shock therapy”.

      So, Dr. Ellis, if you would like to take “a more sober approach” without all the gobledygook spilling out of your view of Christianity, maybe you should watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas one more time, and maybe you’ll see how some people who are Christians are looking for their prophetic voice and innocence, hoping that they can find salvation and redeem the world. Remember, these are individuals, searching like you are for a better way; they are NOT all parts of some monolithic “church” that strives to “assimilate to power”. Some of them might even be prophets.

      FPM

    • American
      December 22, 2013, 7:51 pm

      Well Handel’s Messiah as anti semitic is a new one on me!
      But here’s the NYT article Hughes is referring to.
      Really ridiculous imo. These Jewish hunters like Marissen of all things anti semitic who are alway looking to slime anything and everything created by non Jews as anti semitic sounds like some of Judaism’s religious are jealous of Christianity and it’s culutre to me. More people chose Christianity because Christianity built a more appealing mouse trap than Judaism…..thats the way the religious cookie crumbled, they need to get over it.

      link to nytimes.com

      ”Mr. Marissen, a scholar at Swarthmore College who has devoted himself largely to examining what might be seen as anti-Judaic tendencies in works by Bach, argued the case against Handel at length. Ruth Smith, a Handel specialist at Cambridge University in England and the author of the landmark book “Handel’s Oratorios and 18th-Century Thought,” responded to the theological aspects of Mr. Marissen’s thesis, disputing many assumptions and interpretations.

      Mr. Marissen summarizes his argument in an abstract of the Journal article: “Scholars have too little investigated questions of religious meaning in Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ particularly the work’s manifest theological anti-Judaism. Previously unknown historical sources for the work’s libretto compiled and arranged by Charles Jennens (1700-73) reveal the text’s implicit designs against Jewish religion. Handel’s musical setting powerfully underscores these tendencies of Jennens’s libretto and adds to them, reaching a euphoric climax in the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus.”

    • Walid
      December 22, 2013, 10:46 pm

      “I think Michael Marissen’s 07 NYT article, on which much of this is based, is a bit of a rigmarole and a bit over the top.”

      I think so too, but for Marc Ellis to be bringing it up, he probably agrees with it. Marissen is also into dissecting what he believes are J.S. Bach’s anti-Judaic messaging.

      Why did I get the feeling that Marc was blaming the “unsaved Christians” for everything on his list of current woes? From where I’m standing, those of Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and so many other problems can be traced back to the Jews of Israel.

      • Chu
        December 23, 2013, 10:07 am

        “Why did I get the feeling that Marc was blaming the “unsaved Christians” for everything on his list of current woes? From where I’m standing, those of Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and so many other problems can be traced back to the Jews of Israel.”

        Yes. The article attempts to be dainty. It takes a deft hand to blend criticism & wit seamlessly together. This article was all over the place.

      • miriam6
        December 23, 2013, 7:53 pm

        Walid@;

        From where I’m standing, those of Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and so many other problems can be traced back to the Jews of Israel.

        How historically illiterate/ entirely amnesiac of you Walid.

        The French themselves ( along with the British ) bear a great deal of the historic guilt for destabilising the Mid East as a result of the Sykes- Picot agreement of 1916.
        The Sykes- Picot agreement was an act of imperialist arrogance which carved up Greater Syria into smaller nations comprising of competing religious and ethnic interests – designed therefore ( the French and British hoped ) to be forever riven and hampered in their development by sectarian strife and therefore easier for the West to control.
        Also – without the carving up of Greater Syrian territory into the separate colonial entities of Iraq / Kuwait / Jordan / Lebanon – and in particular Mandatory Palestine – Zionism could never have conceivably got a foothold in Palestine in the first place. Without Sykes – Picot – Israel would surely never have existed.

        link to historylearningsite.co.uk

        Since then American meddling in the region has been the prime cause of instability in the M.E region.

        This piece by Stephen Zunes details the brutal effects of American hegemony in the M.E region and how since the CIA engineered coup of 1953 in Iran – Washington has stumbled from one ill advised policy decision to another bringing with it the inevitably bloody consequences for the M.E.

