Rising to Meet Antisemitism

Rev. Terry Kyllo, Paths to Understanding

Last spring I was honored to interview Devin Burghart from IREHR, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. We spoke about white nationalism and white Christian nationalism, how it threatens our democracy, and what we can do about it. This conversation has been much on my mind as we have seen Antisemitic statements, movements, and violence against our Jewish neighbors on a terrible, upward trajectory.

I asked Devin about the narrative world that drives white nationalism and Christian nationalism. Essentially the story goes like this:

  • Elites are threatening you from above
  • People of color are trying to take what you have from below

These movements place our Jewish neighbors in the role of the elites, as running everything. As one commentator said, if Kanye West gets away with his Antisemitic statements Antisemitism gets worse. If he loses his contracts, then people can assume their toxic conspiracy theory is correct. That is the way conspiracy theories work. When you hear this basic narrative on your favorite news network or from your friends on Facebook, understand that they are repeating this nationalist narrative.

The combination of social media, hate group messaging, and statements by politicians are all adding fuel to Antisemitism. Built on centuries of bias and bigotry and fed by the anxieties of our times, violence against many minority groups is on the rise. I left pastoral ministry in 2016 to join efforts to counter the dehumanization of Muslim Americans. I knew that the toxic dynamic of hate would lead to more hate against other groups, including our Jewish neighbors.

As a practicing Christian, I continue to be aware of the work Christians must do to counter Antisemitism.

Christians, I feel, must engage in an ongoing evaluation of how our practice of our tradition enables Antisemitism. This includes everything from how we tell our story of origin, how we interpret Jesus’ debates with his own community, to more respectfully naming our scriptures the Christian Scriptures instead of a “New Testament” which implies that Christianity replaced the Judaism. We are doing some of this work in our course Let’s Go Together.

This work must also include sermons, education, and public statements to counter Antisemitism, Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and racist beliefs of all kinds. When Christians are silent we contribute to a dynamic that threatens physical, emotional, and spiritual harm to our neighbors.

At PTU, we are preparing for the vigil and funeral of Father William Treacy, one of our founders. He was profoundly changed by his relationship with Rabbi Raphael Levine. Father Treacy learned to debate with the Rabbi, to address issues as an equal, and to take risks to stand with and behind his friend. I hope to continue to learn from his example – rising to counter the nationalist narrative that is trying to tear us part.

You can listen to my conversation with Devin here: https://youtu.be/mmK2PrCZHLc

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