I recently had a really icky, rotten experience.
I'm purposely using emotional, little kid words like "icky" and "rotten" because they best encapsulate the essence of this experience.
I had an encounter with a Jewish anti-Christianity bigot via Facebook.
It wasn't an intellectual experience or a sociological experience or a geopolitical experience, even though it involved religious conflicts that go back millennia. It was an icky, rotten personal experience with a rude, ignorant man who wanted to beat up on a Christian girl and did.
In August I received an email from "Rob," a man who said he had read something I'd written and liked it. He said he was looking to meet people with "good values, rational sense and intellectual curiosity," and that meant me. He wanted to be Facebook friends. I accepted. He sent me several follow-up emails telling me he'd read other works by me and liked them, too.
I responded as I usually do. "Thank you for the positive feedback," I said. And I said nothing more.
He invited me to what sounded like a luxurious vacation home. I didn't go but thanked him.
Then the first negative email.
He began, again, with compliments "I like your writing, its clarity, its unashamed moral voice, its appeal to reason and its relying on facts."
But, he said, I was wrong about Christianity.
Rob wrote, "Anti-Semitism is endemic to Christianity…it is implicit in its theology … Christianity was at its start a type of Judaism mostly followed by Jews but early on, there was a falling out, arising from Jew's unwillingness to leave Judaism and to become Christian. I think there was a power struggle to determine if the religion would be controlled by Jews or ex-Pagans and the Jews lost. I think the early church resented this and needed to distance from Judaism. I think Christians needed to be more welcoming to Romans; so they white washed the Roman's holocaust in Judea. The Romans killed about 2 million Jews and Crucified about 100,000 Jews. Instead of the Romans being the villain of the story, the Jews became the villain.
"I harbored resentments of Christianity … Christianity constantly fights against evil, if not always successfully. Yet the eternal Nazi, the eternal psychopath, will always and must always hate the Jews. They will do it however they can and hijack or coop the Church when they can … Maybe Jesus didn't die for your sins, but Jews did."
Rob spewed a bunch of pseudo-facts about Poland, the Pale of Settlement, and Torquemada, the kind of "truths" that one could "learn" from reading Leon Uris, watching Bill Maher, paying attention to leftwing professors, and listening to NPR. In other words, intellectually worthless stereotypes, misunderstandings, and manipulated Christophobic propaganda.
Me, I deal with facts. I respect scholarship. I sacrificed to learn. I have zero tolerance for bullshit.
I politely responded to Rob. I responded with facts. My replies were much shorter than his emails to me. I mostly just referenced peer-reviewed scholarly books published by university presses.
I corrected Rob's historical errors, especially about Poland. There are two Polands: there is an historical reality, Poland, and there is a mythical land about which self-described "educated" people can make any absurd statement they like, and not be challenged, for example, that the Nazis put the concentration camps in Poland because they knew Poles would approve. Anyone who thinks that the Nazis were eager to receive occupied Poland's approval for anything is talking about mythical Poland.
Rob responded with personal insults directed against me. He was shocked, shocked, that I did not want to accept his assessment of Christianity as inherently anti-Semitic and tantamount to Nazism.
And Rob responded at length. One message was almost three thousand words long.
It was apparently very important for this man to convince one Christian woman that Christianity sucks.
In one of his subsequent messages, Rob said something very telling, "I think you find this conversation more problematic than I thought."
I blame Christians. I blame church leaders.
Christian apologetics is a scholarly discipline devoted to the public, intellectual support for Christian faith.
Where is it?
I spent most of my life as a Christian. I went to a Catholic grade school. I didn't even know Christian apologetics existed until relatively recently.
What did I know?
I knew that Christians in the modern world walk around with slumped shoulders and hangdog faces, apologizing for all of Christianity's real and imagined crimes. I know that Christians in media are mea culpa, breast beating wimps, ashamed and afraid to speak up for their faith. I know that public Christians are also often utterly ignorant. They often do think that Nazism was Christian, for example. They think this because they are as stupid as rocks when it comes to the intellectual history of Nazism.
I know that any public Christians who do show any zeal are often not the same Christians who have any intellectual chops. Tammy Faye Bakker was a charismatic spokeswoman for Christianity, but she was no Thomas Aquinas.
Those Christians who are public intellectuals, like Garry Wills, are more famous for their scathing criticisms of the church than for arguing for faith.
