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Monday, February 19, 2007

Crux 

I took a magical history tour and learned about Martin Luther's exceptionally ugly diatribe against Jewish people called The Jews and Their Lies. I'm telling you about it because it appears to me as an indicator of sorts that illuminates some of the darkest aspects of human history.

That anti-Semitism was common in medieval Europe is not news to me; what is news to me is that the "Great Reformer" himself was a vicious anti-Semite, (in addition to being envious, vindictive, boastful, vain, ruthless and cruel). His words are a revelation because with them he unintentionally lays bare at least one master narrative. Aside from the fact that it reads like an early draft of the Final Solution, the most enlightening thing about Luther's diatribe is that it exposes - along with the precise misunderstandings, deadly misgivings, and obscene justifications - the pathological inferiority complex that Christianity suffers toward Judaism.

Two thousand years ago, the Jews had the most compelling and sophisticated narrative in the Western world, and Jesus - a born narrator, perhaps without peer - meant in good faith to deliver on its promise. He was murdered for attempting to gain control of the Hebrew narrative. He continued even after he knew that he was going to fail because he believed that the example was worth more than his life. Jesus did not gain control of the Hebrew narrative but he and his disciples succeeded in creating a new one from it. That narrative perished approximately 1000 years before Luther. After they killed Jesus, it took the Romans 300-400 years to kill his narrative. A significant portion of his narrative did make it into the Roman version, but it was repurposed for power politics, and turned into the deranged mess that Luther inherited.

The problem between Judaism and Christianity has always been about Christianity's claim on the Hebrew narrative. According to Christians, Jesus is the messiah of the Hebrew narrative. But Jews disagree, and they should know because it's their narrative. Christians have, for the most part, reacted badly to the contradiction. Martin Luther wasn't the first or the last Christian to call for eliminating Judaism and its practitioners and taking ownership of the portion of the Hebrew narrative that starts with Creation and ends with Jesus. The "Second Coming" concept is a saner way of resolving the contradiction (and it provides an explanation for Jesus' apparent failure to fulfill the ancient Hebrew prophecies in his lifetime). Of course, the best way to resolve the contradiction is to put narratives into perspective.

Today, thanks to history, science and technology, (and liberal government), we have a much better understanding of what we are and of how we got here. The ancient master narratives are anachronisms. The only narratives with lasting value are the ones composed for the human family. As shocking and tragic as it appears from an enlightened viewpoint, Western civilization is almost as deranged as it was in the Middle Ages. It's amazing that the Holocaust happened less than 70 years ago. Yet, human beings continue to mistreat and destroy each other because of religion. It's a failing that keeps humanity in bondage to evil. I believe that this failure is precisely what Jesus addressed. What good is religion if it can't make the world a better place?

By the way, did you know that 80% of the English language is inherited or borrowed from other languages? Approximately 60% is inherited or borrowed from Latin and Greek, and 20% from German or Danish. 90% of the Latin and Greek words were inherited or borrowed through intermediary languages - mostly French. The remaining 10% are borrowed directly from Latin or Greek.

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