I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust And I Feel That Shadow Growing

It isn’t all that surprising that a racist knuckle-scraper like Marjorie Taylor Greene would compare being compelled to wear a face mask to being sent to Auschwitz. In her heart, you just know Marjorie’s a Holocaust denier. Hell, I bet if Marjorie could go back in time to the Holocaust, she’d be thrilled. The biggest challenge would be choosing which death camp at which to be a prison guard.

One of the first big lessons that stuck in my head as a child — the biggest up to that point being toilet training — was that I was hated because of what I was — a Jew. That’s a strange thing to teach a little kid without an enemy in the world. But, when I was growing up, in the early 1960’s (I was born in 1959), not twenty years since the camps had been liberated, the full weight of what had been done to us (not just by Germany but also by anti-Semites all over Europe) was only just beginning to dawn and make itself felt. In Baltimore, where I grew up, Jews began emigrating toward the suburbs, most settling in and around an enclave northwest of Baltimore called Pikesville. Before long, clever Anti-Semites turned that into “kikesville”. My affluent, comfortable, semi-assimilated upper middle class Jewish community could live with name-calling.

Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish — ditto its public schools — that even the handful of non-Jewish kids took all the Jewish holidays off because they knew the schools would be virtually empty. We had a really great tennis team but a really terrible football team that, wouldn’t ya know it, all the other teams loved to beat the crap out of.

American culture was still celebrating having won WWII. There were prime time TV shows about it like “Combat” and “Hogan’s Heroes”.

My culture also celebrated. It felt good not being extinct. And some of us wondered aloud: if not for Hitler’s homicidal madness, would the state of Israel have existed?

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have horrified my community into a stone cold refusal to discuss it. We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. The end of WWII — the end of the Holocaust — didn’t end anti-Semitism the same way the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually end slavery.

As my community tends to do, we turned what happened to us into a teachable moment. There were some essential lessons still to be learned. There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. Turns out, the Nazis were admirers of how racists in America codified and amplified their racism. The Nazi’s method of industrialized murder found significant inspiration in America’s brand of Christo-fascism: slavery

You can’t cram peoples’ heads with tons of bullshit and not expect the bullshit to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram nonsensical, logic-free, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads while telling them it’s truth, it screws them up. It’s worse when the logic-free, hateful mythology also runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger).

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being murdered because of it. But that’s what’s coming to America: death & destruction because bullshit.

In fact, “death & destruction because bullshit” is the Republican Party’s entire strategy going forwards.

White People Are Making A Hash Of Democracy — Just Like They Did To Christianity

In a sense, white people are like George W. Bush — born on third base but thinking they hit a triple to get there. The playing field in America has never been level for anyone except white people. That’s because they can only see themselves. Where the rest of America sees privilege, white America sees entitlement. Brilliant idea that “All men are created equal” is, it gets kneecapped immediately if “All men” actually means “all WHITE men”. And by “white men”, they mean THEMSELVES. Democracy’s the hardest form of government to pull off because it’s self-government. It requires every citizen get involved at least by voting if not by running for office; America’s founders never imagined a “professional class” of politicians would end up running America. But then, white people, it turns out, don’t get everything right contrary to how they think of themselves. There’s something in the northern European makeup — as exercised here in America — that despises democracy. At least, that’s how they behave toward it. Or is their problem actually democracy when it’s practiced by everyone not them?

That sounds remarkably undemocratic. But then, is there anything less Christian then your basic, white supremacist? Don’t tell them that however. In their minds? They could teach the world what it means to be a “real” Christian.

Jesus himself would probably disagree with them. In response, your basic white supremacist Christian would probably crucify Jesus all over again, happily nailing him to a cross all by themselves. Isn’t that what dirty Jews deserve anyway?

Personally, I blame monotheism. It concentrates every bit of divine power into one set of very mercurial, highly emotional, at times downright cruel hands. Yahweh is a deity only humans could create — he’s that riddled with human frailty. When a monotheist claims to understand what Yahweh wants, what are they really claiming? How about if they hear Yahweh’s voice in their heads? I promise you it’s not the same voice that the monotheist standing next to them hears. That’s not Yahweh magically making himself over inside each different human’s head, that’s each human inventing Yahweh in his or her own image. The Yahweh they hear is them.

The crusades claimed to speak for Jesus. So did the Spanish Inquisition and every pogrom. To plenty of Germans, the Holocaust was divine justice. When you get down to it, you can make the voice in your head say anything you want. And, since you’ve given that voice divine authority, what it wants can’t be denied since “God” wants it.

