Klaus has an extremely important argument, in the realm of “ideas not people,” as Dennis Prager emphasizes in his books, that should be considered objectively and intelligently. Dennis Prager is allowed to interpret, judge, and condemn other people’s beliefs but those who subscribe to those beliefs are not permitted to defend their own beliefs without being slammed with “antisemite;” having their claims deliberately distorted as “racist,” and shut down, even imprisoned, as “neo-Nazis.” This has been going on for decades, perhaps centuries, and it affects not just Jewish-non-Jewish relations but also Christianity’s interpretation of itself.
The core of the conflict is seated in the meaning of — or thoughtless affirmation of — “monotheism”. The god of the Hebrew scriptures demands that his chosen people — and that does not include anyone other than Hebrews/Jews — worship hm alone, under pain of death to Jews under varying circumstances, and under a broad grant to Jews to take the lives of non-Jews for their failure to worship the “one god, yahweh.” In “Still the Best Hope,” Dennis Prager writes about what a “good thing it was” that Jews cleared out that cesspool in Canaan, where non-Yahweh was being worshipped. Canaanites might have a different pov.
Elijah gets props for killing the 450 priests of Ba’al. How is that act any different from a white supremacist killing priests and worshipers at a Sikh temple? Yet the work of Elijah is enshrined as a holy and to be emulated.
Monotheism is not the same as universalism. Abba Eban explains in “Heritage, Civilization & the Jews” how the god of the Hebrews becomes universalized: the Hebrew god acts in history. When, for example, the Egyptian people are seen to act in a harmful way toward Hebrews, the Hebrew process of interpreting religio-history casts Egyptians in the role of yahweh’s instrument to express yahweh’s posture toward his chosen people at the time. The Egyptian people are under the sway & control of yahweh — i.e. Yahweh has universal dominion over them — but they are decidedly not among his chosen people — by definition.
Some people object to being the tool of a jealous and particularist god who uses them — or kills them — in order to send one message or another to his chosen people.
Most Christians, however, endorse full incorporation of Hebrew scriptures in their own belief system, and necessarily, by extension, the right and duty of adherents to the Hebrew god to eradicate any who deviate from the ‘monotheistic’ path. Christians deal with the irrationality of this situation by claiming that Christians are the “new chosen people.” John Winthrop made that claim in staking the Massachusetts Bay colony as a Christian territory, destined to be a “light among the nations.” Roger Williams, a contemporary of Winthrop’s, held a different view, one more in line with the empirical ideas of Francis Bacon; although Thomas Jefferson, James Madison & Benjamin Franklin were closer to Williams’ view (and certainly to Bacon’s) than to Winthrop, the latter seems to have prevailed in the USA.
Abe Foxman has made it a personal mission to disabuse the Vatican and the Christian world of the view that Christians are the successor “chosen people.”
The British, at least from the colonial times of Winthrop, fully endorsed the incorporation of Hebrew scriptures into their mythos and ethos.
German churchmen did not. Martin Luther was harsh and intemperate in his critique of the god of Hebrew scriptures. Four centuries later, Walter Grundmann took a more irenic approach, treading ground that Thomas Jefferson and Ernest Renan had ploughed before him — sorting out the scriptural Jesus from the human Jesus, and detaching Christianity from a Hebrew matrix.
In “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany,”Susannah Heschel distills the quest:
“Most members of the Institute [for the Study and Elimination of Jewish Influence on German Church Life], particularly its academic director, Walter Grundmann, professor of New Testament at the University of Jena, regarded their work as being in the theological avant-garde, addressing and resolving a problem that had long plagued Christian theology: how to establish clear and distinct boundaries between earliest Christianity and Judaism and eliminate all traces of Jewish influence from contemporary Christian theology and religious practice.” pp. 1-2
As Heschel notes, a large proportion of German scholars, preachers, and congregants supported Grundmann’s quest. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, and large and influential groups in the American Christian community condemned Grundmann’s “rationalization” of the “inerrant” bible, and Heschel, of course, condemned the Institute as “anti-semitic” and Nazi, after first twisting herself and logic all out of shape in order to be able to call the Institute “racist.”
At numerous junctures Heschel attacks Grundmann for “deviating from Christian tradition and doctrine.”
That leaves wide open the question: Of what concern is it to Heschel or to any Jewish person how Christians choose to define their beliefs, and whether they choose to separate what they consider Christian beliefs and scriptures from Hebrew beliefs and scriptures? Neither Heschel nor any Jewish person has any standing whatsoever to define Christianity to Christians, any more than Dennis Prager has standing to define–and condemn– Shari’a law for Muslims.
In the wake of the Colorado killings, a letter in a local newspaper declaimed on the necessity of “returning to God” to solve the ills manifest by the shooter’s acts.
I’m forced to ask, What god? The god who endorsed and enabled the killing of the first-born of Egyptians? The god who endorsed Elijah’s killing of the 450 priests of Ba’al? The god who affirmed the killing and plunder of the Canaanites and Jericho? I don’t want anything to do with that god. Aren’t the American people doing the same thing as that god — killing those who are not monotheistically committed to the same beliefs as we are?
Jefferson, Madison, Franklin established the United States Constitutional republic on notions that included the moral code of a de-scripturalized Jesus. I don’t find in that moral code of Jesus any endorsement of killing one’s enemies OR friends, real or imagined. I think that’s the Jesus Grundmann was trying to get at. Pity he did not succeed.
Grundmann and the thousands of German people who supported his views sought to diverge from that monotheistic path, in a principled and non-violent way.