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Christ the Culprit?

January 4, 2001

Time magazine has just hailed an intellectual breakthrough: “A new book claims that Christianity, not just bad Christians, is to blame for persecution of the Jews.”

What an original idea! This must be only the fortieth book to come up with it. The book is Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, by James Carroll (Houghton Mifflin). Carroll is one of those liberal ex-priests who insist that they are staunch Catholics while defaming their Church at every turn.

According to Time’s reviewer, Carroll, whose book is “brave” and “fascinating” (though it merely repeats a thesis that has become safe and commonplace), blames anti-Semitism and the Holocaust on the popes, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the medieval Church, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, the Church fathers, and even the authors of the Gospels. Has he left anyone out?

Well, yes. Why not blame Jesus Christ? He certainly had quarrels with the Jews and made some harsh and provocative remarks about them. Why let Christ off the hook? If the Church has so consistently opposed the Jews for two millennia, might not its Founder have had some influence in the matter? Are we really supposed to believe that, once he had left this earth, Christianity immediately adopted a doctrine totally alien to him? If the Church is so thoroughly anti-Semitic, why not trace its anti-Semitism to Christ himself?

[Breaker quote: History, 
heavily edited]Ah, but that might be a little more “brave” than Carroll deems prudent. It might cut him off from the Faith to which he professes allegiance. Christ is a pretty imposing figure even now. Safer to blame the Church, the popes, even the Apostles, than the Founder himself. One nubile movie star, blaming the Catholic Church in a recent interview for inhibiting her sex life, never fingered Christ as the culprit — as if Catholic doctrines didn’t reflect Christ’s own stern teachings on lust, but were superimposed by a bunch of old celibate males.

You’ll notice that whenever people dislike Christianity, they blame whatever they dislike about it on everyone but Jesus. They’d have us believe that they have no quarrel with Christ’s “authentic” teachings, with which they are in total agreement, but reject only those alien accretions that started collecting, as they claim, the moment Christ departed.

The so-called Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal theologians, has even decided to tell us which Gospel sayings Jesus “really” spoke — and the “authentic” ones always turn out to be those that are acceptable to modern liberalism. It’s easy to see why. If you want to make Jesus Christ a modern liberal, you have to edit the Gospels pretty heavily. Garry Wills does something similar in his recent book, Papal Sin, which purports to be a critique of the modern papacy but winds up rejecting some ancient and basic Catholic doctrines. Of course Wills never admits that he rejects any of Christ’s own teachings.

Just as those who cant about “anti-Semitism” stop short of indicting Christ, those who cant about “racism” present a heavily expurgated version of Abraham Lincoln, and for similar reasons. If even Lincoln was a “racist,” the word loses its sting. He has to be preserved as the great icon of “racial justice,” the “color-blind society,” “civil rights,” and all that. So we rarely hear about Lincoln’s actual views on race.

Wills has written a book on Lincoln too: Lincoln at Gettysburg, which won a Pulitzer Prize, portrays the familiar Great Emancipator of liberal mythology with hardly a blemish. The book disingenuously avoids all mention of Lincoln’s devotion to the cause of removing “free colored persons” from the United States, his denial that blacks should be American citizens, or his proposal of a constitutional amendment to authorize their deportation (“with their consent,” it should be noted) to other countries. Professor Wills, meet Parson Weems.

For the real Lincoln, the United States was, and should ideally be, a white nation, and by “the American people” he meant the white people. As one wag quipped: “Mighty white of you, Abe!”

Liberals know they can’t afford to make full frontal assaults on such venerable figures as Christ and Lincoln. So they continue to feed the public false images and censored versions of them. You have to wonder how long liberalism could survive without lies.

Joseph Sobran

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