The institutional church uses “Do unto others” as a kind of marketing pitch and a guide for the faithful. While the flock happily “does unto each other”, the institutional church to preaches “Do what we say — or else”. Do it our way. The problem — as the church keeps learning — the more the flock learns about how life really is the less inclined the flock is to do it the church’s way — and the smaller the flock gets. If the institutional churches had really and truly preached and lived by “Do unto others”, their fortunes might be very different today. But then, they wouldn’t be institutional churches anymore. They’d have nothing to do. Just like Jesus said…

The Europeans who embraced Jesus in the abstract would have hated him in person. For starters, he was a Jew. Born, lived and died one. Europeans hated Jews. Still do. So, the Christianity they practice is Jesus-free but institution-rich, completely missing the point. Throw in the fact that most of them (even if they can’t see it) see themselves as deities. Poor Jesus — he never stood a chance.

Once you see yourself as “graced by God”, everything you do becomes “divinely inspired” even if it’s killing people. Even if it’s enslaving people. Or taking their land because your deity tells you it’s okay with him. “All men are created equal” is the Christianity analog. All actual human beings — that’s Jesus. White people think democracy applies to them. Others, not so much. The idea of “others” controlling what white people do via the political process horrifies white people because white people know how THEY act when all the political power is concentrated in their hands.

White people know how they “do unto others” and the last thing on earth they want is anyone else doing that unto them. That’s why Republicanism in America is so anti-democratic. It’s the white guy’s version of a really good idea that plays as a bad idea to everyone else. But that’s only because white people aren’t trying to be democratic.

They’re trying to undermine democracy just like they undermined Christianity. Their track record should scare the hell out of everyone not them.

You Say “To-May-To”, I Say “To-Mah-To”; You Say “Republican”, I Say “Criminal”

Actually, no matter which way you “pronounce” their names, Republicans are criminals. They’re racists, too. And anti-Semites. And misogynists. They’re corrupt — almost every one of them. And, bottom line, traitors. Even if each Republican in question isn’t 100% corrupt or 100% anti-Semitic (they like Jews roughly 30% of the time, when a Jew is doing their taxes or defending them in court), the fact that they stand with anti-Semites (guys who wear “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts) MAKES them just as anti-Semitic. Hate spreads like cooties. We have to assume, being a hater, you refused to socially distance yourself and won’t wear a mask. It’s a pretty safe bet you’ve caught the whole suite of diseases. The Republican Party’s leadership knew even before they NOMINATED Donald Trump as their presidential candidate that he was CORRUPT — owned outright by Russia.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” said current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy upon entering a meeting of the Republican leadership a month before their 2016 convention. A discussion broke out. No one said “What? Kevin — dude, are ya SURE about this?” No one said “Whoa — that’s a problem! Somebody, quick — get the FBI on the phone — it’s our patriotic duty!” No, instead, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan corralled the troops. They were going to keep their KNOWLEDGE (even their suspicions) to themselves. “That’s how we know we’re family”, said Paul Ryan.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan aren’t hounded by that question — WHY DIDN’T ANYONE CALL THE FBI? Considering how impactful Russia’s been in retrospect? It seems like a question that needs answering. Why was it acceptable to them that Trump (and Rohrbacher) were being paid by a hostile foreign power? What was acceptable about even chancing it that a man compromised by Russian intelligence might win the presidency? At that moment, the GOP should have dug in its heels and said “STOP!”

The second that happened, the Republican Party crossed the line from being a legitimate political party to being criminals — traitors who themselves were already compromised by the same hostile foreign power. See something, SAY SOMETHING, see something, say nothing? WHY? Why say nothing? Who are you protecting with your silence? One does not have to be an active participant in the crime in question for the law to see you as a co-conspirator in it. Your silence — if you even suspected what the criminals were up to — damns you. WHY DIDN’T YOU SPEAK UP? There are no “good” reasons.

Even Lindsey Graham understood what would happen if the Republican Party continued down the road of making Trump their nominee: “I think he’s a kook“, said Lindsey, and “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it.” Yeah, Lindsey — you WILL deserve it. The thing that terrifies Republicans more than anything right now is the idea of Merrick Garland finally punching the clock at the Department of Justice. That’s the “newly refurbished” DoJ (the one no longer functioning as a corrupt gangster president’s consigliere). Garland’s DoJ will rededicate itself to Justice. As Joe Biden has correctly insisted, whether or not the DoJ goes after Trump — or anyone — isn’t up to him. It’s a function of whether or not they might have broken the law. If they did? They now have a legal problem.

