Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Evangelicals, Southerners and Anti-Semitism

I was asked by a close friend who is Jewish whether or not I believe that most evangelicals would vote for a Jew. He figured if they wouldn't support a Mormon like George Romney, then that theory would apply even more so towards a Jew.

While I don't claim to speak for evangelicals, I did grow up in the South surrounded by friends and family who were evangelicals and from everything that I know evangelicals would have no problem voting for a Jew. They would almost certainly perceive Judaism as being closer to their faith than is Mormonism. The idea that humans can one day become a "G-d" is as blasphemous to evangelicals, as Christ being G_d is to many Jews.

Anti-semitism among evangelicals disappeared about the same time that Hal Lindsey wrote his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, in the early 1970's. Jews are rather seen as, at the least, having residual grace from G_d due to being his chosen people. Some or even most, may believe that unsaved Jews go to Hell, but they believe that about all unsaved groups.

I was taught over and over that anyone who mistreated the Jews in general, would face terrible punishment based upon G-d's promise to Abraham and that this was why the Roman and Nazi empires fell. I went to a Christian junior high and I never heard a single person ever say anything negative about Jews or Judaism.

Now at the ritzy private middle school that I went to before that, it was a different story. Believe it or not, our English teacher actually called our lone Jewish classmate, out of about 100 students, "Jew boy" when he called on him in class. As unbelievable as that sounds, it actually happened over and over with no repercussions. And I should make clear, this teacher definitely liked my classmate. He saw it as friendly banter, somehow.

I will always remember that fellow, whose last name was Newman, because he just let it roll off his back and never complained and was actually one of the most popular kids in the class.

Maybe those were different times. I have heard that many college coaches in the fifties would do similar things with respect to Jewish players and have seen quotes by the Jewish athletes saying it really didn't bother them, because the coach was like a father to them and if he had really meant it as a slur, the coach never would have even recruited him.

The other thing you have to remember is that for evangelicals outside the Northeast, they usually have no idea who is Jewish and who isn't. We don't generally grow up with the experience of associating certain names with the religion, because there were so few Jews in the South back then. I had no idea that so many of the sportswriters and comic book writers that I admired were Jewish and I had never heard the semi-offensive term "jap" until my junior year in college. When most evangelicals complain about Hollywood, they have no idea that many perceive this to be grounded in anti-semitism; they honestly are just complaining about the content and not its origin.

I think that this is important because so often many of us are talking at cross-purposes without really understanding what they other individual is saying. I think that Jews from big cities often assume that everyone can tell whether or not they are Jewish by their names or perhaps some other attribute, but it really is not true.

When Homer Simpson exclaims with shock in an episode of the Simpsons when told by daughter, Lisa, that there are many Jews in the entertainment field: "You mean there are Jewish entertainers?", I find this to be hilarious and absolutely true about how clueless some of us Gentiles are, but that is a good thing, I think. It means we are making progress.

As a boy growing up in the 70's I had no idea that such favorites as the Three Stooges, Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, and Henry Winkler--the Fonz!-- were Jewish, but I know it wouldn't have mattered to me one way or the other.

No comments: