There is a part of this Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 20:19-31) that has resulted in one of the great tragedies of Christian history. Because of this “mis-translation” and others like it, we have turned possible fraternal relationships with sister—faiths into pogroms and persecutions…and those interpretations still abound today.
I am speaking about anti-Semitism—and its twin sisters, bigotry and contempt for others—which are constantly reappearing in history. Scripture itself has a profound story of the contempt of one brother for another leading to fratricide (see Cain and Abel). And we have ignored that story in order to find support for feeling superior to other, or to maintain political, social, and economic power over others.
Between the mis-translation of the Gospels (calling those opposed to Christians “the Jews” instead of Judeans—a term which represents the political power-elite!) and a misunderstanding about the first part of Acts of the Apostles (where it is implied that these “Jews” killed Jesus—words spoken by Paul who was speaking as much about himself and his former life, and not about a race of people nor a community of faith) – between these two problematic interpretation has arisen 2000 years of hatred, destruction of property and lives and enmity between people who share a common faith history – a tragedy that we need to address.
It is time that we recognize that the ability to blame someone else for what goes on, to form ourselves “over-against” a common enemy, is a tactic inconsistent with the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one who went outside of all societal norms and expectations to embrace those who were “different,” or who were “despised” by the cultures of his day. His inclusion of all peoples, all genders, all races was one of the charges against him.
To continue any attitudes that promotes one group of Christians as superior to others, which would try and state that God only loves “people like us,” continues to promote hatred, divisiveness, and, in effect, continues to promote the very attitudes that led to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.
During this pandemic, we are discovering just how permeable all those “walls that divide” truly are…we are discovering just how vulnerable all of humanity is to an almost invisible virus, and how political, social, economic and cultural distinctions are transgressed by this little virus, perhaps it is also time to discover that there are attitudes and beliefs within ourselves that are just as deadly and dangerous as Covid19 – and seek to overcome those as well.
Perhaps, out of this struggle, and these days of isolation, we may indeed, inaugurate a new way of thinking for ourselves, and for others, as we continue to work to abolish all forms of discrimination.
Stay safe. Keep your distance. Know you are loved, by the One God who loves all that God created, whoever and wherever and however they are.
?And thanks be to God for that!