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Christian nationalists in Congress astonishingly regurgitate ‘Jews killed Jesus’ notion

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A photo of the U.S. Capitol

It’s shocking that Christian nationalist members of Congress are essentially repeating the biblical trope that “Jews killed Jesus” in their objection to the recent passage of an antisemitism measure.

Under the bill, they have complained, Christians could be penalized for “believing the Gospel.” Ironically, the legislation was introduced by House Republicans to repudiate the pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, in what may be seen as a “holier-than-thou” move to smear Democrats who are free-speech proponents as tolerating antisemitism.

While the Antisemitism Awareness Act passed the House, 70 Democrats voted “nay,” along with 21 Republicans. The bill would require the Education Department to use the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which in part defines as antisemitic statements “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” and those claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor.” The attorney who drafted this definition has previously testified it wasn’t intended to be used “as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus” but rather to help governments collect data on antisemitism.

Among the bill’s opponents is the seniormost Jewish House Democrat, Jerry Nadler, who said that the definition “may include protected speech in some contexts, particularly with respect to criticism of the state of Israel.”

Some conservative Christians in Congress, while prefacing objections with public condemnations of antisemitism, expressed less high-minded views.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene insisted that the bill “could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz over social media said that “the Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of the bill,” and quoted the New Testament about the crucifixion of Jesus. “The bible is clear,” he added. “There is no myth or controversy about this.”

And Sen. Roger Marshall said he would offer an amendment to strike that definition if the bill comes up in the Senate, saying, “Obviously as a born-again Christian I believe that the Holy Bible is the word of God.”

Other public figures with a similar perspective added their voices.

“Congress votes to make the Bible illegal hate speech. I guess I’ll see you all in jail!” wrote Lauren Witzke, a former Republican senatorial candidate.

“Did the House of Representatives just make parts of the bible illegal?”  asked extremist influencer Charlie Kirk. “Yes,” replied Tucker Carlson, former Fox News host. “The New Testament.”

What precisely are the “parts of the bible” that are used to condemn Jews as the killer of Jesus? One notorious passage is John 8:44. Jesus, who is speaking to Jews plotting against him and seeking to arrest him and stone him to death, says: “Ye are of your father the devil.” A modern translation, “Jews are the children of Satan,” was on the Gab profile of the man who shot and killed 11 people at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in 2018.

In First Thessalonians 2:15, Paul refers to the people of Jerusalem as being responsible for Jesus’ death.

Then there’s Matthew 27, which Harold Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity at the Yale Divinity School,  called in an interview with CBS News the “most widely cited in the persecution of Jews, especially in German antisemitism with Nazis and the like.” This passage describes Jewish crowds in Jerusalem being given the choice of releasing either Jesus or the prisoner Barabbas, and choosing Barabbas. “Let him be crucified,” Matthew 27:23 has the Jewish crowd saying. “His blood be on us, and all our children,” they add in Matthew 27:25.

“That sentiment,” according to CBS News, “whether inadvertently or as part of a deliberate strategy by early Christians to rationalize their connection to Judaism, laid the groundwork for centuries of antisemitism. Stories about the death of Jesus sparked violence by Christians against their Jewish neighbors, often abetted or actively instigated by local authorities across Europe. In fact, long before the Nazis devised racial theories to push for the annihilation of the Jewish people, leaders of the Christian church itself painted the Jews as a ‘despised people’ meant to wander the Earth in misery and marginality.”

Some theologians warn, understandably, not to take biblical passages “out of context.” They point out that Jesus was a Jew and the accounts of Jesus’ death clearly have Romans arresting and crucifying him. After nearly 2,000 years of persecution, including the Inquisition and pogroms, the Catholic Church in 1965 finally said Jews could not be considered collectively accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 wrote there was no basis in scripture for the claim that Jews were responsible for killing Jesus. Nevertheless, as Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible author Ruth Hurmence Green observed, the bible, with its many violent, bigoted, sexist, racist and yes — antisemitic — verses, is “a behavioral grab bag,” waiting, like a time bomb, to be set off.

Shouldn’t it give Christian believers pause, however, that key narratives in the New Testament about Jesus, whether taken “out of context” or not, inspired the Nazi genocide of at least 6 million Jews in the last century? “Holy books” that continually spawn “holy wars” deserve to be rejected in toto.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for the article. It’s ridiculous nonsense, trying to figure out who did what in the Bible and how Christian Nationals can use that to their advantage.

    Doesn’t it seem like it gets to the point where these dividing lines make no sense at all? People seem to want to hang on to an “us versus them” mentality. That’s OK if you’re talking about sports teams, but not the two sides of a war. War is always wrong.

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