“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions […]? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?”
I came across a really interesting section in Brennan Manning’s The Wisdom of Tenderness today. He expounds on the idea that reverence for God, the Father of all Creation must result in a reverence for life. Which, of course, brings up the abortion debate. When I saw it coming, I almost wanted to skip ahead in the book. I feel like I’ve heard every Christian argument for the pro-life debate. I think I was supposed to like the movie Juno because it was discreetly pro-life and not because it was hilarious yet heartwarming. And, as a Christian (and someone who wants to fear God and thus revere life), I oppose abortion. However, I remember in high school I felt I ought to feel a fiery rage against this abomination…but I didn’t. I wondered why it had become such a pet battle for so many Christians when there was so much else going on in the world, injustice being done to people who were already alive.
In The Wisdom of Tenderness, Manning expounds on these faint musings that flitted through my head, but in a mature, thought-out, and intellectual manner. He points out that “the Christian community’s pro-life posture is selective, inconsistent, and vulnerable to unbiased criticism.” The most glaring piece of evidence is Joe Republican Christian’s contradictory stances on abortion and the death penalty. We don’t have the right to play God and take an embryo’s life! Oh, but a man who has lived and loved and screwed up and achieved and failed? Sure, give him the shot in the arm he deserves.
However, Manning unpacks three large suitcases of evidence against the inconsistency in the Christian community’s “reverence for life.” His first argument blew me away, and filled me with a passionate and angry cry against injustice ten times stronger than I ever felt about the abortion issue.
He courageously drags into the spotlight the ugly atrocities, hatred, and even cold indifference to Jewish life that has been displayed by Christians since the Ascension of The Jew, Jesus. Once His body left this earth, things became pretty twisted in the minds of many Christians. Manning reminds us of the anti-Semitic Christian’s main argument: the Jews killed Jesus, thus rejecting Jesus and therefore God; becoming a cursed people. This evil lie has stood dangerously behind every ghetto, concentration camp, Crusade, synagogue and beard-burning. Even the church fathers and saints got in on the party. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Chrysostom all have anti-Semitic remarks, treatises, or sermons in the books. Chrysostom is quoted as saying that Jews are “impure beasts” who “God has abandoned […] What hope of salvation have they left?” His prescription is to “turn away from them as from a pest and a plague of the human race.”
What astonishes me is that these were scholars and theologians. Surely they must have at one time read Romans 9-11, where Paul presents a lengthy discourse on the plight of Israel, after they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He clearly states that all hope is not lost for Israel, and hints that God might have a glorious master plan still coming to fruition, taking into account the present rejection by the Jews of Jesus as the Messiah. How can one misinterpret statements such as “[…] God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!” (Rom. 11:1)
I gobbled up these chapters today, underlining verses and scribbling notes in the margins of my Bible as I became less angry with the confused Christians “whose anti-Semitism is Christian spit on the face of our Jewish Savior” and more and more hopeful about the exquisite promises for the people of Israel, laid in the text of Paul’s God-breathed letter to the Romans like precious gems. For “if their [Israel’s] transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! […] For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12, 15)
It’s such a crazy plan that only God could come up with it. Which is why, after Paul lays it all out there, he bursts into exclamations of wonder, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! […] For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” (11:33, 36)
I may never picket in front of an abortion clinic, but this issue and these lives, so close the the heart of God, make me so excited that I want to hop on a plane to Israel right now and love my fellow Jews and plant myself right in the thick of that promise.