        On the subject of Iraq’s present day troubles – do pay particularly close attention to Zunes recapping of American policy on Iran – Iraq from 1980- to the 1990-1 Gulf War and do consider that Zunes wrote his article on the eve of the final bloody phase of America’s attempts to pacify and control Iraq.

        link to commondreams.org

        Noam Chomsky :

        Oh, yes. I mean, control over the Middle East, especially the energy-producing regions, has been the driving force of American foreign policy since World War II. U.S. efforts to control the Middle East had been the leading theme in U.S. foreign policy since World War II.
        One of Roosevelt’s main advisors, A. A. Berle, said around the late 1940s that if we can control the Middle East, we can control the world. The State Department described the Middle East as a “stupendous source of strategic power,” the “greatest material prize in history.”

        link to palestine-studies.org

      • Walid
        December 24, 2013, 4:28 am

        Miriam, make up your mind if you want to insult me for being historically illiterate or amnesiac. I wasn’t referring to the aberrant creation of Israel but to its subsequent involvement in the shit-disturbing in these countries to maintain its hegemony over the region by keeping them perpetually off-balance. Whether it’s doing it under contract for the US for whatever imperialistic motives is another issue. I was reacting to Marc Ellis’ pinning of the region’s sins on the Christians; using the Christmas event to do it wasn’t very “giving ” of him.

    • LeaNder
      December 24, 2013, 10:25 am

      MHughes, I agree with you or others here that are irritated by the comment, or the moral index finger pointed at the Christians with some righteous among them as exceptions. Have a good and comfortable ride into the new year. ;)

      I have a Christian message as well, or rather some random thoughts about the season that drives me – and some Christians I know – bonkers.

      First a paradox: at the end of childhood and as a juvenile X-mas started to drive me bonkers too. But after a while I simply ignored it. In other words the liberal in me won over. Would I ever love to tell others what to do with their life? Wholeheartedly: No!

      Besides both X-mas and Easter are so obviously connected to the much older pagan celebrations of winter and spring solstice, so strictly for me there is not the least connection between religion and the features that once drove me bonkers about X-mas: Christmas trees, and lights everywhere and: sweeter the cash bells never ring.

      Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Discover the history of the Christmas tree, from the earliest winter solstice celebrations, to Queen Victoria and all the way to the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree.

      Now let me try to offer for all of you that are slightly irritated by high moral ground index finger. In Israel the aversion against X-mas seems to concentrate on the Christmas tree, and that while not the “antisemitic libretto”, at least the composer Friedrich Händel are ultimately connected to Germany. Thus none of you really needs to feel addressed or should feel based on the simple and often not to important feature of your identity: Christianity?

      Every Christian in the world seems to be listening to Handel’s Messiah. A few years ago the New York Times listened too. What they found was an intensive debate about the anti-Jewish content of this perennial favorite.

      Every – seems. Sometimes we need these verbal bridges in texts to get our point over.

      Ultimately, I guess, the basic affront lies in Christianities selective use of Jewish scriptures to prove that Xristos (Χριστός) or Jesus Christ was the real and not simply another false Messiah. There is ultimately no way out of that. Also to what extend does the libretto contain passages from the Jewish prophets which quite possibly our dear Marc can’t possibly take too lightly, given it is his central theme?

      Thus possibly the deeper problem, even deeper than the X-mas trees originating in Germany and Friedrich Händel, the German living in London, may ultimately in religious antisemitism. Forget about the fact that Rabbi Jesus could be some type of bridge between Christianity and Judaism, he obviously was a false prophet from the Jewish perspective. Can that issue ever be resolved?

      “They” will always hate us and while celebrating “their Xristos”, in fact even Händel “celebrates” the “wrong” passages with his music:

      The mood of the “Hallelujah” chorus is over-the-top triumph.

      For the first time in “Messiah” trumpets and drums are used together, although they would have been appropriate or welcome at several earlier places. In Baroque music trumpets with drums were emblems of great power and of victory. In “Messiah” the combination is saved for celebrating the destruction of Jesus’ crucifixion-provoking “enemies” prefigured in Psalm 2.

      Notice there is a deep and hard to challenge suspicion that while the Christians celebrate their own religion they apparently always may well have always done and still do secretly plan to make the Jewish faith disappear:

      With Old Israel supposedly rejected by God and its obsolescence long before ensured, why did 18th-century writers and composers rejoice against Judaism at all, whether explicitly or, as here, implicitly? There must have been some festering Christian anxiety about the prolonged survival of Judaism: How could a “false” religion last so long? Might Judaism somehow actually be “true”?