As all Trump’s insurrectionists are learning the hard way, defending yourself against federal charges is a very expensive proposition. Those billable hours cost a bomb — and there’s going to be a kajillion of them. I sure hope all those insurrectionists are independently wealthy. This could bankrupt their families for a generation otherwise. The GOP also is beginning to learn the cost of being pro seditionist. It’s really bad for business. America’s economy is a consumer economy. We rely on consumers buying our goods and services. But, when Americans don’t like your politics, they can be motivated to stop buying your products. The reason Bill O’Reilly no longer has a show on Fox’s air is because Fox News was told by its advertisers that women — who make most of the big buying decisions in American households these days — would not buy products that advertised with O’Reilly because they felt O’Reilly was a sexist pig. Even though, at the time, Bill O was Fox News’ biggest cash cow, they sacrificed him.

The Republican Party has lost most of its big corporate sponsors. Ford and Coca Cola don’t want to co-brand with sedition. A political party that refuses to acknowledge the peaceful transfer of power presents a problem to corporate money — that’s why they’ve suspended donating to the GOP (in some cases until the party stops insisting that Trump’s “2020 victory” was “stolen from him” Just wait till Merrick Garland’s DoJ begins exposing how Trump’s 2016 victory also was stolen — from Hillary Clinton and from We The People. The election result we voted for is not the result we got because Russia literally HANDED TRUMP the win. We The People are crime victims here. Our will has been denied. It was OUR RESULT that got “stolen”.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays” said Kevin.

Hmmmmmmmm… On second thought, you say “Republican”, I say “traitor”.

Anti-Semitism Will Endure Until The Last Christian Stops Thinking “The Jews Killed Jesus”

I’m biased, so excuse me, but blood libels are flat out stupid. Blood libels based on invented stories? The stupidest of all. And, it turns out, the deadliest. It’s hard to describe to a Christian — even Christian friends — what that experience is like. For starters, my tribe has NEVER declared war on their tribe. My tribe has never sought to convert their tribe. My tribe has never accused their tribe of poisoning the well — so, let’s kill them all! My tribe has never stuck their tribe in ghettos — starting with the one in Venice, Italy. My tribe has never subjected their tribe to an Inquisition or a Holocaust. Every one of those terrible things happened because their tribe had it in for my tribe — and the reason they had it in for us is because “the Jews killed Jesus”. Even if this story — which takes “ludicrous” to bold, new heights — were true, it STILIL makes no sense since the whole POINT of Jesus being here was for him to “die for our sins”. I don’t think Christianity becomes a world religion if Jesus dies an old man in his bead surrounded by loved ones.

Jesus did not invent Christianity. He was born, lived and died a Jew, thinking Jewish thoughts, preaching Jewish ideas to other Jews. They were somewhat radical ideas — because they discounted the role of the temple and the temple priests — in other words, THE CHURCH. Jesus discounted the need for a formal, institutional church. “Speak directly to the father!” But, most importantly, Jesus taught a core Jewish principle — Tikkun olam: it is every Jew’s obligation to make the world a better place for having lived in it. It starts with “doing unto others”.

The Apostle Paul never met Jesus. He never heard Jesus speak a word in person. Any knowledge Paul had of Jesus was entirely Paul’s own creation. For Paul, Jesus’s significance wasn’t what he taught — “Do unto others” — it was the possibility that Jesus might could fit the part of “messiah” that derived from mythologies going back a hundreds of years! When the Jews (some of whom had actually known Jesus) rejected Paul’s version of Jesus, Paul took his version of Jesus to the gentiles. The gentiles had even less knowledge of Real Jesus than Paul did. And, unlike Paul, they had zero background in the Jewish mythology Paul was trying to manipulate so as to make Jesus play as “messiah”.

The majority of the New Testament is Paul’s various communications with the early church communities he, himself, was establishing, mentoring and instructing. I take nothing away from Paul’s achievement. But, let’s be clear — Paul wasn’t selling Jesus the actual Jewish guy who preached a radical message of “you don’t need a church just talk directly to God and, above all, do unto others”. Paul was selling a completely different Jesus who had to be connected to King David, had to be born in Bethlehem, had to be this, had to be that. More importantly — Paul was selling a Jesus who rose from the dead.

Jesus defeating death — that’s what Paul believed he was selling. And if “you”, Paul preached, “Believe in the Jesus I’ve imagined, then you too can defeat death just like my imaginary Jesus did!” But, you have to believe in Jesus exactly the way Paul and the church tell you to. That ‘s the catch. Fail at any of the dogma and, apostate that you are, you’ll be spending the rest of your afterlife in actual hell.

Can I tell you something? When an angry Christian comes at you — spouting the “Judas betrayed Jesus so therefore every Jew is guilty for all eternity” line? There’s literally nothing you can do or say to change their mind and stop them from hurting you. The harder you try to point out the flaws in the story, the angrier you make them and the more vicious they get because now you’re denigrating their rubbish. How dare you!

