Who is afraid of the Jews? Marc Barnes, apparently, in another one of his frustratingly insightful posts. As someone who is Not Quite Jewish (it’s the matrilineal descent thing), my introduction to the God of Israel was through the Passover Seder. And, in spite of the best efforts of our Maxwell Coffeehouse Haggadahs, it did a pretty good job of impressing on me the fact that the god my ancestors worshiped was not some abstract principle, but rather an incomprehensible, living power that had taken up a role in history with wonderful and terrifying results.
Of course, there’s that other form of Jew-fearing, which is, alas, still too common these days even in our most enlightened quarters. Barnes has an interesting Walker Percy quote:
As Walker Percy says, “The Jews are both a sign and a stumbling block. That is why they are hated by theorists like Hitler (fascism/racism) and Stalin (fascism/communism). The Jews cannot be gotten around.”
Secularism has always been awkward when it comes to the Jews – on the one hand, they’re an oppressed minority and invite all the pieties that come from falling into that category. On the other hand, their identity as a nation consists of the exact thing that secularists want to rid the world of. The Jews remain a tacit threat to the secularist worldview. In one of her essays, Elizabeth Anscombe noted that the modern notion of, “you have what works for you and I have what works for me” is just a resurgence of the pagan notion of different peoples having their own gods. So naturally if Egypt didn’t take kindly to hearing that their gods were considered an abomination by God, your modern heathen will at the very least get all puffed up over “The Chosen People Complex”.
Similarly, the Church -an actual, tangible institution with its own country – claims to be a monarchy ruled by God. Alexander Pruss makes the intriguing suggestion that Lewis’ famous trilemma regarding Christ can be applied just as well in the case of the Church. If this stuff’s not true, then it’s madness; but surely if it’s madness it would be riddled with holes after two millenia.
Most institutions and groups that make the sort of extravagant claims about themselves that devout Jews and the Papacy do tend to be manifestly crazy, short lived and easily ignorable. Yet both of them are still around and intact after thousands of years, and both continue to be the object of intense hatred and loathing the world over.
People seem to be desperate to find any sort of explanation for why we still have popes and Jews among us – any sort that avoids all the God stuff. When’s the last time you heard a good conspiracy theory about the church of Scientology?