Why Should a Jew Care Whether Christianity Lives or Dies?

David Gelernter at First Things explains why every human being should care about the fate of Christianity.

I argued last month that Pope Francis ought to see the reconversion of Europe as his most important task. Surely he agrees that European Christianity is in deep trouble. Surely he does not believe that Christianity no longer matters to Europe, or can no longer be compelling to Europeans. How can he ignore a catastrophe on his doorstep?

Some people asked in response: Why should a Jew care whether Europe is Christian? Rod Dreher in the American Conservative: “I am grateful for Gelernter’s encouragement, but would love to know why it matters so much to a believing Jew that Europe should be re-Christianized.” Good question, but one that is easy for me to answer. The key goes far beyond the opinions of one Jewish writer in Connecticut. It touches the heart of a fundamental change in relations between Judaism and Christianity.

My mother’s father was born near Kiev in 1899 and came to New York as a small child. When he was young, he thought of Christianity as a world of drunken mobs looking for Jews to murder with axes, especially at Easter. Of course, he changed—somewhat—as an adult. Having been reared strictly orthodox, he became a rabbi in the liberal wing of Judaism, and he admired the preaching of the eminent protestant ministers of the middle third of the last century. His synagogue in Brooklyn was across the street from a church, and he was a friend with the minister—who used to have his bells toll the theme of Kol Nidrei as Jews assembled on the evening of Yom Kippur. But despite these admirations and friendships, the church as an institution angered him his whole century-long life. The twentieth was a century that centered, after all, on the murder of Jews. His best friends among non-Jews were not ministers but pre-Cultural Revolution liberals and progressives who hated anti-Semitism—and tended to dislike and distrust Christianity, too.

Read the whole essay here and do yourself a favour and take some time to read other essays at First Things.

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