One could toss everything the church teaches and still be a fan of Jesus. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” and trust me — most atheists DO “do unto others”. That’s what’s most frustrating! Jesus has been entirely decoupled from his message and turned into a mascot. He’s Ronald McJesus selling absolution happy meals — hey, can we super size that for ya? The church did not build itself pitching “do unto others” lessons. It captivated the world because, for the first time, a deity offered up something of real value to human beings: eternal life. A way to beat death.

Paul baked his rejection of his mother faith into Christianity’s architecture. He left home and never looked back. But, he also pointedly helped invent a brand new mythology, based loosely on the old Jewish stories. Jews did not by and large proseletyze. Back then, Judaism was the religion practiced exclusively by the Jewish tribe. If you were born a Jew, you practiced Judaism. If you weren’t born a Jew, you didn’t. Jews didn’t take their idea of a monotheistic god out to the gentile world because it never occurred to them to do it. Yahweh (the God character’s actual name, “God” being his job description actually) wasn’t the gentile world’s god, it was the Jewish tribe’s god. The gentile world, the Jews understood, already had their own gods and didn’t need Yahweh.

Paul changed that. In his mind, the world needed Jesus if it was to defeat death. People needed to “hear the good news” that if Jesus could rise from the dead, so could they!

The Holocaust wasn’t some aberration. It was two thousand years of gentiles hating Jews “because they killed Jesus” put on industrial strength steroids. Why kill just a town of Jews (cos they killed all the children to turn their blood into matzohs) when you can kill a whole city’s worth? The Holocaust was two thousand years of accumulated history. Two thousand years of Jews being treated as pariahs, of Jews being looked at like they were cockroaches. Of Jews being murdered by white people who hated them just because they were Jewish.

To judge by its actions, the Christian church has never cared whether or not any of its adherents actually did unto others. They care deeply however about keeping people in line — about getting adherents to “do what they’re told to do” — even if it’s to terrorize, maim, kill, abuse or torment the very people Jesus called his family. Hmmmmmm… maybe this isn’t about Jesus after all.

Maybe it never was…

Bad Things Happen When Messengers Screw Up The Message — “Do Unto Others”, For Instance…

Here’s the question I can’t get out of my head: why are Christians so bad at practicing Christianity? Why do they seem so utterly incapable of “doing unto others” — a teaching so exquisitely simple, graceful and flat out do-able that even a humble atheist can pull it off with ease? Why can’t they? Here’s a clue — you know the game “Telephone”? A group of people — the more, the better — try to transmit a message from one person to the next. The fun is how mangled the message gets from first person to last. “Pineapple on pizza is an abomination” turns into “Aunt Minnie says you’re mutant”. People mis-hear stuff. They’re drunk and having fun. And, of course, some people are just assholes. They’ll deliberately screw with the message because, down deep, it was always about them anyway.

I spend a lot of time here on this blog critiquing not so much Christianity as Christians and what Christians did to Christianity. I want to understand how Christianity arose out of Judaism and broke free as a thing unto itself. That’s the most painful irony of all where Christianity and Jews are concerned: Christianity’s core message is entirely Jewish: “make the world a better place for having been in it” aka “do unto others”. And yet, the messengers of this magnificent teaching have turned it on its head. Worse — the messengers have made the message about themselves.

Jesus was pretty clear where his thinking about religious institutions and corruption were concerned. He saw no need for an earthly priest overseeing an earthly Temple. A believer’s relationship with Yahweh could be — and should be — entirely personal: no need for intermediaries. Jesus wouldn’t then go and invent a church to spread that message (“you don’t need a church”). That’s where the Apostle Paul comes in. Take Paul out of the equation and Christianity never gets invented.

I don’t know why we even call Christianity “Christianity” when, really, it’s about Paul. We should call it “Paulism” except the Catholic order of Paulists (their patron saint is Paul of Thebes the First Hermit) have already expropriated that brand. Paul never met Jesus. Never heard him speak. Everything Paul knew about Jesus was entirely second hand. Thus the game of “Telephone” was already up and running. We don’t know how the messaging changed from Jesus to “Listener One” and if “Listener One” spoke what he/she heard Jesus say accurately when they transmitted Jesus’s message. If there were more listeners between “Listener One” and Paul? See the problem?

I’m not calling Paul an asshole. He’s a genius. But he’s like the asshole in a game of “Telephone” — deliberately altering the original message to suit his own purposes. Paul had an idea in his head — that sprang not from Jesus but from his idea of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t traveling with Paul on the Road To Damascus except as a passenger in Paul’s mind. The converted are especially committed to their new faith — witness Paul. And Paul was determined to bear witness to what he now believed about Jesus.

