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A Christian Response to Anti-Semitism

Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Evanston Community Worship Service

Alice Millar Chapel

January 19, 2020 Rev. Charlie de Kay

Good afternoon!

I’ve blessed to offer a few words on “A Christian response to anti-Semitism.” I would like to begin with repentance. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become aware of anti-Semitism in my own life and actions, of which in my Christian white privilege, I’d been blissfully unaware.

It was brought home again, two weeks ago, when the Rev. Andrew Blume, rector of St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, on the upper west side of Manhattan, published a reflection[1] on Facebook, which I’ve excerpted and offer for your consideration:

I don’t usually do this:

It is good to see my clergy colleagues coming out against anti-Semitism and naming themselves as Jewish allies in the wake of violent attacks on Jews. However, well-meaning Episcopalians, especially progressive and left-leaning clergy, need to examine their own anti-Semitism. Most of it is unintentional, micro-aggressions that seem on the surface to be inclusive gestures.

Here are some of those things to reconsider.

  • Around the church for decades support for Palestinians and their cause is couched in language that connects Israelis with Nazis;

  • similarly, we call the Priests and Pharisees of the Gospels “collaborators” with the Romans.

  • We need to stop hosting Seders in Holy Week.

  • We need to stop saying that Christians should respect Jews because we descended from them and that we are the heirs to Judaism, rather than seeing Christianity and modern Judaism as twin religions worshipping the God of Israel that grew up in response to the upheavals of the Jesus movement, the Jewish wars, and the end of Second Temple Judaism.

  • We need to not use Jewish liturgical music out of context in our worship, especially at the Eucharist.

These are just a few examples that my Jewish family and I have noticed. There are many more. It is easy to condemn out-and-out racism and violence. It is harder to dig deep and examine the ways we contribute to white supremacy.

Here in this sacred space in front of all of you and God, I confess that I have sinned. No one else here has made such mistakes, I’m sure. But if there is anyone out who has, you might join me in saying: “I repent.”

In my tradition, in the Episcopal Church, whenever we welcome a new member into the fold, we – all of the assembled – are reminded of our primary covenant with God, our Baptismal Covenant. We do this first by proclaiming an ancient Christian creed, announcing what we believe. This is immediately followed by a set of questions: the so-what questions – in other words, so you claim to believe these basic tenets of the Christian faith – so what? What does that mean? What will you do a result? For many of us, these are foundational touchstones that we return to again and again, for instance, when faced with making a difficult decision, these promises guide our behavior.

I realize that there aren’t a lot of Episcopalians here this afternoon. But I wonder if the Christians in the house might be willing to join me in affirming these promises. I’ve narrowed it down to three of five promises which seem most apropos of “a Christian response to anti-Semitism.”

If there are any Christians among us, I invite you to stand. All are welcome to join me in this, but this is especially geared to the Christians in the house: If you agree, the formula response is: I will, with God’s help. We never do anything, especially anything hard, without God’s help.

Here goes:

  1. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, including the sin of anti-Semitism, repent and return to the Lord? I will, with God’s help.

  2. Will you seek and serve God in all persons, especially our Jewish sisters and brothers, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will, with God’s help.

  3. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, specifically standing up with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help.

Thank you.

May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us also the grace and power to perform them.


[1] Andrew C. Blume. Facebook post. January 4, 2020. Published at: Quoted with permission.

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