What movement do you see happening with anti-Semitism from inside the Church in UK? Are relationships between Jews and Christians improving? What bridges between faith are built in UK?
Hi Brian. Thanks for your question. I’m sorry if my answer is disappointing, but there’s two reasons I won’t be able to adequately respond.
On the first level, I prefer not to talk about “the church in X Place.” There’s practical and theological reasons for this. The theological reason is that the local church is God’s means of the world’s redemption, and as such exists as small, local outposts of his kingdom. Because of that, each local church will have its own flavour, flourishing, and failures. To group them all together and try and brand them with the same narrative would be to fail to acknowledge this.
The practical reason is related. I live in Oxford where there are so many churches. The myriad of unique individuals in those churches, and the distinctness of each local church from one another, makes it unhelpful to describe these types of trends - let alone trying to do it for the whole of the UK. If there were dome data collected, that’d be a different story. I’m not aware of any data.
The second reason is that I’m suspicious about your question, if I’m honest. The role of the Jews within and around the church of Jesus is a contested topic within evangelical circles. Some people hold to a Christian Zionist view, which claims that the fate of the Israelite nation state is linked with God’s plan for the end times. Others hold to a supersessionist view, which claims that the church supercedes Israel as the main vehicle of God’s redemption in the world and the primary recipients of God’s salvation plan. There are multiple other views with a whole lot more nuance. But, I’d want to know why you’re asking this question before I answer it.
The question I would have for someone concerned with the treatment of the Jews would be this:
- Is this a question asked because of eschatological reasons (meaning, you’re asking this because you expect the fate of the Jews to detail to Christians the progress of Jesus’ second coming)?
- Is this a question asked because of imago dei reasons (meaning, the Jews are image-bearers of God as much as are other ethnic and religious groups, and I am concerned with the plight of all people groups)?
The horror of anti-semitism to the first person is that it will cause them to be anxious about the timing of God’s second coming. The horror of anti-semitism to the second person is that it will cause righteous anger on account of people not being given the dignity and respect they’re owed by virtue of being image-bearers of God. All Christians should agree that everyone should have the second reaction toward anti-semitism, because anti-semitism violates the inherent worth of Jews who, by virtue of being human, are aware the value of bearing God’s image. Not all Christians will agree that anti-semitism has the political and eschatological significance that Christian Zionists interpret.
I hope this is helpful, Brian.
Thank you for the information. More meaning was revealed by your concerns I think. In the USA, we don’t get too much of an accurate pulse of the Church in many places. After doing a 10 minute crash research skim on the internet of UK anti-Semitism, it seems to be a nasty mess outside the UK Church. I would expect the trouble has leaked into the body there as well as things that migrate into the body here on the west coast of the ocean between us.
I speculate that relationships must be strained from what you haven’t said. Your comments of potentially two camps interested about anti-Semetism was interesting. Some other folks who may not perceive the embarrassing history of hate between Jews and Christians may think that anti-Semitism is a new / old problem that has a bearing on endtimes. On the contrary, I think the opportunities for reconciliation and bridge building are more available and needed than ever. It would be helpful if the Church could be light and love to our ancestors of faith we are grafted upon. It is a toxic world of hate in the UK and USA where we witness uncivilized hate against Jewish brothers in our own countries. It is much worse in some places of the world, but we have some semblance of concern in our own countries to cut out the cancer before it overtakes us.
-Or we don’t really care.
Thanks for responding to this - it’s nice to have a conversation about this with you. Reading through my initial post, I realise I could have been more clear in articulating what I was trying to do. Sorry about that! Our views on Israel will determine the significance we attribute toward anti-semitism. So, I think it’s important to talk about how different Christians think about Israel differently. All Christians would agree that the Jews are a special group of people by virtue of being used by God historically. Similarly, all Christians would agree that the Jews are due the dignity and worth of all humans, by virtue of bearing the image of God.
However, not all Christians agree on the place and position of the ethnic Jews in the ends times. Some think that the Jews have their own covenant alongside the church, climaxing in their re-entry into Jerusalem and the building of their temple. Some think that the Jews failed in their vocation, forfeiting God’s promises to them through the prophets, only to be replaced by the church. Others sit somewhere in the middle, thinking of the Jews as God’s grace-chosen agent through which he desired to act in history, and because of which they hold a special place in the kingdom of God (though, again, Christians disagree on what that special place is; whether it is metaphorical or literal, etc). There’s no shortage of options. But it is important to articulate this first, because a person’s view on the significance of Israel will determine what they make of anti-semitism.
Also, you’re so right - there has been a lot of talk about anti-Semitism within the UK more broadly. It was in politics and covered by the media, particularly earlier this year. As followers of Jesus, we need to be vigilant so that such sentiment doesn’t enter into the church. It is lamentable the degree of violence conducted against the Jews, particularly noting the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh last year.
The evils of anti-Semitism are not new either - you’re right to note! It seems to peep its head every so often, most notably in the 20th century. People like Martin Luther - a father of the Reformation, really - himself was accused of being anti-Semitic on account of the way he read the book of Galatians. Anti-Semitism shows itself in multiple ways, and we should be cautious to avoid it and quick to mourn it.