Friday, January 7, 2022

Would "They" Really Call You "Christ Killer"?


Catholic school girls. Source

The other day I had an unhappy exchange with two beloved Facebook friends. The exchange disturbed me a great deal and I want to devote a more detailed post to it later. For now, this.


A Jewish friend, "Bob," made a disparaging comment about Jewish Christians. I don't know much about Jewish Christians. I'm one of those wacky, eccentric outliers who actually thinks that I should know something about a topic before I spout off about it on the internet, so, as part of conversing with Bob, I read up on Jewish Christians.


Within about twenty seconds of beginning my internet search, I received a perky chat from Jews for Jesus.


Was I a Jew or Gentile?


Well, I've never liked the word "Gentile," but if those are the two choices, I'm a Gentile.


Are you a believer in Jesus? The chat bot asked me.


Yes, I am.


Would you like more information about how to witness to your Jewish friends?


Hell no. My powers of charm and persuasion are such that if I began witnessing to anyone, the world population of Christians would crash.


Even so, the chat bot sent me some links on how to witness to Jewish friends. But never answered the specific question I asked. Oh, well. My question was one of terminology. So I'm still not sure what to call "Jewish Christians," so for now I'll stick with "Jewish Christians." Others prefer "Messianic Jews." To me that phrase sounds like Jews with a Messiah complex.


I began watching testimonials by Jewish Christians posted on YouTube. I am really enjoying these testimonials. They are brief, dramatic, personal, intimate, and very well produced. I wish more movies displayed the qualities of these testimonials.


I noticed themes. The testimonials present Jewish identity as highly desirable and a source of the speaker's pride. They make clear: they love being Jewish and would never want to be anything but Jewish. Jews win Nobel prizes; Jews are God's chosen; Jews make great chicken soup; Jews survive persecution; Jews have charming grandparents.


On the other hand, the testimonials are uniform in presenting contemporary American practice of Judaism quite negatively. Rabbis are unsympathetic and abrupt, synagogue services lack spirituality and are more of a social event, there is no closeness with God, Jewish practice involves just going through the motions of a bunch of empty rituals without any thought, feeling, or commitment. Speakers voice a yearning for a richer spiritual life. Mind: it's not I saying this; rather, it is the speakers in the testimonials. I have not researched this topic and cannot address it.


Another major theme of these testimonials is Jewish fear and hatred of, and contempt for, Jesus, Christians, and Christianity. "Jesus deserved to be crucified," one man says his mother told him. Christians are a bunch of ignorant, violent murderers, repeated over and over. To become Christian is to take a lurching step downward on the identity pyramid, most testimonials convey. The speakers report all this as part of their report on how difficult it was for them to become Christian Jews. Their friends and family pressured them not to do so.


Much could be said about all of the above. Obviously, a series of testimonials posted on YouTube are not representational ethnography. But rather than linger on the many questions my summaries might raise, I want to talk, in this blog post, about one feature of the testimonials.


Quite a few of the speakers insist that Christians, typically "Catholics," bullied the Jew publicly and called the Jew "Christ killer." The first time I heard this I felt very sad, and I wanted personally to apologize to the victim.


The umpteenth time I heard this, my reaction was "Wait a minute."


The speaker was from the New York City area, as am I. The speaker was about my age. And he insisted that Catholic school children habitually tormented him by calling him "Christ killer." He didn't say, "This particular boy, who happened to be Catholic, a boy named Joe Schmoe, on September 20, 1975, punched me in the head on the subway and called me a Christ killer." No. Rather, he said, "The Catholic kids would [would indicating habitual action] call me Christ killer."


I'm the person this man is talking about. I grew up near him, at the same time that he grew up. I grew up in a largely, but not exclusively, Christian town. I attended Catholic school. My teachers were pre-Vatican II Catholic nuns with giant, hemispheric headdresses as awesome as satellite dishes.


A Jewish family lived two doors down from us, and my mother often worked for Jews, in one case, for the same Jewish man for years. My mother's Jewish friends visited the house and sat at the kitchen table with us. I dated Jewish boys.


I never heard the phrase "Christ killer," nor the word "deicide," till I began studying Christian-Jewish relations when I was in my late twenties. I didn't hear it from Catholics; I heard it from Jews. They had to explain it to me, and I found it quite fantastic. If "Catholic kids" habitually called Jews "Christ killer" as part of habitual street bullying, how come this all transpired without my having any inkling about it?


Am I saying that I have come to doubt the accuracy of these videos? I regret to say that I am. And if my suspicion is correct, that there is some lack of accuracy here, the question is, why? Why would something that might not be scrupulously true be repeated so frequently in such slickly produced videos?