      What about the inner Jewish enemy, one of my favorite characters in what we Christians call, I realize already this is an affront, Old Testament: Salomon?

      • Walid
        December 25, 2013, 5:02 am

        ““They” will always hate us and while celebrating “their Xristos”, in fact even Händel “celebrates” the “wrong” passages with his music”

        LeaNder, no longer a need for Jews to feel hated; 2 popes have forgiven them. Although the New Testament puts the blame for killing Jesus squarely on the shoulder of all the Jews and was behind much of the persecution of Jews during the past 2000 years, in 1965 Pope Paul VI issued a declaration (among others about other religions) which repudiated the belief in the collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. But this was still not good enough for the Jews for the next 50 years that wanted a more emphatic statement by the Vatican. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI in his book about Jesus, made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people pinning the killing on only a few Jewish leaders. That was good enough for Abe Foxman and the issue was put to rest. The NYT story actually disparaging Christians but disguised as musical analysis but was written a few years before the second and more detailed repudiation by Benedictus XVI that to prove his point, dissected every passage in the New Testament blaming all the Jews for the killing.

      • yrn
        December 25, 2013, 8:30 am

        Millions Still Believe ‘The Jews’ Killed Jesus
        link to algemeiner.com

        26% of Americans Think Jews Killed Jesus, Poll Says
        Read more: link to forward.com

      • LeaNder
        December 25, 2013, 10:29 am

        2 popes have forgiven them.

        Walid, I don’t think there was anything to forgive, maybe the opposite? But strictly the Catholics had quite a few martyrs under the Nazis too, who did not surrender to worldly power. What was wrong with the other’s both sheeple and religious authorities to surrender to the power, was my central question in religious classes as a juvenile. It got me into trouble.

        You seem to refer to Nostra Aetate, which I understood with my limited theological knowledge of Catholic Church doctrine centrally as giving up the claim to a superior possession of truth and dealing with its relations to other faiths, and shared ideas, among many others with “the Jews” but also e.g. the Muslim. Never mind Ratzinger’s faux pas in Regensburg, which was not really a surprise to anyone familiar with him.

        I guess, I do not understand the whole “the Jews as Christ killers” debate and occasionally experience it as hysterical, admittedly. I also met at least one female Christian hypocrite in this context. But that is another story.

        I never once in my life experienced anything even close in my religion classes, not in childhood before the Second Vatican council and not after. So yes, in a way the debate puzzles me. Since it feels I should at least be vaguely aware of it. What I was heavily aware of though was the Catholic Church’s treatment of “the other”. I mentioned that before. It was related to confession or what they wrote about it as preparation for the confession of adults- There wasn’t a specific section for kids in the diocese prayer book which I read for the preparations for my first confession connected with the “Holy Communion” with eight. Made me really angry, since me best friend was a Protestant at the time. And strictly what I read suggested I had to confess my relationship to her.

        Now the way I rationalized this religious childhood revelation was that a core aspect of religion is power. And that the Church’s power ultimately is based on its followers or adherents. I am assuming with this rule they ultimately wanted to keep the sheeple inside the creed preventing them from marrying outside, for instance, or staying inside the community.

        OK beyond that my own image of the historical Jesus is close to liberation theology and its historical precursors …

        Long introduction: Based on that the above my basic question secularly speaking would be: If some social revolutionary challenges the powers that be, would he not get in trouble even millennia later almost everywhere? Thus is it really any surprise that the powers did not really fight for Christ’s release and surrendered him to Roman authority for many reasons?

        Beyond that, which brings us to Marc’s new theme: the idea of Christian redemption through Christ’s sacrifice.

        Considered purely theologically, based on my limited knowledge: without Christ’s sacrifice or his surrender to the will of his spiritual father’s will would there be any Christian religion? But if it was ultimately God’s will to sacrifice “his son” can “the Jews” really be guilty?

        Notice the scenario is eerily similar to the Abraham story? But there is a difference the “father” now indeed demands his son’s sacrifice. Richard Witty at one point used Abraham here to remind Phil of his duty. Which is still vividly on my mind. ;)

      • LeaNder
        December 25, 2013, 10:50 am

        Ok, it should have apologized earlier about it’s long vicious history, but long before , but the 2nd Vatican Council was clearly caused by the Holocaust. But maybe at earlier points I should have excused to the descendant of of others too, to the extend there still were any. Both outside and inside its own creed. … Native Canadians, or Firsts Nations not too long ago won a victory based on their specific treatment by church institutions.

