I don’t see why Paul Weyrich had to go out of his way to say that “Christ was crucified by the Jews.” Read the piece from which it is taken and see what you think. I think it was a poke in the eye at people like me who find the Church’s history of anti-Semitism shameful and horrifying. But I don’t think it’s a serious piece of anti-Semitism in itself. It is, after all, a simple and faithful reiteration of what is in the (often anti-Semitic) Gospels. You cannot attend a Good Friday service without this commonplace being uttered, and, as yet, not even the Pope has edited the New Testament to make it less offensive on these grounds. So I think the notion that Weyrich should be hounded for this sentence – in the midst of a longer, theological piece – as Evan Gahr did in the American Spectator and as Joe Conason echoed on Salon. Still, it’s unpleasant and gratuitous. But is it more gratuitous than an almost identical piece of rhetoric which appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine? Eric Konigsberg – an ex-intern at TNR I hired – has a terrific piece on the New York Knicks, in which the conversation at one point turned to Judaism and Christianity. Here’s the relevant passage:
“Then Ward said, “Jews are stubborn, E. But tell me, why did they persecute Jesus unless he knew something they didn’t want to accept?”
“They had his blood on their hands.”
Working quickly, Houston indexed a passage on his Palm Pilot. “Matthew 26, verse 67,” he said. “Then they spit in Jesus’s face and hit him with their fists.”‘
“It say anything about who wanted Jesus dead?” Ward asked. “There are Christians getting persecuted by Jews every day. There’s been books written about this — people who are raised Jewish and find Christ, and then their parents stop talking to them.”
“You know, there’s Jews for Jesus, man,” Thomas offered me, running a hand over his cornrows.”
I think in a pinch I’d absolve both the Knicks and Weyrich of outright bigotry, and I guess Weyrich should know better than a professional basketball player. But I have yet to see Joe Conason have a cow about this one. Or even a calf.