I hadn’t realized it when I wrote them, but my last two posts were on the same subject. It is an awkward thing to admit that one is intellectually and morally weaker than one’s ideological opponents. It’s more natural to imagine that if we’re right and they’re wrong, it must mean that we’re smarter and/or more virtuous. On the other hand, there is a tendency for the best taught and socialized to conform more closely to established ideology, so we should expect our establishement antagonists to excel us in a number of metrics, as they seem to do.
It’s not too painful to admit all this. Personal humility is a virtue, after all. What is more problematic is to admit the abiding inferiority of one’s group–in this case orthodox Western Christians.
It’s been said many times that a patriot has no need to imagine that his country is objectively better than any other, and a man can believe his religion true without thinking its adherents to be particularly impressive specimens of homo sapiens. Nevertheless, we find it humiliating to be outclassed all around. Jews and Christians have, naturally, found themselves on opposing sides of the debate on whether the West should be a secular or a Christian society. Going even further back, there is our fundamental dispute over whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah. A Christian must necessarily believe Christianity right and Judaism wrong at least on the latter issue. Yet looking at the adherents of each side, he finds himself in a difficult possition. The Jews are obviously smarter than us on average, and their cultural contributions have dwarfed ours for at least a century. Their influence over the media is greater than any single other group. More importantly, they have a credible claim to be the aggrieved party (and aren’t shy about making that claim!), which, in our victim-obsessed culture, gives them an almost overpowering moral superiority. Even our own scriptures favor them. They’re like the children; we’re like the dogs. They were the Chosen People, and God loves them more.
My colleagues Kristor and Bruce seem happy with all this, but it triggers some ugly emotions in me. Jealousy above all. How I wish I could be uncomplicatedly proud of my people like the Jews can! I wish I could see the effects of my peoples’ creativity dominating my surrounding culture. I wish I could feel like part of the smart, creative set. Instead, I belong to the people who must always be apologizing, whose great predessessors (the Church Fathers and popes) are considered morally tainted.
A people must be able to respect itself to survive, and it is healthy to think more highly of one’s ancestors than one’s own generation. Our predecessors’ example should be a challenge to live up to, rather than an embarrassment to overcome. Unfortunately, the historical records of every nonfictional people is mixed–some good, some bad. Thus we divide the record into behavior that illustrates the noble essence of the people and behavior that is the falling away from that ideal by individual members. There is nothing dishonest in this; anyone who loves his group thinks it has a good essence. Medieval saints’ stories certainly don’t paint a pretty picture of the average Christian. Usually the emphasis is on the one saintly man confronting a corrupt multitude of nominal Christians. And yet these are still very pro-Christian stories, because it’s that one man who exemplifies the good essence of the religion we profess.
A Christian puts his faith in the goodness of Christ, not of other Christians (including the clergy). Nevertheless, I don’t see how we can survive without some pride and affection for our predecessors in faith. Thus the Jews’ insistence that we never stop dwelling on our “shameful history of anti-semitism” feels like an attack. This is especially true when seeing how papal apologies on behalf of the Church’s sinful members are roundly rebuffed, since they leave in place the belief in the holiness of the Church herself. During the controversy over The Passion of the Christ, it became clear that our scriptures themselves are deemed morally corrupt by a great many critics (some being Jews, others only claiming to act on their behalf).
I can imagine how black people must feel when confronted by claims that their low IQ makes them want to go out and rob convenience stores and rape white women. It’s probably about the way I feel when I’m told that Christians’ stupidity and malice makes us want to go out and kill Jews, and that any little thing will set us off. Even if the most insulting race realist claims are true, one must expect blacks themselves to accept a self-understanding that allows them to salvage some respect for their group. Hence the popularity of systematic white racism theories, which give blacks moral standing over whites. Similarly, we Christians must be able to maintain our self-respect somehow in the face of Jewish superiority. We must at least allow ourselves to admit that Jewish criticism of us sometimes goes too far. A Christian may admire the Jews, but when their beliefs and interests conflict with ours (which is bound to happen sometimes) his admiration will make the resulting confrontation (assuming he is honest enough to admit its existence) more painful for him.
I’m taking down my previous Judaism post. Not because it offended everybody; I’m a blogger, and I enjoy offending people, although I do apologize to the other contributors for making enemies of this blog unnecessarily. I am also touched by the concern of readers who emailed me and asked me to take it down for my own protection, although I doubt such an action would do much to protect me. No, the trouble is that it was too confused, focusing on Jewish criticism of Christians, when the real issue is the sense of guilt and inferiority we have that gives these attacks their particular sting. I now see that the bitterness I let creep into that post made a useful discussion of the real topic impossible. In my defense, I remind my readers that I’m just a low-IQ gentile. I want a way to be able to hold my head up even in the presence of Jews. That was my motivation all along, although I’m only now realizing it. Many of you had excellent comments, and I’d be willing to copy them over to this thread on your request.
So I ask my philosemitic colleagues: how do you combine your love for the Jews and conviction of their rectitude/superiority with a continued devotion to the historic Church, when our leaders, far from sharing your sentiments, thought of the Jews as dangerous rivals? I can see that you do it, but it seems like a very delicate task to me.