        An aunt of a close friend was the last witch killed in a specific place in Southern Germany. Our latest anti-terrorism informers at least partly work according to the same basic laws. …

      • Walid
        December 25, 2013, 12:51 pm

        I agree that there was nothing to forgive, LeaNder, I was just repeating the grudge the Jews had felt for their mistreatment by the Christians. A Jewish friend that grew up in NYC told me how during his youth he had to run the gauntlet through the Italian neighbourhood in fear of getting beaten by the guys chasing him while yelling at him , “You killed my God”. It was funny to hear him tell the story but the guy had been really terrified as the Italians actually caught up with him on a few occasions. Of course the Jews were not guilty for Jesus, and not any more guilty than I was for all the hijacking of airplanes by Arab terrorists or what happened on 9-11.

        About Marc’s comeback with the Christians on reversing the process of fragmentation, he is again having problems with “salvation” and “redemption” issues of the Christians as if they appear to run counter to his cryptic quest for the prophetic thing. Marc also watered it down somewhat by introducing the Prophet Muhammad into center ring. Muhammad’s version at least took the Jews completely off the hook for the crucifixion of Jesus as the Muslim version has God playing a trick on both the Romans and the Jews by giving them a counterfeit copy of Jesus to crucify, thereby saving the real Jesus any physical pain as he was immediately whisked off to heaven. The story that has God playing games of deception doesn’t say if anyone felt sorry for the throwaway copy of Jesus or if it was a good guy or a bad guy that took the fall.

        You mentioned Vatican II in which Ratzinger played a major role; it was intended to bring back the slowly drifting flock but it ultimately drove them even further away with all its newly instituted liberalism. It was John Paul II that drew them back. Ratzinger was into a new faux-pas every other day.

      • Walid
        December 25, 2013, 1:00 pm

        “but the 2nd Vatican Council was clearly caused by the Holocaust.”

        That’s a new one for me, LeaNder, would you please elaborate a bit on it? Thanks.

      • yrn
        December 25, 2013, 1:38 pm

        “In the song the carolers proclaim that Jews killed Jesus. They sing that the only good Jew is a dead Jew.”
        link to huffingtonpost.com

        Millions Still Believe ‘The Jews’ Killed Jesus
        link to algemeiner.com
        link to huffingtonpost.com

      • LeaNder
        December 25, 2013, 6:39 pm

        That’s a new one for me, LeaNder, would you please elaborate a bit on it? Thanks.

        Walid, is that a serious question? Of you cannot even imagine how and why these events at least could have been related, I am at a loss where you would want me to start.

        Obviously the Church had to deal with what had happened. Which does not mean I support the idea that “the Holocaust was a Christian enterprise”, in spite of the fact that at least nominally a lot of the perpetrators were Christians, but so were some victims. In the long run the Nazis would have abolished the Church too, or at least dramatically changed it way beyond recognition even beyond the alignment of the German Christians, that’s a given.

      • RoHa
        December 25, 2013, 8:10 pm

        “Muhammad’s version at least took the Jews completely off the hook for the crucifixion of Jesus as the Muslim version has God playing a trick on both the Romans and the Jews by giving them a counterfeit copy of Jesus to crucify, thereby saving the real Jesus any physical pain as he was immediately whisked off to heaven.”

        That is certainly the standard interpretation of 4:157, but the Qur’an doesn’t actually say that much. It says:

        (a) “they” boast that they killed Jesus, (b) they didn’t kill him or crucify him (c) it was made to appear so (literally, wa lakin shubbiha lahum – “a likeness was made for them”), (d) people holding conflicting views are confused and have no real knowledge, (e) the important point is that they didn’t kill him.

        “They” seems, from context, to be the Jews, but it could be unbelievers in general.

        Ahmadiyya (and some other Muslim scholars) believe that “crucify” means “kill by crucifixion”, and interpret the verse as meaning that Jesus was still alive when he was taken down from the cross. (Ahmadiyya say he subsequently went to Kashmir.) “A likeness was made for them” then means “a likeness of being dead”.

        Or we can take the verse literally, and say that there was no crucifixion! “A likeness was made for them” would then mean “the story about the crucifixion was invented”. Not does the verse say anywhere that the “likeness” was made by God and not by the early Christians, so God isn’t playing a trick here.

