Keeping silent to the sounds of hate is what I call a sin of omission. Refraining from naming hateful speech for what it is cooperating with hate. White supremacy groups are on the rise in our country and others. Their hate is normalized by a society and leaders who affirm the complaints and claims of these groups. When people perceived by others to have power, whether by their celebrity or by their political position, spew hate, that gives permission for others to do likewise. Hate begets hate. This is why we must speak out and name antisemitic speech and action for what it is.
The Church (of which we are part) bears responsibility for the antisemitic hate speech and action so prevalent today, speech and actions that continue to increase. The Jewish community was blamed for the death of Jesus for millennia. They were marginalized economically, socially and politically. They were targeted with violence and intimidation. Christians believed themselves justified because they believed the lie that the Jews killed Jesus.
When reformer Martin Luther finally realized Jewish people weren’t going to convert to Christianity, he wrote scathingly about them and amplified his contempt by way of new technology: the printing press. Just as the printing press was used to print Bibles, it was also used to print vitriol.
The technology is different today, but the vitriol is still virulent. Our task is to immunize the world with love. Our job is to reveal indifference to hate. Our ministry is to diagnose hateful speech and action for what it is: an insidious disease destroying the fabric of humanity. We have the antidote, the treatment.
Mary Ann Brussat wrote in March 2020 on her blog, Practicing Democracy, this story:
“Will D. Campbell, a progressive Baptist preacher, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham and Selma, and served as a race relations troubleshooter for the National Council of Churches. Yet he was known as the ‘chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan.’ How could a committed civil rights activist befriend white supremacists, when they were openly persecuting, even killing, blacks? Campbell put it simply, ‘If you’re gonna love one, you’ve got to love them all.’ And he believed that God loves everybody too.”
I believe Christians, because of the history we bear, have more responsibility to speak out when antisemitism is perpetrated. We may not be the originators of the heresy about our Jewish brothers and sisters, but we are the bearers of the story that continues to be used to abuse. Let us not remain indifferent or silent in the earshot of hate speech or action. Let us name it, with as much love as we can muster in the moment.