Yesterday, Stephen Sizer found himself in the news due to his appearance before a church court regarding allegations of antisemitism. Rather than say anything new, I thought I would repost what I said about this a few months ago. To my knowledge, the lack of comment on this issue within conservative evangelical circles has not changed.
If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed antisemitism has been in the news lately. There was, of course, the horrendous Holocaust joke made by Jimmy Carr. Whilst it was not, strictly speaking, aimed at Jewish people, it was racist in content and nevertheless still offensive to Jews. Prior to that, there was the Whoopi Goldberg incident. You can see it and read some comments on that particular incident by clicking on the thread below.
It is interesting to look at the reaction to those two recent incidents. By and large, Whoopi Goldberg has been roundly criticised for her woeful revision of history that even writes Jews out of being an ethnically bound group of people. They were, according to Goldberg, merely ‘white’ people facing the reality of man’s inhumanity to man because it was white on white and nothing to do with race, ignoring completely that the Nazis did not define Jewish people as white in their bid for racial purity. Few stood up to defend Goldberg. She has been made to stand down from her role on The View for the time being and, minimally, has faced some considerable pushback on her position.
When the Black Lives Matters issues were major in the press, these things were commented on by many within the church. No doubt, some felt they were mentioned too much. Others felt that they weren’t nearly mentioned, or taken seriously, enough. But mentioned they certainly were. And racism of the specific kind on display was roundly condemned. Whether it has led to any lasting heart change is another matter, but there was at least a recognition by some – even those with well-regarded public voices – that these things are wrong and ought not to be. Books that spoke of experiences of problems in the church from a black perspective were championed and a recognition that these things did exist in the church and ought to be dealt with when we see them was on record. Again, whether enough was said or done is another matter, but some things were certainly said and acknowledged. It may not have been a lot, but it was certainly something.
And yet, as the issues of antisemitism are live in the news, there seems to be a deafening silence. Few seem to be saying a great deal about these issue. I was speaking to a friend who – throughout his life – has driven through areas of Manchester with significant Jewish populations. We were both commenting on the abundance of extra security that I have never seen before and nor had he. Jewish people are facing issues of racism too and yet it seems to pass many by without notice. It is much harder to ignore when, around Holocaust memorials, people dismiss it on national television.
And one would think, within the church, we would at least acknowledge these things may be at issue too. Over 6 months ago now, Nick Howard and James Mendelsohn wrote an article detailing the Conservative Evangelical response to public antisemitism in the church. You can read that article here. Their comments are not new. Several years ago I publicly commented on Stephen Sizer’s antisemitism. Back in 2015, I noted the issues publicly:
These things have not gone away. I more recently commented:
And yet, even with these things in the news, there seems to be a wall of deafening silence. I am told only a handful of relatively unknown pastors have mentioned anything about this. This is racism coming from within our own ranks. We ought to be embarrassed to be associated with it and, minimally, ought to be calling it what it is.
Why is it that so few seem willing to stand up and name this for what it is? Why is it that we are able to have comments made about certain forms of racism, but antisemitism is overlooked? How are Jewish Christians supposed to feel welcome in the church when their experience of antisemitism is sidelined, particularly when it is occurring within the very groupings to which they belong? How are other Jewish people going to be effectively reached with the good news that the Messiah has come and wants to welcome them when the church refuses to say anything about those within its ranks who make clear they are not very welcome by continually promoting antisemitic tropes and ways of speaking and thinking?
Are we in danger of sending the implicit message that Jews don’t matter? Because we owe rather a lot to our Jewish Christ and his Jewish Apostles, who were also quite keen to see their Jewish compatriots recognise that Jesus was the fulfilment of the scriptures God gave first to the Jews. We hardly scream that we love them and want to welcome them when we won’t say anything about those who promote antisemitic ways of thinking and speaking within our ranks.