My friend Anna just alerted me to Bruce Wilson’s Huffington Post article on a new Christian comic book for children,* Manga Messiah. (The images of the excerpts are too big to fit here, but do take a look at them. They’re… really something.) Looks like the Passion Play** is enjoying yet another run – the comic is apparently devoted to telling the story of how the awful, awful Jews killed Jesus. Why, those rascals even summoned Beezlebub to help out!
As a secular Jew, I’ll have to bow out of the religious particulars, but maybe Brown Shoes can tell us about the last time he invoked a Satanic demon during worship.
Give. Me. A break.
Predictably, a couple of commenters claim that we should all just calm down, that it’s only a comic, that kids won’t take it seriously. While you could claim that ancient Jews totally have nothing in common with modern Jews, though, you can’t ignore that the art style is meant to invoke a very specific image of a pan-historical religious Jewish person. Compare this image from the comic:
With this image of a real-life worshipper:
(from BBC archives)
The tefillin is included; the tallit is even striped. Also, although I couldn’t find a photo of it, many Jews cover their heads with the tallit while praying, which gives them the the appearance of being hooded. These aren’t ambiguous robed Israelites whom one is supposed to infer are Jewish from context. These are Jews, plain and simple, and kids are meant to make that connection.
This leads to another possible argument: Maybe, even though they’re clearly Jewish, they’re not supposed to represent all Jews, but just one particular type of Christ-killing Jew. I mean, maybe it’s just saying that the Jews who killed Christ are bad Jews, and all other Jews are okay. But as Wilson points out:
In the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford paid for a mass printing of his “The International Jew” pamphlet, a close derivation of the “Protocols”, and through such nakedly anti-Semitic literature Ford helped shape the ideological climate in Germany that fed the rise of Third Reich and The Holocaust. But, Ford did not believe he hated Jews as a people: only the “wrong” Jews.
This is how many forms of bigotry manifest. I don’t hate Black people – I just hate niggers. I don’t hate all women – I just hate sluts. I don’t hate all Mexicans – I just hate the lazy ones. I don’t hate all Jews – I just hate the ones who killed Jesus. And also Israelis. And also right-wingers. And also my boss at work and that guy down the street. But not all of them!
And I’ll be brutally honest here. My first reaction to these types of statements – even if only on a deep, semi-conscious level – has always been, “Oh, they’re not talking about me.” I’m not a religious man wearing tefillin and tallit. I’m not that kind of Jew. There are two reasons why this line of thought is counterproductive: First off, it doesn’t do much good for old men who wear tefillin and tallit. Secondly, there’s no guarantee that others will continue to make the distinction between me and them. Even if they do, the idea that gentiles get to decide who’s a good Jew and a bad Jew – and the idea that Jews must follow those instructions if we want a pat on the head – is insulting at best, and lethal at worst.
By the way, commenter preemptive love points to this article in the Marin Coastal Post on the “swarm” of American Jewry. (Also see this article on the author’s possible secret identity.) Is overt antisemitism on the rise again? Hard to tell at this point, but stay tuned.
* Heh, fifty years ago that would have been a tautology.
** Wikipedia has a description of the antisemitic overtones of passion plays, and why they’re inaccurate and un-Christian. Basically, Christianity dictates that Jews aren’t responsible for Jesus’s death – all of humanity is. So to blame his death on Jews is nothing more than scapegoating, and detracts from the real symbolism of the event.