Paul L. Caron

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Robby George And John Inazu On Antisemitism And The Campus Protests

Robert P. George (McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University; Nootbaar Honorary Distinguished Professor of Law, Pepperdine Caruso Law School; Google Scholar), Why Christians Must Do More Than Merely Reject Antisemitism:

Robby George 2I hope it goes without saying to a Christian audience that we, as followers of Jesus, must reject antisemitism and, indeed, all forms of ethnic, racial, and religious bigotry. But beyond that, it is incumbent upon us to be outspoken against such bigotry and in defense of its victims.

One of the great stains on the history of Christianity is the contempt — and sometimes worse — that some Christians, including some leaders of the Church, have over the centuries expressed for Jews and Judaism. Catholics were never required as a matter of doctrine to hold anti-Jewish attitudes or support, much less participate in, the persecution of Jews. For centuries, however, the posture of the Catholic Church as an institution, and other Christian ecclesial communities, towards the Jewish faith and the Jewish people was decidedly negative – often hostile.

In the wake of the Holocaust, this began to change. No doubt part of the explanation is that Catholics and other Christians, especially those in leadership positions in the Church, rightly perceived that, though the Nazis were profoundly anti-Christian, the long history of European Christian hostility to Jews helped to shape the conditions that made the murder of Jews on an industrial scale by Hitler and his thugs possible. ...

The post-Holocaust period leading up to the Second Vatican Council became a time of deep reflection for the Catholic Church in particular and the occasion for a profound examination of conscience — and the historical record. This bore fruit in the sections on Jews and Judaism of the conciliar document known as Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the Church’s understanding of, and relationship with, non-Christian religions.

Nostra Aetate once and for all repudiated the idea of Jewish collective guilt and the outrageous slander that “the Jews” killed Christ or were “accursed” or “rejected by God” because the Jewish people as a whole did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. It condemned, categorically, all forms of antisemitism and discrimination against Jews. What’s more, it expressly affirmed that there is a “common patrimony” and, indeed, a “spiritual bond” – something not merely historical, though rooted in historical reality — uniting Christians (“the people of the New Covenant”) with Jews (“Abraham’s stock”). Perhaps most importantly, quoting the Jewish Christian St. Paul, it refers to the Jewish people as the “good olive branch onto which has been grafted the wild shoot, the Gentiles.” ...

While criticism of Israel, or any political entity, is in bounds, hostility or contempt for Jews and living Judaism masquerading as mere political differences with the Israeli government or state is out of bounds.

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Empathy, Belonging, and Protest:

InazuEarlier this week, I spoke at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics alongside David Brooks in a dialogue moderated by Zeenat Rahman. We focused on the intersection of my book Learning to Disagree and David’s recent book, How to Know a PersonOne of the key themes that stood out to me was the connection between empathy and belonging. And in light of recent events, I’d like to connect these ideas to the activity of protest. ...

The “loneliness epidemic” has received ongoing attention in recent months, with a report last month urging local policymakers to “support the creation of spaces where people can come together to share experiences of art, music, the outdoors, history, sports, culture and religion—the things that make us human.”

These observations are intuitive to many of us who have experienced both loneliness and isolation on the one hand, and acceptance and belonging on the other. Perhaps less intuitive is the possibility that strengthening our own group ties is an important prerequisite to reaching out across differences. In other words, a sense of belonging may be a first step toward empathy. ...

I have many thoughts about the recent campus protests, including those I have observed and others I have read about. I hope to explore some of my reflections in later posts. Today, I want to ask a more limited question: whether these protests can create a meaningful sense of belonging that decreases loneliness and increases empathy.

On the one hand, it seems intuitive that long hours “in the trenches” can strengthen bonds between like-minded people. This is certainly true in some contexts like labor unionism. When it comes to the current protests, expressing discontent, resisting authority, and, in some cases, confronting law enforcement can also create a sense of solidarity. But I’m left wondering whether protesters are developing communal bonds that will increase their sense of belonging or merely participating in a momentary shared experience.

My hunch is that many of these protests will fade away, particularly as the academic year draws to a close. If that happens, my sense is that many of the participants will be left with little sense of ongoing belonging. I could be wrong—perhaps these protests will have greater staying power and lead to more lasting relationships and social change. But if they do not, then whatever their motives or political salience, they will more likely have fed into tribalism than strengthened communal bonds

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Other posts by John Inazu:

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