One of the strange, problematic, wonderful things of our time is being able to read newspapers all over the world. I have to consciously work daily to keep myself from going down a media mineshaft following link after link into a mental morass. On the other hand, we have the gift of seeing things from perspectives very different from our own media.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz keeps an eye out for nascent and rising anti-Judaism in the world. Sadly, for those of us in the United States, much of it is homegrown. There is a certain brand of Christianity that blames Jews for, well, anything that goes wrong in the world. I recently read an article that reports on an American pastor who is interpreting any Jew getting the Coronavirus as a recipient of God’s judgement. I’m not sure what it is when a COVID-19 spreads in a Christian community of faith, but apparently, that is not divine judgement.
As a Christian pastor myself, and one well aware of the long history of Christian anti-Judaism, this is just all kinds of ridiculous. And betrays a shocking ignorance of the biblical witness*. I could write a condemnation of such ridiculousness but instead I thought, in this serious time, I’d try to address such toxic theological thinking with a bit of light verse.
So, in the hopes that this will scan and with apologies to such poets as Wendy Cope, A.E. Houseman, and Ogden Nash I present:
God’s Judgment Befalls Those People Over There
God, those speaking for the divine will say,
Punishes the iniquity of the other
With disease; wanting them to rue the day;
They became a Jew, a Muslim or a bother
To those who reap benefits of power.
But if wickedness or plague befalls me or mine
It is not judgement or random shower,
But the devil’s servants come to eclipse the shine
Of the good and faithful who cannot cope
Without someone hanging at the end of a rope.
So, let us all find someone to blame
Strenuously avoiding the feelings of shame.
Deeper wisdom is to be had, for sure
But it rejects the notion of an easy cure.
Responsibility will come to rest
In the deepening thrum of ev’ry human chest.
For when COVID-19 or other ill
Lodges in the souls or lungs of the House of Hope
We must join with every rock and rill
And proclaim to humanity’s kaleidoscope
That God’s judgement is bigger and smaller
Than that of the fearfully hateful false preacher
Who must scape the goat and blame the scholar
Before heeding the word of his professed teacher.
If, on this earth, divine judgement exists
Jesus commands us to find its truth, simply this:
When we take in God’s divine conviction
It is meant for all creation’s benediction.
* John 9—“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Matthew 5:45—”for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”