*Except where otherwise noted, “the Jews” below means Israel or the Jews of Israel, not the Diaspora. Diaspora Jews will be referred to as such.
Mungamunga: I’ll point out the obvious: A look at European history reveals that Christians aren’t any more merciful than anyone else. Its main use in this context is to give Christians the assumed moral authority to be appalled at other people doing what they themselves have been doing for centuries. I’d point out examples like King Leopold of Belgium in historically recent times, but that would be piling on.
I will admit that the NT valorizes mercy, etc. for those who want to practice it, and the OT basically doesn’t. If anything, the fact that Christians had a founder and a text teaching mercy and yet still failed spectacularly to practice it makes them look worse if anything.
At least we are supposed to be merciful. Are the Jews? Look at how they act!
I’m thinking though that that’s why the West has been so appalled at the behavior of the Jews (Israel). The way the Jews act offends our sensibilities. Robert Fisk was reporting from there one time and he said it’s about a difference in values – the Jews value Old Testament values of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This is where I got the whole idea for this essay – from his article.
I’m having a hard time understanding why the West is so terrible and unmerciful these days.
The West is leading edge of all sorts of rights-based movements that could be argued are based on mercy. Do the Jews believe in equal rights? Hell no. Look at how they act.
The most humane prison conditions are found in the West. Do the Jews believe in humane prisons? Are you kidding?
There are countries in the West that literally have no homeless. Do the Jews believe in helping the homeless? Hell, no. One could argue that the Palestinians are the ultimate “homeless” people – the Gods of Homelessness as it were. Are the Jews building houses for these homeless folks? Hell, no. They are tearing them down and stealing everything of theirs that isn’t tied down.
Even the Jewish “Left” in Israel is shot through and through with OT values. Granted the Jews in the Diaspora act pretty good, but they are secularized and largely removed from the Jewish religion. Their behavior is based on Reform Judaism, a bake your own cake approach to Judaism where you pick and choose what you want to believe and and throw out in the Jewish religion.
“Reform Judaism: Leading the Way to a Better World”
This has resulted in a lot of Diaspora Jews pushing a Left idea that the Jews were chosen by God to lead Gentiles to a better world. I believe this is a bit insulting as it implies that we Christians can’t do it on own, but maybe that’s true and anyway I’m not one to quibble with the idea of leading the way to a better world. The basic concept is great. This is the Judaism of, say, Bernie Sanders. He’s been quoted many times to that effect. It is this impulse that has been behind most of the Jewish-led rights movements in the Diaspora for the last century.
It’s pretty obvious that the behavior of the Jews in Israel – “Jewy” Jews or Super Jews if you want to call them that because they are really Jewish – is not based on such an expansive “lead the Gentiles to a better world” way of thinking. However the Jewish Left in Israel is “progressive except for Palestine” – that is, they buy into the basic package of Reform Judaism of leading the way to a better world when it comes to everything else, but they are fascist monsters when it comes to their treatment of the Arabs. These Left Jews are already heading outside of standard Orthodox Judaism, which one can argue is the true or at least pure Jewish faith undiluted.
Marxism as an “Additive Factor” to the Rights and Mercy Based Approach to Christianity
Another huge justice-based approach has come from Marxism, which in a lot of ways has mirrored a Christian rights-based approach to mercy and fairness. No society ever treated national minorities as well as the USSR did and China does. Sure, Europe is doing this too, but this is also flowing out not just Christianity but the extent to which the Christian-based societies have had their Mercy quotient doubled by the addition of right-based Marxism to rights and Mercy-based Christianity. This is particularly powerful.
I think the Marxists were wrong to attack Christianity. It is the only religion that seems compatible with Marxism. The Jews? Forget it. They can’t do it. The Jewish Marxists in the West and the USSR all left the religion. Muslims? Muslims and Marxism don’t mix real well. It hasn’t worked out very well there, although those societies are based on “socialism for Muslims” as you point out. To that extent, the Jews also have done very well at pushing a “socialism for Jews only” in Israel.
To the Extent Christian Societies are Unmerciful, This Impulse Is Backed Up by Quoting the OT, not the NT
Our failures in the past are not particularly relevant, especially since most of that shitty behavior was backed up by quoting the Old Testament.
If you notice, all of the unmerciful stuff is being pushed by Republicans, who base it on – guess what? The Old Testament! When do you hear a Republican quoting the OT?
The Christian societies of Latin America have been deeply unmerciful, but the Left there has been based on an extreme rights and justice based approach. A lot of this is coming out of an extremely NT-based Catholic philosophy called Liberation Theology that prioritizes “the preferential option of the poor.” You see any of that in Israel? The darling of the Jewish “Left” in Israel now is fully behind Prime Minister Bennett, who openly brags about how many Arabs he has killed and says that the Palestinians will never be free. He’s as reactionary as Netanyahu.
Mungamunga: I would also note that to the extent that mercy, etc. was an ideal in Christian societies, it mainly was practiced among members of the in-group. Jews and Muslims do the same things for each other. That’s the nature of humans as a social species.
Nowadays the West is very merciful towards Muslims, Jews, etc. They have more rights in the West as minorities than they do anywhere else, where they are sometimes not treated real well. How about the Jews and the Muslims? How do they treat religious minorities? Not real well! The Christians are the only people who even try to treat religious minorities well.
A Strictly Theological Argument
In fact, I would argue that the OT isn’t even Christianity anymore. If you asked me, I would say the OT is simply Judaism. It’s not even our religion. And this is true in a theological sense.
I was mostly arguing in a theological sense and I’d prefer to keep it to that. By Christian doctrine, all of the Christians were originally Jews, bound by the Law. We also had Israel. Israel and the Law. The greatest Jew in history, Jesus Christ, came to us, possibly from the spiritual world above, to free us from the Law. In place of the Law, Jesus brought Mercy with a capital M.
The Jews, now Christians, were freed from the Law and ordered to live according to the new religion, the Religion of Mercy. At the same time as they lost the Law, they also lost Israel. So the Jews don’t get Israel anymore by Christian thinking. Instead of them getting, the “Church became the New Israel” in a theological sense. The promised land, the homeland, instead of Israel, became the Church itself. Instead of “next year in Jerusalem,” it became “next year in the Church.”
In addition, with the advent of Jesus and Mercy, the OT itself was “replaced” by the NT. That’s what Replacement Theology is all about. The OT isn’t even relevant to us Christians anymore, except perhaps as an historical document about our less than civilized roots. To me, Christianity is just the NT. We might as well throw out the OT. It’s just Judaism anyway.
Mungamunga: Its main use in this context is to give Christians the assumed moral authority to be appalled at other people doing what they themselves have been doing for centuries.
Sure, but we don’t do this anymore is the argument. And we don’t. Rest of the world following suit? Not so much. But where they are, many of them are aping the West, to their credit.
Mungamunga: I can’t really blame anyone for this, because the Christian ethic demands complete self-abnegation, or you’ve already failed. Turn the other cheek. If someone steals from you, give them more than they stole.
This part of Christianity does not fly. I’ll give you that all right. The problem with Christianity is that it requires you to be “too good.” Most of us are just not “good” enough to be these good Christians that we are supposed to be. We are too sinful in a Christian sense or one could argue survival-based instead of subjection and surrender based. For those who could not be good Christians, they had other options. Atheism, Judaism perhaps, Islam, or a warped OT version of Christianity that frankly doesn’t require you to be nearly as good or at least not so self-destructive and supplicant.