One day I watched a video featuring, not Jews telling their personal story of how they became Jewish Christians, but featuring, rather, the Jewish Christian theologians behind the videos. They said, and I am not making this up, that the persecution of Jews was carried out primarily by Catholics, and that Catholics had fallen away from Jesus and copied "the world," and that when the Reformation came in, Christians returned to being real Christians and things got better.


Martin Luther, one of the Reformation's superstars, famously wrote some less-than-Christian things about Jews. Christianity Today quotes Luther:


"Set fire to their synagogues or schools," Martin Luther recommended in On the Jews and Their Lies. Jewish houses should "be razed and destroyed," and Jewish "prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them." In addition, "their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb." Still, this wasn't enough.


Luther also urged that "safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews," and that "all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them." What Jews could do was to have "a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade" put into their hands so "young, strong Jews and Jewesses" could "earn their bread in the sweat of their brow."


True, Luther wrote equally nasty things about Catholics and about peasants who rebelled against their betters. The internet provides a handy way for people alive today to be insulted by Martin Luther's intemperate words (see here). And the idea that Luther's writings inspired the Nazis, who were anti-Christian and lived four hundred years after Luther, is questionable. Julius Streicher, famed Nazi propagandist, did not know about "The Jews and their Lies" till he was 52. But it may make some sense for some Christian Jews to cast Catholics as the bad guys. It might make sense to choose Protestants as the more desirable brand of Christian. Children abused by both parents still often manage to decide that mommy was not as bad as daddy, or vice versa, for their own mental equilibrium.


A further question. If my suspicions are correct, and if the testifiers' reported memories of being constantly bullied by Catholic school kids who go around calling Jews "Christ killer" are not as accurate as they might be, why do the videos repeat this charge?


I was a working class kid in New Jersey in the 1970s, the heyday of the ethnic joke. There were no social sanctions against ethnic humor that had any impact on our lives. We told the lowest, most disgusting ethnic jokes in Catholic school classrooms, in front of our elders, and to the very targets of the joke. We told ethnic jokes about ourselves. I told Polak jokes.


These jokes relied on the following understandings:


Poles are stupid, big, dirty, and work menial jobs. The women are ugly and mannish.


Italians are greasy, criminal, dirty, and speak a comic pidgin English.


Blacks are lazy, dirty, and sexually undisciplined.  


Jews are smart and are somehow connected with money.


Note that last. Nothing about Christ killing. All about Jews' intelligence and their relationships with money. These stereotypes are rooted not in theology, but in Jews' middleman minority status, a status they occupied in Europe for centuries.


Back in 2000, I conducted a series of interviews with Jews from throughout the US and Canada. I asked them about stereotypes of Jews and non-Jews. Not many said they were ever called "Christ killer." Rather, the harassment they encountered was more frequently associated with middleman minority images. Jews were associated, they reported, with intelligence and money. School kids might throw pennies on the floor and tease a Jewish student about picking those pennies up. Also, harassment manifested in Nazi themes. Someone spray painted a swastika on the side of the family's garage, for example.


When I mention, in public fora, that stereotypes of, and harassment of Jews are more often associated with middleman minority status than with theology, I encounter strong and often insulting resistance. The middleman minority model, some Jews insist, "blames the victim." This is false. There is nothing of victim-blaming about the middleman minority model, a model developed by Edna Bonacich, the daughter of a rabbi.


It is significant that many, Jews and non-Jews, and certainly many Christians, insist that all prejudice against Jews is rooted in Christian theology. I think the "blame Christian theology" approach is rooted in political and sociological concerns rather than in a dispassionate search for the truth.


Yes, there is no doubt that many Christians, including Catholics, believed in and disseminated the deicide charge. Yes, Jews have been murdered in pogroms and harassed in schools with the deicide charge. Yes, it is entirely possible that badly brought up children teased and harmed Jewish children with the deicide accusation.


No, having grown up at the same time as the above-quoted Christian Jew, in the same metro area where he grew up, I cannot believe that "The Catholic kids" habitually bullied him with this accusation. If I could sit down and talk with this man, I'd try to take a full ethnography. Who was the accuser? What kind of home did this accuser come from? How often did this happen? Under what circumstances?


Again, one testimony included mention that the testifier's mother said that Jesus deserved to be killed. The Talmud says the same thing, here. But it would be unethical for anyone to say that "The Jews say that Jesus deserved to be killed." I've never heard a Jewish person say that. I can't imagine any prominent rabbi or Jewish thinker today saying it. If you want, fully, to understand what the above-quoted woman said, you'd have to do an ethnography, to find out how representational her words are, where she got this idea, and if her ideas have any impact on anyone else.


