Magazine article Tikkun

A Christian Counterpoint

Magazine article Tikkun

A Christian Counterpoint

Article excerpt

A Christian Counterpoint

Walter Brueggemann is a professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary and an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.

The issuance of Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity in September 2000 by 170 Jewish scholars is an immensely important event in the long, troubled relationship between Jews and Christians, and more broadly in the emerging ecumenism of religious pluralism in the United States. In that manifesto, those Jewish scholars dared to articulate the judgment that it was time for Jews to revisit assumptions and stereotypes concerning Christians and to recognize that not all Christians are committed to anti-Semitism. This recognition is grounded, not in a retraction of older judgments, but in the suggestion that there has been a change, indeed repentance upon the part of many Christians from an old uncriticized, often unacknowledged anti-Semitism. (The statement has of course not gone unchallenged by other Jewish interpreters.)

That such an initiative could be taken by Jewish scholars is on the one hand an embarrassment to those Christian interpreters who have failed to take some such correlative initiative toward Jews. On the other hand, however, it is perhaps inescapable that such an initiative could only have come from Jews, certainly not from Christians who have too much to answer for from a history of abuse and domination.

In any case, I have wondered about an appropriate Christian response to Dabru Emet that might be made, for surely a response is invited and appropriate. Indeed, the generous gesture of the manifesto cannot go without a response. I suggest that such a response from Christians who are deeply implicated in the history of anti-Semitism might be a recognition that a) the theological situation of Christians in the United States is increasingly like that of Jews and that therefore b) Christians have much to learn from Jews about faithfulness in a cultural environment that is, if not hostile, at least indifferent to the claims of a particular faith tradition.

The impetus for such a recognition on the part of Christians is the awareness that in a culture increasingly secular (or, alternatively, increasingly given to a generic religious ecumenism), Christian faith of a disciplined, obedient kind is increasingly marginalized and without civic authority. …

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