        And 4:158 can easily be understood as saying that God exalted Jesus rather than God lifted him up to Heaven. The word used for “raised” is the same word used for exalting Muhammad in 94:4

        Unbelievers/Jews are certainly off the hook for the killing, but they are still guilty of boasting of it, which implies wishing they were guilty.

        For my part, I think the second part of 4:157 is most fitting.

        “…those who hold conflict­ing views thereon are indeed confused, having no [real] knowledge thereof, and following mere con­jecture.” (Muhammad Asad translation.)

  8. ToivoS
    December 22, 2013, 7:11 pm

    Oh please, don’t tell me that Handel’s Massiah is antisemitic. Christmas to me is the season of earworms. Handel’s work is one of the better antidotes. I guess I could go back and listen to Gregorian chants.

    • talknic
      December 23, 2013, 9:05 am

      @ ToivoS ” I could go back and listen to Gregorian chants”

      Backwards they can be even more amazing

    • Walid
      December 24, 2013, 4:58 am

      I remember from my youth that Messiah was an Easter event, as Handel had intended it; I have no idea how and why it migrated to Christmas, maybe because it begins with the birth of Christ. During those early years, Christmas was about Scrooge and the Nutcracker. I still can’t understand where the antisemitic stuff comes from since in the libretto, about 80% of the Biblical quotes are taken from the Old Testament (mostly Isaiah) with minor parts taken from the New (Luke). It’s about the birth, death and the resurrection more than about blaming the Jews for not having accepted Christ.

      I think fanatical Jews that are offended by it are so because of the name itself “Messiah” and that it’s about the Messiah having come and done his thing to save mankind, which goes against their own narrative. Jews and Muslims can go on waiting for their messiah to show up, but accusing Handel of being antisemitic is absurd. In any event, the libretto was written by Charles Jennens and not by Handel.

      For Unto Us a Child is Born:

  9. American
    December 22, 2013, 8:02 pm

    ”UN reports are Muzak – elevator music for those who frequent the halls of power. Their reports over the years make good stocking-stuffers. This year’s report is no different.”’..ellis

    I do agree that that is perfectly put.

  10. American
    December 22, 2013, 8:08 pm

    Dear marc….

    I like to remind y0u that Christmas is also a tradition of ‘sharing and being nice’ to others….so be nice.

    • yrn
      December 23, 2013, 4:59 am

      American
      As in Warsaw Christmas Day 1881.
      The mob began to attack Jews, Jewish stores, businesses, and residences in the streets adjoining the Holy Cross Church. The riots in Warsaw continued for three days.

      • talknic
        December 23, 2013, 8:21 am

        @yrn “As in Warsaw Christmas Day 1881.”

        I can’t find a record of it happening every year… Was it a traditional festive activity practiced by everyone who celebrates Christmas?

        I can tho find a record of Israel occupying non-Israeli territory every year since being declared. 65 years. Three generations. A life time.

        And we can read the official record to see Zionist deceit going back to at least the 1920′s and continuing today

      • tree
        December 23, 2013, 5:13 pm

        Talknic,

        I found a description of the Warsaw Pogrom, 1881 at Wikipedia. It certainly wasn’t a “traditional” Christmas celebration. It was a violent mob action that occurred after someone apparently yelled fire in a crowded church on Christmas Day, causing a panic that cost the lives of 29 people. Jewish pickpockets were assumed to be the culprits and the mob took it out on the Jewish community there.

        A contemporary Jewish-Russian historian, Simon Dubnow, gives details of this event: on Christmas Day 1881 the outbreak of panic after a false warning of fire in the crowded Holy Cross Church resulted in the deaths of twenty-nine persons in a stampede. It was believed that the false alarm was raised by pickpockets, who used the ruse to allow them to rob people during the panic. A crowd gathered on the scene of the event and some unknown persons started to spread a rumour, which subsequently proved to be unfounded, that two Jewish pickpockets had been caught in the church.

