In the Spring of 2012, I placed an article on the BLOG of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in which I discussed a proposal for addressing a resolution of the 2009 General Convention which called upon the SCLM to prepare “materials that assist members of the Church to address Christian anti-Judaism expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian scriptures and liturgical texts.” The SCLM asked that this project be extended into the new triennium (2013-’15).
As hoped, that extension was authorized by the 2012 General Convention.
A note was included with that first article which discussed the terms ‘anti-Judaism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’. Since this first article and the note are still available on the SCLM BLOG, what was said there will not be repeated here. We have now arrived at the time for this project to take form in offering to the Church commentary materials intended as a resource for clergy and laity who may be preaching in Holy Week this year (March 24-31), using the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the current Cycle C. In other words, this commentary will focus on what are regarded as the most problematic texts linked to the sometimes unintended anti-Judaism which these texts have nourished in Christian liturgy. In general, these are texts which have encouraged a supersessionist understanding of the Church as “the new Israel” — the new people of God in distinction to the Jews.
In its extreme forms, this supersessionist attitude renders Judaism as obsolete spiritually. At the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church took a firm stand against this view, and numerous theologians and biblical scholars have likewise called for a much deeper reflection on the part of Christians in general on this important issue. Yet anti-Judaism remains deeply entrenched among many Christians who consider themselves faithful to Jesus the Jew. Increasingly it is seen that this painful issue requires confrontation.
Anti-Judaism was planted in both subtle as well as blatant ways for centuries as, for example, Christians learned the anti-Judaism taught from pulpits during the Middle Ages as well as from the time of the Reformation. To some degree, all Christian traditions have been affected by the belief that was taught among Christians that the Jews are a people who have been rejected by God for their failure to accept Jesus as the expected Messiah. This belief was reinforced generation upon generation as it was affirmed again and again by Church leaders.
Since this belief was often supported by what the people heard preached, may we hope that our liturgical preaching might be a means by which anti-Judaism may be confronted effectively in our own time? With that hope, in early March a commentary will be placed on this BLOG dealing with the texts that are generally considered the most problematic.
That commentary, focused on Holy Week this year, will be followed in due course by other commentaries on texts which occur elsewhere during the course of the liturgical year.