By Ian Mevorach Theologian, minister, ethicist, and activist; co-founder of Common Street Spiritual Center (www.commonstreet.org)
Huff post: Islamophobia has been on the rise in the United States ever since 9/11. The Republican Presidential primary has both revealed this troubling trend and exacerbated it. Trump and other politicians have been trading on fear and hatred of Muslims for political expediency. They build on a foundation that has been laid, in large degree, by a consistent stream of Islamophobic rhetoric from the Christian Right. Now we have a xenophobic mood in this country that reminds people of the rise of Nazism in Germany.
When Hitler came to power in Germany, a vocal minority of Christian leaders–the Confessing Church movement–opposed Nazism. Among the leaders of this movement, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the most notable. He died in prison after participating in a failed conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. In his prison writings, he disavowed Christian anti-Semitism and embraced the fact that Jesus Christ was a Jew. In doing so he broke with the historic anti-Semitism of Lutheranism and of Christianity in general which can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity. For example, leaders like Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom (mid-late 4th century), who is regarded as a saint, preached with hatred and vitriol against his Jewish neighbors, blaming them for killing Christ. His sermons incited mob violence against Jews. This kind of scapegoating of Jews is so entrenched in Christianity it can even be clearly seen in the Gospels themselves. In the Gospel of John Jews are called “children of the devil” and in the Gospel of Matthew Jewish bystanders at Jesus’ execution say, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt 27:25, NRSV). Since the Shoah (Holocaust), mainstream Christians, including Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians have fundamentally revised our views on Jews and Judaism; we’ve acknowledged Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism and no longer blame Jews for killing Christ or attempt to convert Jews to Christianity. Today, Christian leaders of conscience are called to take a vocal stand against Islamophobia. We are called to root Islamophobia out of our religion before it leads to another genocidal catastrophe.