        The mob began to attack Jews, Jewish stores, businesses, and residences in the streets adjoining the Holy Cross Church.[1] The riots in Warsaw continued for three days, until Russian authorities (who controlled the police as well as military in the city) intervened, arresting 2,600 people. During the Warsaw pogrom two people were left dead and twenty-four injured. The pogrom also left about a thousand Jewish families financially devastated. In the months afterwards about one thousand Warsaw Jews emigrated to the United States.[2] The pogrom worsened Polish-Jewish relations, and was criticized by almost the entire Polish elite, including writers Eliza Orzeszkowa, Boleslaw Prus and several other notable activists.[2][3]

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Much, much more recently, there have been at least two pogroms directed at Palestinian Israelis during Yom Kippur. One was in 2000, during the early days of the second intifada, when 12 Palestinian Israeli citizens were killed, and one was in Acre in 2008, where 14 Palestinian Israeli families lost their homes. I doubt that yrn will try to imply that pogroms against non-Jews are a Yom Kippur “tradition” in Israel

        link to desertpeace.wordpress.com

      • Elisabeth
        December 24, 2013, 5:35 am

        I once objected to Christmas being described as ‘pogrom season’ in some post (not here) saying that such claims were justified for Easter but that I never heard of Christmas leading to pogroms. Immediately that very same Warsaw pogrom was quoted as if this was proof of a long history of such attacks. I find this very tiresome. I am not even from Poland. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there have been pogroms in the Netherlands twice, in 1309 and 1349 (related to accusations of well-poisoning during the bubonic plague). Am I supposed to internalize every anti-semitic incident in history no matter where or when it occurred and feel personally responsible for it as a Christian?

      • Annie Robbins
        December 25, 2013, 1:22 am

        one was in Acre in 2008, where 14 Palestinian Israeli families lost their homes.

        i read israel bulldozed 15 palestinian homes near ramallah today. merry christmas. link to maannews.net

      • Sycamores
        December 23, 2013, 8:28 am

        both Palestinians Christians and Muslims are attack daily by israeli thugs. however lets stick with the Christmas theme

        On Christmas Day in 1983, a hotel in Tiberias where Christians held meetings was set afire, the latest in a series of attacks on a small group of about 50 Christians. Two Jews were arrested in the arson incident.

        or what about the Jewish man who dress up as santa claus as a joke to pick up is daughter from a night club and got beaten up by a gang of israeli thugs yelling ‘dead Christian’. link to ynetnews.com

        you know when your grandchildren look back on israel, they will see the pogroms of Christians and Muslims inflicted by israeli Jews and this will be the only legacy remember by the descendents who grandparents follow zionism.

    • Walid
      December 24, 2013, 4:10 am

      “I like to remind you that Christmas is also a tradition of ‘sharing and being nice’ to others….so be nice.” (American)

      He appears to have taken your advice. He has since edited his piece to make it somewhat a bit “softer”.

      • Frankie P
        December 25, 2013, 12:40 am

        @Walid,

        “He has since edited his piece to make it somewhat a bit “softer”.”

        Telling, isn’t it?

        FPM

  11. W.Jones
    December 22, 2013, 8:14 pm

    Contra the Christian story, the world of dislocation and death tells us that the world has not been redeemed and the process theology gloss that the world is in the process of being saved should be bracketed. Better to toss it altogether.

    In an unredeemed world we are on our own – together.

    Christ’s birth was not really the moment of the world’s salvation, was it? It’s true that there remains much oppression in the world.

    Is there a redemptive or saving meaning of Christmas?
    There are at least two.

    First, the concept of an angelic Messiah being born among us is redemptive because it means He goes through sufferings and difficulties like we do in life. We do not need to feel alone even though we go through them.

    Second, the incarnation was a moment of hope for the future. In the story, one old man, Simeon, was joyful just by seeing the infant Messiah who would bring spiritual redemption.

    Likewise, although our world is not fully saved or divine, even peace activists can still find moments of hope for what we wish will be a future redemption. For some people that may be the agreement with Iran, for others it may be the US declining to bomb Syria, for others it may be the ASA vote or that of Swarthmore’s Hillel. That may not be the culmination of social justice itself, but now we may have a chance to think of things that give us hope for it in the future.

    Take care.

  12. Keith
    December 22, 2013, 9:13 pm

    MARC ELLIS- “The corruption of life is endless. Our inheritance is so often covered with blood it’s difficult to find a place to stand without being overwhelmed by the stink….With salvation ringing in our collective ears, we are tone deaf to our own injustice.”

    Powerful stuff, Professor, but is anybody listening? Or is all they see a shining city on the hill? It is easy to believe what is convenient to believe, and self-deception is the rule, not the exception. But do keep it up, you are Mondoweiss’s voice of moral clarity.