Like Jesus, Paul was a Jew by birth. They both knew all the same background mythology because they both knew the same texts. They both knew what a messiah was and what had been prophesied about a messiah hundreds and hundreds of years before. Quick reminder: a prophecy is just a guess based on the information at hand and the desires of the heart. It’s no more real or reliable than a racetrack bet. Sure, sure — there’s a good shot of reality in there: there are horses! Jockeys! The race track itself! But favorites lose races every day. An informed guess is still just a guess.

Another reminder — the men who wrote the texts of the Pentateuch (betcha most every last one was a man) were operating from a very limited knowledge base. They had no idea other continents even existed on the planet. They had no idea that our planet was part of a much larger solar system and galaxy and universe. They had no idea that germs and viruses and pathogens existed — and were killing them every day. They knew bupkis (that is the technical term — look it up)! They honestly didn’t know where the world came from or how it all operated. Their deity Yahweh (that’s “God’s” name — “god” is actually is job title) emerged from a world filled with gods. From a polytheistic point of view (from the Roman’s point of view in fact), Hebrews and Christians were atheists who denied the existence of THE gods. Their gods.

Amazing how relative atheism can be if you think about it…

Paul embraced an idea of Jesus and tried to preach it to the Jews (including Jesus’s own family) who roundly rejected it. Paul’s version of Jesus was not the Jesus they personally knew: you know — JESUS. What Paul said Jesus said, they rejected. Had Paul respected Jesus’s original message, he might have stopped there. But Paul wasn’t preaching Jesus’s message, he was preaching his own — and his was, in a way, “better”. Well, it was “new and improved”, let’s say. “Doing unto others” is nice. Beating death is way, way better.

Paul’s genius was turning “Do unto others” into “Believe my version of Jesus and you, too, can live ‘forever’.” Eternal life is Christianity’s main sales hook. What does every human fear most? Dying! Hey, what if someone invented a religion where — if you followed along the way they told you to — you could, in a way, live forever in a place called “Heaven” where you and your loved ones can be together forever in a state of bliss. While gods had existed before, none of them had offered humans anything nearly as valuable — and godlike — as this.

And all you had to do was “believe”.

That the world remains in Paul’s thrall — that a whole Catholic church (then a bunch of Protestant ones) could arise from Paul’s repurposing of Jesus — is a testament to the universality of the human dread of death — of not being here.

“Do unto others” and “Defeat death” have zero to do with each other. Paul’s church, for all it preached “do unto others”, never actually practiced it — as an institution. Oh, yeah — newly minted Christians could be quite good at “doing unto each other”. But the institution they created around them all — it was dedicated to selling that other idea. And that other idea relied explicitly on faith and the faithful. It sure didn’t help matters — or deepen the nascent church’s dedication to Jesus’s message — when Paul imagined the idea of Miles Christianus, the Christian Soldier, “doing unto others” on horseback, the “armor of Christ” protecting them as they delivered “the good news” with the tip of a spear.

“Do unto others” morphed into “Do what we say — or else”. THAT became the Catholic church’s mantra. It justified Crusades and Inquisitions and Pogroms and all sorts of mayhem that did the opposite of Jesus’s teaching. Imagine what Jesus — born, lived and died a Jew — would say when he learned how HE was used to justify murdering so many fellow Jews. Think he’ll sit back, nodding in satisfaction at how well Christians were “doing unto others” like he taught them to?

The problem isn’t Jesus. Never was. The problem is Paul — the messenger — and how he changed the message. And then Paul’s church asserted itself as the only “official” followers of Jesus and the only body authorized to speak on Jesus’s behalf — and therefore on God’s behalf. Quick reminder — the people who run the Mormon Church think the people who run the Catholic Church are frauds. And vice versa. From a neutral point of view, who’s to say who the fraud is.

Jesus is but a mascot in both worldviews. He’s “Jesus McDo-Unto-others”. People walk in the door because of him. But the “Happy meal” the church is selling is a completely different product entirely.

The church’s real message — the one Jesus saw through and hated — is corrupt. Like the corrupt Temple authorities Jesus railed against, modern Christians (as opposed to followers of Jesus) are being seduced by corrupt churches interested much more in their own success as institutions over anything touch feely — you know, “Christian” — they might impart. Churches — the physical buildings — cost money to build and maintain. The financial obligation alone can and has put churches literally out of business. That they have a BUSINESS to be put out of — that’s where the corruption begins.

The messenger has fully co-opted the message.

“Do unto others” now services “We gotta pay the rent”. Whatever brings believers in the door, puts them in pews and gets them tithing — that’s any church institution’s bottom line: survival. As churches have proved for almost two thousand years now, their survival always comes at everyone else’s expense.

Dear Christians: Why Do You Make It So Hard To Live Side-By-Side With You?