Have Jews called me a stupid Polak? Yes, yes some Jews have. I can give names, and approximate dates, and times. But I would *never* tell of these anecdotes this way: "And the Jews would call me a stupid Polak." I would not do that because I have no interest in smearing an entire group of people – "The Jews" as opposed to one Jew, a Chicagoan, for example, named Neil, who bullied me at a dinner party in 1987 in the Berkeley Hills. And smearing an entire group of people is exactly what is happening in these Christian Jewish testimonials that allege that "the Catholic kids" "would" habitually call Jews "Christ killer."


And, no, it is not inappropriate to question the accuracy of statements made by members of one religious group about members of another religious group. For example, Protestants and Jews both often repeat the falsehood that the Catholic Church officially taught that "The Jews killed Jesus" and that this teaching was not revoked till Vatican II in 1965, twenty years after the Holocaust.


Again, yes, some Catholics in some places at some times under certain conditions certainly said that "The Jews killed Jesus." But to state that this was the Catholic Church's official position is simply factually false. For example, the Council of Trent condemned the deicide charge four hundred years prior to Vatican II. Official Catholic condemnation of anti-Semitism goes back over a millennium before that. See here.


Don't believe me? Believe, then, the New York Times.


"Christ's Passion on the cross was in atonement for the sins of all mankind and it was iniquitous and unjust to accuse the Jews, then or now of any special responsibility. This view has been part of the official church position since the Council of Trent in the 16th century."


And of course Wikipedia here.


I know nothing I've written here will satisfy anyone, and will merely provide more fuel for more argue argue argue.


Someone will say, "You can't use the phrase "Christian Jews"! There is no such thing!"


Yes I can and yes there is.


And that so many Jews have such a problem with "Jewish Christian" but are perfectly okay with "Jewish Atheist" or "Jewish Buddhist" or "Jewish Communist" says a lot about their attitudes towards Christianity, I think. Maybe I'm wrong. Convince me in the comments section.


Someone will say, "You denied that Christians ever said 'Christ killer' or ever persecuted Jews!"


To that person I reply, "I quite explicitly did not do that, you s--- stirring troll."

Someone will say, "Oh yeah? Well I'm Jewish and I was called Christ Killer by such and such a Catholic!" 

And to that person I say, "Yeah. I have been called a dumb Polak by numerous Jews. And my religion is regularly and erroneously slandered as being co-terminus with Nazism. Is that a statement about all Jews? Or is it a statement about the speaker? We need real study, real ethnography, to work this out. Anecdotes are not conclusive of anything, as you would certainly say if someone compared you to say Jakub Berman." 


I know I've mentioned quite a few different heavy historical topics here, but let me say again. I was a Baby Boomer Catholic school girl in the area around NYC and I never, ever, heard any Catholic or Protestant or indeed anyone raise the concept of deicide. And to insist that some large number of Catholics habitually did this does not reflect any population I've been in touch with in my life. Not saying it didn't happen; saying, "The Catholics would … " is inaccurate and requires explanatory footnotes fully to be understood.



  1. It should be noted that many Jewish Christians(i.e. Jewish believers in Christ(especially the Messianic Jewish type) have an skewed knowledge of history, especially of Christian and Jewish history.

  2. I have long found that many Jews prefer to blame Christianity for the Holocaust than to where the blame belongs--on the Germans.

    1. I think we both probably blame the Nazis rather than the Germans.

    2. I blame Germans and Austrians and Volksgermans. Browning describes crimes of 'Ordinary Men' - (mostly Protestant) police officers from Hamburg. A 'Nazi' is a person who has declared his/her position joing the NSDAP. Many police officers and administrators who terrorized Poland were not party members. Many people, even in Europe, believe that 'Nazis' were Eastern Europeans, see:

  3. Also see the great articles "Christian-Jewish Relations" and "Church and Jews" in the great interdisciplinary reference work titled Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia edited by Norman Roth.

    1. Hello Arthur, All the earliest Christians were Jewish. All the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures - New Testament - are Jewish.

      It wasn't until 36 C.E,that the apostle Peter preached to Cornelius, a gentile.and saw him annointed by holy spirit to become one of "the kingdom of priests and holy nation".

      Acts 10:34,35 records this:
      At this Peter began to speak, and he said: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

      Are you familiar with the amazing Seventy Weeks prophecy in the Book of Daniel?

    2. Many scholars believe that Luke was not Jewish.

    3. Well clearly there is this view about him. We do believe him to be Jewish though. This is explained in the Watchtower Society publication "Insight on the Scriptures":

      "Some hold that Luke was a Gentile, basing this mainly on Colossians 4:11, 14. Because Paul first mentioned “those circumcised” (Col 4:11) and later referred to Luke (Col 4:14), the implication is drawn that Luke was not of the circumcision and hence was not a Jew. But this is by no means conclusive. Romans 3:1, 2 states that God entrusted his inspired utterances to the Jews. Luke is one of those to whom such inspired utterances were entrusted.

