By Bernie Dorsey and Durant K. Harvin III
History is riddled with examples of people and nations that allow danger to gather on their doorsteps in the belief that evil would not come for them. But evil comes and by then it may be too late. Today, there is a gathering storm in America, and it’s called antisemitism. As Christians, we cannot allow hatred to metastasize throughout our society. In the ashes of the Holocaust we have seen the horrors that can result.
The modern incarnation of the world’s oldest hatred here in our own country is shameful and frightening. American antisemitism has found favor outside the dark corners from whence it hibernated, and too few of us are alarmed.
The Anti-Defemination League (ADL) succinctly concluded earlier this year on the basis of FBI data that “Jews are consistently the most targeted religious community in the U.S.” The ADL also found that “Antisemitic incidents are being reported at record levels.” The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law revealed that half of American Jewish college students “have felt the need to hide their Jewish identity.” But there is no mass movement uniting Americans to stand up for one another.
This is perhaps because Americans like to think our country’s dalliance with bigotry is limited to a small group of ignorant, politically irrelevant individuals who exist in the American hinterlands. This is a delusion. There are antisemites in Congress – both Republicans and Democrats. There is Jew-hatred in the esteemed halls of academia and the holy sanctuaries of houses of worship. And to be clear, while American white supremacy is rising, antisemitism is not limited to white America.
This hatred is more than an ideology; it is a way of life that has wormed its way into numerous American cultures. Bigotry is an idol that is worshiped by increasing numbers of our fellow Americans. It must be torn down. It’s not too late. The only antidote to poisonous hatred is truth and action.
This is the lesson and the call to action for visitors to Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem. The anger we felt and the tears we shed as we walked the museum’s corridors in March with our brethren and Christians United for Israel compel us to speak and to act. The Jewish community has a blueprint for doing so, and we should follow it in lockstep.
Jews mourn and remember those slaughtered by the Nazis. Jews teach their children the history of their people – the triumphant and the tragic – and seek to ensure the lessons of Jewish and human history inform every aspect of their lives. We must do the same.
No one is born into this world hating another people group. Animus is a learned trait enabled by apathy and lies. We must do as our Jewish sisters and brothers do. We must acknowledge the Holocaust and educate ourselves and our children about this uniquely horrific moment in human history. We must explain what modern antisemitism is, and ensure the next generation confronts it in accordance with our people-centric value system.
The necessity of speaking the truth and taking action extends well beyond our own households. For our own, our children’s and our neighbors’ sake, we must proactively confront bigotry. We can start by confronting those in our personal orbit, be they coworkers or elected officials who traffic in antisemitic tropes. Culturally and politically, we must eschew the lie that only the other is guilty of this sin. This isn’t about cultural or political tribes; it’s about good and evil.
Treating others as we would seek to be treated has been a constant human aspiration for thousands of years. This mandate is woven throughout the Hebrew Bible. Jesus reiterated it during his Sermon on the Mount and Christians, today, call it the Golden Rule. Secular humanists who believe in a natural moral law often adopt it as well. Yet despite its ubiquity, ancient origins, and the modern reminders of what happens when we fail to live up to this most basic of aspirations, humanity somehow manages to consistently fall short. Even in a country we like to believe is exceptional, hatred’s evil remains banal. This cannot stand.
How we treat our neighbors is a witness to what we serve. So, ask yourselves, what do you serve? In Yad Vashem, we saw what happens when one fails to love thy neighbor. Let us do as our faith and conscience compel. Let us acknowledge our neighbor’s pain by commemorating, internalizing and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. Every individual who does so, brings our country one step closer to a more perfect union and to our righteous and collective aspirations.
Rev. Bernie Dorsey serves as the Senior Pastor of Historic St. Paul AUMP Church. in Washington, D.C. Bishop Durant K. Harvin III serves as the Senior Pastor of the Greater Immanuel Faith Temple in Windsor Mill, MD.
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