Some of my best friends are Christian. For real. Correction — some of my best friends are Followers Of Jesus (FOJ). In my experience — as a total outsider — those two things (being Christian and being FOJ) are not the same. While all FOJ are Christian, not all Christians are FOJ. Maybe that’s the problem! If every Christian was FOJ, America would be a very different country from the one it is now, dominated as it is by people who call themselves “Christians”. FOJ would make America a country where people actually “did unto others”. It definitely wouldn’t be a country where some people believe their racism and bigotry are “sanctified” — giving them all the justification they need (inside their heads) to regard all the other citizens (who aren’t like them) as if they were cockroaches. In my experience, Christians do do that. FOJ do not. There is a difference.

These Christians might thank Jesus for Donald Trump, but I’d bet the ranch Jesus would not feel as “passionate” about Trump as they do. I bet Jesus would look at the people who believe they’re his biggest fans with palpable horror — mostly because they’re coming for him. Because of who he is…

Let’s be quite real and quite clear here — and, growing up Jewish in America (and in the world), I can attest to this fact because I have lived it: when most Christians learn that you’re Jewish (or “identify you” thus), a little light goes on in their eyes. It’s subtle, but clear. “So, you’re Jewish, are you…?” It means “You’re different. Not like us”. If the next thought isn’t “You killed Jesus” or some variation on that theme, you’re talking to an alien. Regardless of how any Christian might presently feel about Jews and their Jewish friends (if they have any), they grow up being fed a steady diet of mythology whose core message is “the Jews killed Jesus”.

Yeah, that’s Christianity’s core message. It’s the ace that’s always in their pocket. When you really want to get folks together, you don’t shout “Let’s all go do unto those Jews the way we’d have them do unto us!”, you shout “Pogrom!” or “Jews poisoned the well!” or “Jews own all the banks and newspapers!” or “Jews will not replace us!”.

Jew-hating is part of some peoples’ Christian experience. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Crickets.

In theory, Christianity’s big selling point is “believe in Jesus the way we say you should and you, too, can live forever!”. That, my opinion, is genius. Judaism imagined a deity intensely focused on humanity (in a world where all the other deities didn’t). Paul improved upon that idea by giving Jesus super powers. This deity (deities, really) wanted to fix humans for once and for all, granting them eternal life even — totally defeating death, the scariest thing in any human being’s life. But first, Jesus has to die in order to initiate the whole process. In order for anyone to be “born again”, Jesus has to die.

But that’s not how the story’s messaging works. Whereas the logic says Jesus dying is essential, the messaging insists it’s the worst thing that could possibly have happened. Make up your minds! Or am I thinking of this the wrong way? I suppose “the Jews killed Jesus” will get a crowd going a lot quicker than “Pull up a chair — at some point, you’ll beat death!”

Judging by history, putting your faith in eternal life pales in comparison to feeding your bloodlust. I bet that’s why The Crusades were invented! You get the promise of eternal life and bloodlust for one fabulous, low price. For the record: Jesus didn’t militarize Christianity (he never even knew Christianity existed and would probably be shocked by what it’s done in his name — especially to Jews). Paul though did introduce this military metaphor. In his letters, he describes a “Christian soldier” (miles Christianus) “spreading the good news”. One’s Christian faith is a weapon to be used on infidels. And Jews.

As I’ve written here before — I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, really, was a millennium of Jew hatred all rolled up into one mechanized death machine. Think about what the Nazis called it — their “Final Solution”. Solution to what?

Do ya suppose when all those Nazi soldiers — Christians to a man! — looked at the Jews they were guarding, did they ever think to themselves “Boy, these poor Jews!” Of course they didn’t. The first step in genocide is you stop thinking of the people you want to commit genocide on as “people”. You see them as something less — cockroaches is good. Killing cockroaches is easy. They’re cockroaches. It makes killing people easier if you don’t see them as people.

The same dynamic applies to giving people rights or allowing them to live in peace. Why, the racist thinks, would we ever give cockroaches rights — or allow cockroaches to live in peace? Here’s the problem, my Christian friends (and, I do aspire to make you my friends — that’s my threat): are you even capable of NOT thinking of us as cockroaches? If you can’t stop yourself from thinking of us that way, you definitely won’t be able to hide it. And if we can see it in you, that that hatred IS you.

Here’s something everyone needs to understand: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The racist does not get to say if he’s racist or not. His perspective sucks. Unless he’s proudly racist (quite possible!), he won’t want anyone knowing or even thinking he’s racist. More and more, it’s bad for business. But, keeping hate in your heart is hard when what you really want to do is share it with the world — and other haters. American racists were getting bored apparently with keeping all their hate on the down low.