      The Scriptures likewise furnish no basis for identifying Luke with the Lucius mentioned at Acts 13:1 or Paul’s ‘relative’ of the same name referred to at Romans 16:21."

      Romans 3:1,2 says: "What, then, is the advantage of the Jew, or what is the benefit of circumcision? A great deal in every way. First of all, that they were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God."

      We believe this tells us that it was the Jews alone who were entrusted with God's inspired word - a commission which they carried out faithfully.

      And while the Christian Greek Scriptures warn that Jesus' followers will be persecuted by "the world", and contain many accounts of that persecution, I can't find one verse that incites them to persecute anyone.

  4. Grabowski, Gebert and Stola, recording transcript The level of the transcript: polls (probably Poles). Grabowski: "there is a plaintive a humble woman from rural Poland who read the 2000 pages and found it and if we are to believe." The woman is dead, so more respect Jan Grabowski. The story is well known, the book has been criticizes by several historians and the accusations toward Edward Malinowski have been read by Radio Maryja. The woman was unable to read anything, because he was blind. Grabowski misinforms traditionally.

  5. From Facebook, reposted with permission:

    Curtis M. Urness
    Danusha Goska I'm somewhat aware of the Messianic Jewish movement and also of Evangelical Protestant sympathetic view towards Israel and Judaism. A Protestant friend of mine once expressed a desire to become a Messianic Jew, although I think that converts usually are proselytized Jews.
    There was a time in my life when I became very interested in Judaism and thought about taking classes at a synagogue. However, my schedule didn't allow for it. I'm also such a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic that I probably wouldn't have converted. Yet, there is a Hebrew Rite in the Catholic Church. If I were to find such a parish near me, I would seriously consider joining.
    I did go to Catholic school during part of my elementary years. I never heard the term "Christ killer" there. We did, of course, learn about the Gospel account of the Jewish crowd calling for Jesus' crucifixion before Pilate. However, I don't remember anyone blaming modern Jews for what happened 2000 years ago. Also, we were taught that Jesus himself said of the people, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." When the Passion is reenacted during the Easter Vigil Mass, the congregation takes on the role of the crowd.
    The first time that I can remember coming across the term "Christ killer" was when I read Stephen King's novel It during my 20s. One of the characters was a Jewish boy who complained about bullies calling him that. If I recall it correctly, one of the other boys joked that if he was that old he could buy them beer.
    I'm not saying that there weren't Catholic kids calling Jews names somewhere, but it definitely wasn't my experience.
    Here's a link about Hebrew Catholics:

  6. From Facebook, reposted with permission

    Rusty Walker
    My father was raised as an Irish Catholic in Chicago.
    My first experience in church was Latin Mass, nuns like yours with the full attention-getting habits.
    We were raised Catholic. I NEVER heard Jews called “Christ killer.”
    I remember as you do the nothing-off-limits race and religious jokes 1950-1960s.
    You’re absolutely right and more, jokes about being crippled; retard jokes; Polak jokes; Negro jokes; cartoons had Japanese and Chinese yellow big teeth stereotypes. All associations for Jews? Being rich, miserly and cheap. Nothing about “Christ-killer.”
    Any real thought of Christ’s enemies for some reason I’d flash on the Romans.
    None of this by the way for some strange reason made me question real people, real Jews, real “negroes,” when I encountered them in real life as something altogether unique as a person.
    I DO remember being shocked the first time I heard the phrase: “Jews killed Jesus!”
    Shocked because no one I ever encountered in the Catholic church or family ever specifically - blamed Jews!!!
    One just did not do that !
    I do not believe that schoolyard Catholics were always yelling “Christ Killer!”
    I’d have experienced that.
    Sorry world, I lived the Catholic religious life.
    I would know.
    It didn’t happen.

  7. I'm especially thinking of an Jewish Christian apologist who's knowledge of history, especially Christian and Jewish history is deeply skewed in various ways. His name is Michael L. Brown(of AskDrBrown Minstries and of the YouTube channel AskDrBrown) He's an Jewish believer in Christ. His books range widely in quality across the board with some of his books being great and his other ones being very mixed bags. I get that his heart is in the right place but I'm going to be blunt: his knowledge of history, especially of Christian and Jewish history is deeply skewed in various ways. His lanent anti-Catholicism also is an reason why I see him as an mixed bag. The same is true of his radio show/podcast "The Line of Fire" as well. He's an good source if used critically.


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