Line by Line

Catholics Can't Accept Anti-Semitism

posted January 2, 2019

Tags: morals and ethics, religion, social justice

Anti-Semitism has always been a problem, but it's currently a growing problem, both in general and in Catholic circles, and we need to cut it out.

I mean, that's obvious, right? It bothers me that this needs to be said, and I'm still not sure I even should say it. Am I just virtue signaling? “Hey, guys, I'm not part of the problem, go be mad at someone else”? I don't know. But I can't just keep silent and let bigots claim to speak for me.

That, more or less, is the crux of a recent post by Simcha Fisher, who has been suffering anti-Semitic trolling and even threats of violence for just about as long as she's been a Catholic blogger with a Jewish-sounding name.

I tend to avoid the corners of the Internet where this sort of thing tends to appear, but I've seen hints of it anyway: When Fisher lost her National Catholic Register writing gig over some kerfuffle allegedly about swearing on Facebook, I posted a comment on Mark Shea's blog suggesting that Fisher seek funding via Patreon. It didn't take long for someone to reply that she should have no trouble getting money from George Soros.

Soros is a billionaire investor/philanthropist. Wikipedia tells me he made more money than I'll ever see in my life by taking advantage of a “currency crisis,” whatever that is. He has put money into a lot of different business ventures philanthropic causes, which is one of the reasons he's at the center of a and number of conspiracy theories blaming him for pretty much everything any right-wing pundit ever didn't like. The other reason is that he's Jewish.

The implication, of course, is that because Fisher is also Jewish, the Jewish billionaire would be taking care of her in order to further the Jewish conspiracy. Whether the commenter actually believed this (or intended readers to believe it) or was just being a wiseacre is beside the point.

Look, I'm not a fan of Soros. I don't like the idea of some rich guy using his money to give himself a disproportionate influence over politics and society. But that means I also don't like the Koch brothers, Warren Buffet, or tech barons like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Elon Musk.

Other than Soros, I have no idea whether any of those people are Jewish. I also don't care. Their ethnicity doesn't matter, and neither does their religion. What matters is that they use their money to benefit their pet interests, and push their preferred solutions, in ways that we normal people could never hope to match, let alone counteract if their causes or methods turn out to be harmful to the common good.

By the same token, I don't like large corporations that lobby for ever-stricter protections of their own business models and ever-weaker protections for consumers. And they can't even have religions or ethnicities.

As for Soros, I only know he's Jewish because people on the Internet keep bringing it up. Why do people keep bringing it up if it's really his investments, and not the fact that he's Jewish, that they have a problem with? Why is it Soros, and none of the others I mentioned, whose name has become synonymous with “sinister globalist investor”? This is kind of like criticizing the Obama administration and always making sure to remind people that he was black, or criticizing the Supreme Court but only ever naming Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh (the five Catholic justices).

Why are Christians, and Catholics in particular, doing this? Singling some people out as responsible for society's ills based on their religion or ethnicity is not Christian behavior. That's not the kind of world Christians should strive to create. It's the world Christianity lived in for the first centuries of its existence, with Christians themselves as the victims.

Some cite the role of Jews in oppressing early Christians as a justification for their animus against Jews today. Not only is this illogical, but it's also a weapon that Christians (especially straight, white, male Christians) should be wary of, as it can and will be turned against us. Obviously, I don't think anyone has the right to be a jerk to me just because of all the oppression others—including Jews—have suffered at the hands of Christians, straight men, or white people. (Note that I am not using that statement as a springboard to launch into a rambling digression about straight/white/male/Christian privilege. You're welcome.)

There's even historical precedent for this. The way “globalism” is used as a euphemism for an alleged Jewish conspiracy should sound awfully familiar to us Catholics, as it's practically an American tradition to accuse Catholics of a global conspiracy to subvert democracy in favor of a papal theocracy. It sounds like the stuff of Chick tracts nowadays, but it was a serious obstacle to the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had to bend over backwards to emphasize the separation between his private religious beliefs and his public political career, which has remained a tradition among present-day Catholic politicians seeking to justify their dissent from the Church.

Fortunately for us, the overt anti-Catholicism has waned in more recent years (albeit partly because of Catholics who subordinate their faith to their politics), but if we tolerate the exact same prejudices when they're aimed at Jews, it will only be a matter of time before they're pointed at us again. Do I need to fill in the Martin Niemöller quote for you guys, or do you get the picture?

Now, while this is concerning, it's not my real reason for opposing prejudice against the Jewish people. I oppose it, and would oppose it even if I had a guarantee of never being on the receiving end, because it's wrong, always and everywhere, no matter who is doing it to whom. It is our duty as Catholics to work to end bigotry, not to stand by and let it happen.

That would still be true even if the Jews did turn out to be up to something sinister. We should focus on ending the cycle of violence and hate, not continuing it. And not just because I said so: Christ himself commands it, insisting that we forgive those who trespass against us, turn the other cheek when struck, love our enemies, and pray for our persecutors. Failure to do this is failure to love as Jesus loved, and thus failure to be fully Christian.

More to the point: Anti-Semitism itself is a failure to be fully Christian. Harboring hatred for Jews, or any other group, is a failure to be fully Christian.

That's not a No True Scotsman. I'm not saying Christian anti-Semites don't count as Christians. They do. That's why it's our duty as Christians to speak against them, and not just ignore the problem and hope it goes away.