View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Roused to Action 

Oy gevalt, as they say.

End-of-quarter projects in school, hours to bill at my day job, and deadline for a day school Purim project. And yet, the dog insists on both being walked and fed. Now I know why Lileks took a month off. But I have something today to post.

The Pentacostal Church on Colorado Blvd. and Mississippi has, in response to a film of current interest, posted a sign saying "The Jews Killed Our Lord Jesus. Settle." Now the sign doesn't say exactly what they're supposed to settle, but my guess is that "scores" and "accounts" are more likely than "differences." I am also informed by reader Dennis Heimbigner that the word wasn't "settle" but "settled," perhaps indicating that this was, in the Pastor's mind, "settled law," or something like that. It certainly changes the tenor, although not the substance, of the accusation. I have no idea what his position on the settlements is.

Jews and Christians have deep, indeed unbridgeable theological differences. This Alliance, including at least one atheist, works because we agree to disagree and not "immanentize the eschaton," as Bill Buckley would put it. The larger conservative tent works for the same reason. A great rabbi of the last generation, Rabbi Soloveitchik, (Solo-vay-chick, for you news anchors out there), understood that Jews and Christians can work together in civil society, but can't really have theological arguments, nor can we seek to excise parts of each others' religions. But it's hard to read this sign as anything other than an incitement to anti-Semitism.

Leaving aside the whole moneylender-moneychanger thing about settling accounts, this is pretty offensive. I was born just after Vatican II, so didn't get to enjoy the experience of being personally blamed for Easter. But there are church windows in Europe, voluminous writings, and millions of graves testifying to the frightening power of this canard over the centuries. Things had moved so far along that deeply religious Christian friends of mine didn't even know this had been taught. A Jewish character on the short-lived "Sportsnight" could go on a riff about how his family had driven the getaway car, and it was funny. Just the other day I was joking about how having a sign outside the JCC saying that "Pilates Is Here" might not be the best timing.

Thing is, this really is part of the past, and one suspects, not the future. There's going to be a rally tonight at the church, attended by Jews and Christians, calling on the Pastor to tear down that sign. Who knows, he might even show up himself, although I'm not sure you give a mike to a man with a sign. Evangelicals may believe that I'm going to convert at the End of Days, but the notion that my recalcitrance on this point is actually delaying God from acting is foreign to them. It's a excellent sign that so many of them now feel the need to defend their own faith from people like this, and from charges of Jew-hatred.

Please note: I'm not criticizing a film I haven't seen yet, but intend to, and in the company of those more qualified than I to understand its faithfulness to the gospels and its likely interpretation by religious Christians. I am, at this moment, completely, er, agnostic, on the subject of Mr. Gibson's film, but think that attacking it before seeing it is more than a little presumptuous. This discussion has nothing to do with "The Passion."


During lunch, I decided to go down to the church and snap a few pictures, lest the good Pastor back down and decide to erase the evidence. Sadly, some third party had already decided to do so, taking down the word "Jews" from both sides of the sign:

Trust me, the letters she had in her truck as she drove away were two each of "J," "E," "W," and "S." Cynthia McKinney's father would have been able to help. This was not the solution I would have voted for. This is the Canadian solution, shutting people up whom you don't like, rather than winning the argument in open debate. It's not exactly the Canadian solution, since she wasn't in a government truck, wielding a badge and threatening the Pastor with jail unless he replaced one "Jews" with "Juifs." But it's close enough.

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