  13. Citizen
    December 23, 2013, 12:04 am

    Passover is old news. An empty suit waiting to be refilled. So is Christmas. See Mr Ellis’s Passover Message to the unsaved world, “Throwing Stones” from last April. It’s in the MW archives.

  14. bilal a
    December 23, 2013, 6:33 am

    This Xmas beware of ADL elves:

    Spying for Apartheid
    In a deposition made after the seizure of the ADL files in 1993, Bullock and a police officer who claimed to be a former CIA contractor named Tom Gerard admitted that they had also shared the information they collected for ADL on anti-Apartheid groups with South African intelligence. Bullock revealed that he had surveilled Chris Hani, the man who was to succeed Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, during a California speaking tour. The file Bullock prepared was given to both the ADL and to the South Africans. Hani was assassinated after he returned to his homeland. Another Bullock target was Palestinian-American activist Alex Odeh, who was killed by a bomb at his office in 1985. Bullock and ADL had keys to the office and a floor plan.
    link to unz.com

  15. Theo
    December 23, 2013, 9:06 am

    Prof. Ellis

    The christian religion is nothing, but a sect that distanced itself from the main judaism and grew into a huge religious community, and the same goes for the protestanism, methodists, etc., who did the same to the catholic church, they all are a piece of the same cake.

    You mention “anti-semitism” in Handel´s Messias and you are probably correct, the two churches are fighting eachother for almost 2,000 years. To be fair, you will not find too many synagoges where the rabbi have positive words for the christians.
    All you have to do is to read the Talmud and see what that, to you holly, book says about us goyims, I withhold the urge to quote any of it.

    Religions, all of them, did more bad than good to us humans, therefore desolving them would be a positive step toward a peaceful coexistance between us. Since there is no such thing as a jewish nation, not even a christian one, we should limit our faithfulness to the land where we are born in or are citizens of and remember that we all came from the same place a few hundred thousand years ago.

    Wishing you a great Holiday Season, whatever is your reason to celebrate it.

    • Walid
      December 23, 2013, 12:30 pm

      “Religions, all of them, did more bad than good to us humans…. ”

      Not really, Theo, notwithstanding the abuses brought on by ALL religions, the good that resulted from them by far outweighed the bad. Dissolving them as you suggested would also be bad because it would leave many people rudderless. Look how much people flocked back to religion after the dissolution of the USSR. But it should definitely be separated from politics.

      • Citizen
        December 24, 2013, 12:14 am

        @ Walid
        I’ve never come to a clear decision as to whether or not religion is a net loss or gain for humanity. On one hand, the big negatives associated with religion arose when any religion gained significant institutional power. This power gave them hegemony over the minds of children (as the twig is bent, so grows the tree) and also grew to weddings between religious and political/state institutional powers. On the other hand, for (maybe) most everyday people, throughout the ages, their religious faith did give them a moral (and semi-ethical at least) rudder and comfort pillow for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, including the one that gave them a conscious mind they are going to die.

        “If there is no God, then I can do anything.”
        “Gott ist mit uns.”
        Santa and his merry elves may bring you either candy or coal in your Christmas stocking.

        I see the new pope knows all about Scrooge
        and
        Kant’s moral imperative too, I’d guess.

      • American
        December 24, 2013, 11:34 am

        Citizen says:
        December 24, 2013 at 12:14 am
        @ Walid
        I’ve never come to a clear decision as to whether or not religion is a net loss or gain for humanity.”>>>>

        I havent either. But I lean toward the necessity of it for the masses just because the average person has to ‘believe’ in something bigger then himself and the human race and a ‘faith based’ attitude is easier than having to tumble with the logical and rational questions of why humans need to be better than they frequently are.
        If religion gives people comfort when things go wrong or inspires them to be kind to their fellow man I’m fine with it.
        OTOH, when religion and its faithful goes wrong ,it goes very wrong and inspires a lot of evil because it is faith based and not rational.
        Maybe we could say religion is ‘a wash’ in it’s effects on the masses.

      • Walid
        December 24, 2013, 6:21 pm

        “If religion gives people comfort when things go wrong or inspires them to be kind to their fellow man I’m fine with it.”

        American, it provides comfort as well as a road map. Imagine having to undertake such a long journey without a road map.

      • Walid
        December 24, 2013, 6:18 pm

        “If there is no God, then I can do anything.”