And then there are Christianity-bashing liars and intellectual sluts like James Carroll and John Cornwell.
We live in an era where it is hip to be Christophobic. Christopher Hitchens is cool. Bill Maher is cool. Sam Harris is cool. They are all psychopathological hatemongers. But they are cool. They hate the right people. Christians.
Public Christians want to be in media and so they play the game – "Yes, I am Christian and oh I am so ashamed of that."
And I blame Protestants. Protestants churn out an amazing amount of anti-Catholic claptrap. Christophobes glom on to this stuff.
Christian apologetics, which does a brilliant job of representing our faith, is marginalized. It should not be. It should be in neon letters as big as the Hollywood sign.
Another reason I blame Christians.
I am a Christian. I am a Christian after years of study and exploration of other faiths. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God who was born of a virgin, lived as a man, taught and healed, and died on a cross for my sins. I believe he rose again from the dead. I believe he hears my prayers. I believe the lives of everybody on planet earth would be immediately improved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am proud to be Christian. I am proud of my Christian forebears. I will not apologize for being Christian and I will not stand by silently while others insult my faith, which is the most important thing in my life.
Why don't more Christians say such things publicly?
Rob didn't even get how insulting and inflammatory his emails to me were. He didn't get what a clod he was being by sending me emails saying, "Maybe Jesus didn't die for your sins, but Jews did."
Why do Christian students sit passively in college classrooms as professors insult their faith? Why do Christian Facebook users post links to clips by Bill Maher?
Why do Christian laugh when Christophobic "jokes" are told at parties?
Of course bullies like Rob think it's okay to send thousand-word emails to complete strangers insulting Christianity. Christians, in their weak and cowardly refusal to stand up for their faith, telegraph to bullies like Rob that that's okay to do. Of course Rob thought that I would make a nice, passive, punching bag for the venting of his hostility. That's what Christians do, right?
I want to respond to a couple of Rob's laughable "intellectual points."
That Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic. That is, wherever you find Christianity, you will find anti-Semitism.
America is one of the most Christian countries in the world. It is one of the least anti-Semitic. The two are related.
No, the New Testament is not an anti-Semitic book.
Yes, there are scathing criticisms of Jews in the New Testament. Those criticisms were written by Jews, writing in a Jewish tradition of self-criticism that is much more powerfully represented in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament God speaks of his chosen people in terms that could chill your bones. Read examples like Psalm 78: 10-11, II Kings 17: 7-8, Jeremiah 32: 30, II Kings 17: 18-20, Psalm 78: 59-62, I Kings 14: 15, Amos 9: 8, and there's a lot more where that came from.
Please don't ever tell me the New Testament is an anti-Semitic book unless you can tell me how the critical verses in the New Testament are more problematical than the critical verses in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, Jesus, the son of God, a man and a Jew, states unequivocally, "Salvation is from the Jews." John 4 22.
In the beautiful document, Nostra Aetate, the Vatican states, "Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself … God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues – such is the witness of the Apostle."
Pope John Paul II said that Jews are Christians' "older brothers." "With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers."
I have not encountered such positive statements about Christians or Christianity among Jews; if they exist, please inform me.
No, The Second Vatican Council of the 1960s was not the first time the Catholic Church rejected the charge of "Jews killed Jesus." I am not a church historian but I know that the charge of deicide was articulately rejected at the sixteenth century Council of Trent, and, I suspect, before.
No, theology did not spark pogroms; economic patterns which no longer exist did. Please read Edna Bonacich, Amy Chua, and "Bieganski."
Yes, the church did denounce pogroms, and even try to stop them; the church also repeatedly denounced blood libel.
Yes, Christians have done horrible things to Jews, and Christians have repeatedly comes to terms with that, and worked to make sure it never happens again.
The most heinous, despicable, and false of Rob's accusations is that Christianity is tantamount to Nazism. And, yes, Christians regularly make similar stupid statements.
Please read "Nazism's Inspirations and Foundations: Atheism, Scientism, Darwinism, Nationalism, and Neo-Paganism." It walks you through the thought processes that allowed Nazis to commit mass murder, even though they often found it unpleasant to do so.
None of these debating points will mean anything to the Robs of the world. Rob clings to his resentments against Christianity because it works for him to do so. If you want to learn more about that, again, read "Bieganski," especially the chapters at the end that talk about the interviews.