In this country, Christians have done some terrible things in the name of their faith. They treated the Native Americans as inferiors (not very Jesus-like). Held up their Bibles as justification for slavery. With their Christian faith fully displayed — and sometimes blended right into the horror — Christians lynched innocent Black people.

Their hateful, racist organizations were deeply connected TO their religious institutions.

That same religious fervor stormed the Congress on January 6…

And those with religious fervor burning in their heads, weren’t just doing it for country, they were doing it for God, too. Aside from them? I don’t know anyone else whose God behaves, lives and thinks like their God does. I think their God needs therapy and medication.

Look, I know what it’s like to be so screwed up you think neither therapy nor medication can help. You’re wrong. And the religion you’ve turned to will not bring salvation. It has no idea how to.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to suggest here — how to help you overcome this. And you absolutely do need to overcome this.

Maybe — it’s just a thought coming from an infidel — start with “Doing unto others”. Look, I’ve seen what following Jesus has done for my friends’ lives. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” — most do, in fact. The first thing you must do though — it’s imperative: nothing can proceed without it. Try to freeze how you look at other people in your mind’s eyes. Take it away from your face and analyze it.

See how your eyes look out at the world? Do you see now how others see you seeing them? Like a cockroach? Put yourself in OUR shoes now — as the object of your disrespect and worse. As the “cockroach”.

If empathizing won’t do it for you, maybe this will. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth”. He also said that what anyone does to the least of us, they do to Jesus himself. Jesus stands with us — with the cockroaches. Because in Jesus’s eyes, no one’s a cockroach. And we won’t seem anywhere near as “meek” when we finally DO “inherit the earth”.

Trust me, you won’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT bit of history.

What I Learned From Growing Up In The Holocaust’s Shadow

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the death camps were liberated. I grew up in an upper middle class Jewish suburb northwest of Baltimore, MD. I had at least one Hebrew School teacher with a number tattooed into her flesh. We did not shy away from what had just happened to us. We did not avert our eyes in shame except to tell ourselves “Never again”. And to justify our resolve to NEVER passively participate in our own genocide ever again, my community taught the Holocaust to little kids like me the moment they felt we were capable of understanding: the world hates you because of what you are. The sooner you learn this, the safer you’ll be.

I, for one, have never forgotten those lessons. I have never forgotten the look in every German eye as they gazed upon their Jewish prisoners. Forgive and forget?

Not possible. Well… history says it is possible — if not to entirely forgive and forget, then at least to do business with. It’s kinda like “Forgive & Forget Adjacent”. Hey — mea culpa! I’ve owned not one, but two autos made by Audi. And Audi has much to be ashamed about.When Audi was operating under the name Auto Union, it struck a deal with the SS, by which more than 3,700 inmates from Nazi concentration camps were put to work for the company.” Further — “Another 16,500 laborers — not interned in concentration camps — also were made to work for the car company in the Saxon cities of Zwickau and Chemnitz, in addition to 18,000 at a plant in Bavaria where more than 4,000 died…”. In the end, “Auto Union merged with Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company, in 1965, dropping the original name in 1985 after a merger… a decade ago, Audi paid millions into a fund set up by the German auto industry to compensate Nazi slave laborers and their descendants.”

I can comfort myself, I suppose, by telling myself “Well, at least they tried to do the right thing in the end”. As comfort goes, that’s pretty cold. But, what allowed American Jews to “forgive” the Germans — to stop seeing them all as ex-Nazis in hiding — was that, it appeared, the Germans stopped seeing Jews as concentration camp inmates — as cockroaches deserving of such treatment. That’s surprisingly hard to make people understand — people who’ve never been looked at as a cockroach because of what they are. It’s not an affect. It’s a straightforward, brutally honest communication from, in essence, one person’s soul to another. “Because of what you are, you are less than me“.

All animals, it seems, communicate in myriad “unspoken” ways — via body language or simply by “looking at” others a certain way. A little fish doesn’t have to literally hear “I’m going to eat you” to appreciate how loudly it’s being shouted by a big fish’s eyes. It’s there. All the little fish has to do is “read it”.

Forgiving and forgetting IS possible. There CAN BE constructive dialogue between diametrically opposed factions — but not if one of those factions (or both) look at the other with contempt. Nothing constructive can happen if one group sees the other as “cockroaches”. That’s not something most humans can really hide. Even when they try to? It’s pretty phony.