        Citizen, if there was no risk of punishment would you still stop at a red light and stay stopped until it turned green even when no cars were coming from the other way?

      • puppies
        December 25, 2013, 5:37 am

        “… notwithstanding the abuses brought on by ALL religions, the good that resulted from them by far outweighed the bad. Dissolving them as you suggested would also be bad because it would leave many people rudderless. Look how much people flocked back to religion after the dissolution of the USSR”
        All this tells us is, considering the statistical definition of mental retardation, that average intelligence is nothing to write home about.

    • Theo
      December 24, 2013, 1:54 pm

      Walid

      I have read many times that without the catholic church the western humanity probably would be a century or more ahead of our standing today.
      A thousand years ago in today´s Spain and Portugal the arabs had a very high culture, mathematic, astronomy and medical sciences were the best in the world, arabs, christians and jews lived peacefully side by side, and countless precious books were written on those subjects. After the christians conquered and chased away the arabs, many of those books were either burned on the order of the Vatican or simply vanished in its vaults, sending the continent back to the dark middle ages.
      During the inquisition anyone who tried to speak up against the doctrine of Rome, were either burned or silenced with treaths, see Galileo.

      Why do we need an organised religion to do good, ethic and education will do just as well?! Looking at the 50 million or so born against christian and their preachers who get filthy rich on them makes anyone a non-believer. They shoot doctors who perform abortions. How many wars did we have on religious grounds, where the Vatican did not want to lose any of its influance or wanted to extend it? The Crusades, the 15, 30 and 100 years war in Europe, the subjugation of middle and south America, etc., etc. Religion always was a tool to subjugate the poor, scaring them to obediance. Priests, bishops, rabbies, mullahs, etc. enjoyed privilages from the rulers for keeping the masses in obediance, they did a better job than all the sercet police combined.

      Supposedly God is everywhere, so why must the believers go regularly to the church, synagoge or moshee, they could talk to him at home? They must come to pay an obolus to the clergy and be kept in line, this applies most to the wandering jews, who were kept in line 2,000 years long by their rabbies.

      • Walid
        December 24, 2013, 6:34 pm

        Theo, no argument from me about all those religion-related abuses and uglies you listed. The high culture of the Arabs of back then that you mentioned was religion-driven wasn’t it? And so was the push for education, schools and so on by the various religious orders. Makes you wonder if without these religion-inspired teachers, would education have advanced at the same rate. You’re saying it would have been faster without the religion. Would the Jews have survived as a distinct group without religion?

  16. Chu
    December 23, 2013, 9:58 am

    This kinda comes off as a misdirected diatribe against Christianity that morphs into UN criticism -hardly seems comparative to the christian message the pope had made. You seeing the forest for the trees.

    I got the feeling growing up that some would embrace the Christmas (lighting that X-mas tree) while it alienated others. This article blaming Handel is like blaming Judaism for Meir Kahane.

    I see your point that Christians should wake up and do something against Israeli occupation during the holiday season. To many people want to float around and believe the world is good. But the holidays are a time for good things and good spirit. It transforms people for the next year, ending with New Years celebration and new goals ahead.

  17. PilgrimSoul
    December 23, 2013, 2:07 pm

    For one person’s insight into how corruptions within different religions actually reinforce each other, see my ‘Counterpunch’ essay “How Neo-Cons Became Honorary Christians.”

    link to counterpunch.org

    Yes, there’s disgust and a fair amount of despair in Marc’s piece, but I for one admire him for articulating it. Responsibility begins in our dreams, including our nightmares.

  18. Citizen
    December 24, 2013, 12:26 am

    I’m not religious, but what looks more forlorn than a discarded real Christmas tree a week after Christmas? Growing up, we always had a real tree, a beautiful fresh and full pine tree, preferably blue spruce. The water in the tree base only keeps it from drying out for so long.

    • Walid
      December 25, 2013, 3:48 am

      Citizen, those trees grown on specialized tree farms are cut round October 15th to allow time for shipment. Mine always last until Epiphany (“We Three Kings of Orient Are”) around January 6th. An old custom for Catholics was to wait for the visit of the parish priest to come to the house to bless the tree with the holy Epiphany water before it’s taken down; the custom also asked that a little “something” be given to the priest. But now that many people are into artificial trees, parish priests have stopped making house calls and no longer rely on such donations to survive. If the tree is drying up before its time, it could be from too much heat in the house.

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