An old 'replacement theology' battle is stirred back to life
Why there needs to be room for doubt in religion

Are Jews in the U.S. in increasing danger? Or not?

In my last post here on the blog, I wrote about the theological issue of whether "supersessionism" (the idea that Christianity replaced Judaism, leaving no place in the world for the latter) is returning.

Star-davidThis weekend I turn to a broader issue involving American Jews. In this article from, Joseph Joffe, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, writes about whether what he calls the "Jewish-American love affair" is over.

There are good reasons to think that antagonism and violence toward Jews in the U.S. in recent years means exactly that, but Joffe rejects the idea and insists Jews still can live as proud Americans who also are committed to their tradition.

America, he argues, is different from Europe and especially from Nazi Germany.

The Holocaust, or Shoah, almost destroyed European Jewry, but Jews in the U.S., he argues, not only survived but thrived. And that, he writes, "is no fluke of history; it is integral to the American experience."

Joffe describes what he calls three pillars that have supported good relations between Jews and other Americans in the U.S. for centuries. And he thinks those pillars still are reliably strong.

He contends that "we should not expect the three pillars of the American creed to crumble, as fearsome as the news from the culture war may be. We are talking 400 years as against 20. Culture and history do not change as quickly as cellphone generations. . .The three pillars of Jew-friendly American exceptionalism were not built on sand, and they hold up the larger American creed across all faiths."

Well, you can read Joffe for yourself. I think he may well be right, but I think he's not taking seriously enough the putrid antisemitism that has shown itself in various subtle as well as violently public ways in recent years. And I'm not sure he's reading the politics of all this correctly, especially his contention that American Jewish voters seem destined to quit voting Democratic as often as they have since FDR.

The problem as I see it is that if people become so convinced that the danger signs popping up in Jewish life don't amount to much of anything, they won't work to stop events and thinking leading to those signs. Until it might be too late.

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This past Thursday evening, I joined a gathering sponsored by the Kansas City Indian Center to stand in solidarity with descendants of Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada whose children were sent to boarding schools so they could be turned into people who resembled white, Christian citizens. Many of those children were treated terribly and died, and only now are their bodies being retrieved from mass graves. Religious communities sometimes ran those boarding schools. And as this RNS story reports, "churches of all denominations are reckoning with the role they played in the country’s boarding school system for Indigenous children." For instance, as this Kansas City Star story reports, Native leaders are working with elected officials to uncover information about what happened to children sent to the Shawnee Indian Mission in Johnson County, which is named after it founder, the Rev. Thomas Johnson, a Methodist missionary. Both the U.S. and Canada really need truth and reconciliation commissions to uncover and tell this dreadful story -- as well as the whole appalling story of the way Indigenous people in North America were brutalized starting with the first European invaders.

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P.S.: My most recent Flatland column is about the creation by local faith communities of the Kansas City Mental Health Collaborative. As a follow up to that, this article from "The Conversation" explores how congregations around the country are dealing with that issue.


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