Thursday, 11 February 2016
Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation,
Ed. Mary C. Boys, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002
Chapter 13, "Covenant and Conversion" (pp. 151-162), page 151
Dr Philip Cunningham, currently the Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph's University, PA, as well as the President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, writes a chapter "Covenant and Conversion" in support of the seventh statement of the Christian Scholars Group commitment in the sacred obligation to See Judaism Anew: Christians should not target Jews for conversion.
He starts his chapter with a potted history:
For well over a thousand years, Christians have been fascinated with the prospect of converting Jews to Christianity. In various times and plaves, Christians have engaged in coerced baptisms of Jews, in secretly baptising Jewish children and the forcibly removing them from their families, in destroying Jewish books and prohibiting instruction in the Jewish tradition, in requiring Jews to listen to hours of threatening preaching, and in demanding that Jewish leaders debate church doctrines publicly with their Christian counterparts. Jews who refused these conversionary tactics were sometimes exiled or killed. Jews who accepted baptism were spied upon for evidence of backsliding into Jewish customs, such as lighting candles for the Sabbath. Such practices occured perodically into the twentieth century.
This litany of abuse, for which the church should be deeply and utterly ashamed, is regrettably true. Moreover, it continues to this day in less outward but nevertheless hugely oppressive ways. The church clearly needs to repent of such practices and stop behaving in this way. No question - just do it.
Whether this history, on the other hand, however true, warrants the conclusions that the Christian Scholars Group draw from it remains to be see. In the next few postings, we'll see how Dr Cunningham develops his theme and where that takes us.