My biggest takeaways from Holocaust School were —

  • The Holocaust might have stopped — but only for now.
  • Jew hating is hard-wired into a lot of people
  • Even people who don’t act like they hate you — if you look into their eyes? They hate you
  • Never turn off your “Spidey senses”; if they tingle? It’s for a reason; REACT
  • The only way you can ever trust that a non-Jew might not despise you for being a Jew? They never look at you like you are a cockroach

Anti-Semitism — like racism and beauty — are entirely in the eye of the beholder. It’s never up to a racist to say whether they’re racist or not. How the hell would they know? They’re RACIST ffs! Ask the racist’s victim, ask the misogynist’s victim, the bigot’s victim, the anti-Semite’s victim: “Do you feel hated because of who or what you are?” If there’s even a scintilla of “yes”, that hater is whatever the hated says they are. Hate after all is an active verb.

It is perverse that, already, a big part of our conversation — in the shadow of a seditionist insurrection — is “can we forgive and forget so as to move past it?” White people, it turns out, hate having to EVER take ownership for their shit. Can’t we just forgive, forget and move on — like they did already? The problem with saying yes Not only do these scumbags now look at you like a cockroach, now they look at you like a stupid cockroach.

Trust me: that makes it worse.

The Most Frustrating Thing About Anti-Semitism Is What It’s Based On: NOTHING

I’ve said here before that I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust — in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore just 20 years after the camps were liberated. Many survivors lived in my community. I can tell you from experience — it’s damned hard for a little kid to wrap his young mind around that much hatred for who he is when, as far as he knows — he’s done nothing to deserve it.

The Nazis didn’t invent anti-Semitism, of course, they merely industrialized it — finding ways to make money off the hatred via forced labor and even body parts. If Spain had had similar technology at its disposal, I’m sure the Spanish Inquisition would have been even ghastlier and more gruesome & cruel than it was.

In between the Spanish Inquisition (well before it too) all the way up to the Holocaust, anti-Semitism saw plenty of other outlets — pogroms and other mass murders of Jews often when the Christians decided they didn’t want to pay back the money the Jews had loaned them. The church made it hard for anyone other than Jews to lend money. Follow that? The Church made it illegal for anyone except Jews to lend money — though the Church also understood that the lending & borrowing of money was essential to the Church’s economic survival. Massive churches don’t pay for themselves to be built — or kept up.

The Church made anti-Semitism part of its economic strategy. In a perverse way, it was genius.

But where did the Church’s Jew-hatred start?

Jesus — if he existed in any way as the person we think he was — did not invent Christianity. He was born, lived and died a Jew. Back in the 1970’s, Bible scholar Robert Funk put together The Jesus Seminar — a group of about 50 critical biblical scholars and 100 laymen who wanted to tease out a historical Jesus from the Gospels. That Jesus taught a very simple message: Do Unto Others.

He also taught that one did not need a temple or its high priests to speak to Yahweh (the God character’s actual name). One could go to “the father” directly.

So where did a “church” come from? Where did Christianity come from? That’d be Paul — the former Saul of Tarses. If Saul never has his moment on the road too Damascus, Christianity never gets invented — because Paul’s the guy who invented Christianity.

The bulk of the NT is Paul’s work — his epistles to the far flung churches HE was nurturing and encouraging. But encouraging to do & believe what? What was Paul selling? Paul tried hard to sell his version of Jesus to the Jewish community except they weren’t interested. Paul never met Jesus. Never heard his voice or heard his teachings directly. But Paul did have an agenda — and after the Jewish community rejected him (and what he was selling), he turned his attention to the Helenized-Roman Gentile world.

Paul needed to sell Jesus as The Messiah. And Paul’s Messiah (here’s Paul’s genius) was the answer to “But what do we do about death?” Paul promised that belief in Jesus would allow the believer to live forever. This was all based on a strange re-imagining of strange Jewish mythology. To justify Jesus being the Messiah, Paul and the early Church fathers (picking up the myth-making where Paul left off) created a hodgepodge of texts and documents that told a muddled, confused story.

It wasn’t until the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) that the church itself tried to make sense of its own confounding, contradictory story. That’s the problem: IT WAS ALWAYS A STORY.

It’s a little like having your tribe be hated because of something Ron Weasley said in the Harry Potter books.

Jews have had the damnedest time defending themselves against anti-Semitism because it’s impossible to argue against bullshit. Bullshit always have the luxury of being bullshit. It never has to worry about being true or real. It never has to justify itself. It never even has to defend itself. It just falls apart and blows away.

It’s a strange experience to have another person look you in the eye and insist that you and your tribe are evil and deserve to be hated, tortured, killed and reviled because of a story. Even stranger? Knowing the person looking at you with all that hate knows less about their own religion than you do.

99% of Christian churches only ever treat Jesus as a mascot anyway. He’s Ronald McDonald selling forgiveness for your sins instead of Big Macs. Jesus — if he could rise from the dead — would never stop being disgusted by what Paul did in Jesus’ name to Jesus’ own tribe.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

It’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road… Historically, it never ends well for Jews.

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road…

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.