Christians toward Jews: The most submissive reverence and the most intense malice

Why have Christians and Jews fought so much over the past 2000 years? Shouldn’t we be able to get along? Especially from Girard’s viewpoint, we alone among people groups share a super-important element in common: the revelation of the innocence of the victim revealed in scripture. What makes it go south so often?

I have read about the intense hatred of the Jews throughout history. I’ve even seen it first hand sometimes in the news. On the other hand, I’ve seen some contemporary Christians fawn over everything remotely Jewish: traveling to Jerusalem a lot, giving money to Israeli nationalist groups, lighting menorahs at home and quickly giving even non-messianic Jews the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their relationships with God. Can these two attitudes actually be related?

Here (with some Girardian jargon) is a pretty convincing explanation.

Jews and Christians should be united by the condemnation of scapegoating that distinguishes the religions of the Bible from mythological cults.

If Girard is right, if the defense of victims in Judaism served as a model for Christianity, why have Jews historically been hated victims of Christians? If the Bible looks forward to a world where men will treat each other as real brothers, not enemy brothers, how did Jews and Christians wind up being enemy brothers themselves? What can explain a conflict so long-lasting and so intense?

To the Jew in Gentile Society, we said, the Christian is the model and obstacle. But to the Christian, what is the Jew?

-Good News, says the Christian, knocking at the door of the Jew, He is here, the Messiah you desire to ardently. You taught me to desire Him too, and it is I who have found Him. Join me in rejoicing.

-No, says the Jew. Not yet. This Messiah of yours leaves me indifferent. He is not the one I wanted Try again later.

To the Christian, what is the Jew, if not the original model and ultimate obstacle? The model who “considers himself too superior to accept him as a disciple,” provoking the very type of passionate reaction described by Girard in his analysis of internal mediation.

The subject is torn between two opposite feelings toward his model – the most submissive reverence and the most intense malice. This is the passion we call hatred.

Only someone who prevents us from satisfying a desire which he himself has inspired in us is truly an object of hatred. The person who hates first hate himself for the secret admiration concealed by his hatred. In an effort to hide this desperate admiration from others, and from himself, the no longer wants to see in his mediator anything but an obstacle…Now the mediator is a shrewd and diabolical enemy; he tries to rob the subject of his most prized possessions; he obstinately thwarts his most legitimate ambitions.

-Rene Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, p.10

To the Christian, what is the Jew, if not the original model and ultimate obstacle? Christianity is, after all, the offspring of Judaism.

-Mark R. Anspach, Imitating Oedipus, p. liii