According to Christian scriptures and doctrine, Jesus was the Son of God. He was a deity in human form. Even scripture teaches that He could have taken Himself down off of the cross – but He chose not to. If you’re a believing Christian, you are taught that the only thing that saves you from your sin is the sacrifice that Jesus willingly made through His death on the cross. Jesus’ death was necessary to atone for sin. Nobody killed Him; he went peacefully even though He could have come down with little more than a fleeting thought. Within the first few decades after Jesus’ death the new Christians were mercilessly persecuted, often being killed in every imaginative manner the Romans could conjure.
Strange, then, how Christians could become the most vicious of persecutors. To this day, Jews are the most persecuted culture in human history. While today it is largely Sharia-ruled Muslim nations that persecute the most, for a very long time Christians committed the worst crimes of all against them.
It was actually the Romans who began the trend. After the Jews of Judea – then a Roman province – revolted against Roman rule and took back some control in 70 AD, the Legion sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Over a million Jews were killed, while nearly 100,000 were either imprisoned or forced into slavery. Sixty years later the Romans were banning all vestiges of Jewish faith – the Torah, the High Holy Days, circumcision, eating unleavened bread, everything even remotely Jewish became illegal. By the time Constantine became the emperor, Jews were not allowed to be Roman citizens. Later, Theodosius ordered the destruction of all synagogues.
By about 610 AD, serious persecution began in Spain. All Jews in Europe were to be forced to be baptized as Christians (this resulted in Sephardic Jews, those forced to convert who secretly refused to give up their Jewish beliefs and roots or those later expelled for their refusal to convert). Jewish children age 7 and over were taken from their families and forced to be educated as Christians. In 855 AD, Jews were exiled from Italy. In 1092, the First Crusade began – and Jews were a secondary target of the Crusaders. Under the long-held belief that the Jews had murdered Jesus – which was the reason why the persecution continued even after the Romans legalized Christianity – Jews were slaughtered by Crusaders making their way to the Middle East. In 1146, the Second Crusade began with French Fr. Rudolf calling for the extermination of the Jews; a few years later, King Philip of France confiscated all land owned by Jews, banished them from France, and forced them to sell their belongings as they left. In England, King John did worse – he reclaimed Jewish land and burned their homes down to make sure they couldn’t return.
The Spanish Inquisition began in 1229, and all Jews were to either convert or leave. As the Inquisition progressed the Pope ordered priests to begin torturing Jews who refused to convert. In 1290, King Edward I (famously known as Longshanks) expelled all of the remaining Jews in England. In 1298, a six-month-long pogrom was carried out in Bavaria and Austria; all Jewish communities were leveled and 100,000 Jews were killed. In 1306, King Philip IV carried out another expulsion, sending over 100,000 Jews fleeing France with nothing but the clothes they wore and enough food for a single day. In 1348, the Bubonic Plague – known then as the Black Death – spread throughout Europe like wildfire. Jews were accused of starting the plague by poisoning wells. Thousands of Jews were burned at the stake, with the worst single slaughter being 160 Jews forced to dig their own mass grave (an act the Nazis would later repeat) before being burned alive in it.
Over the following centuries, millions of Jews were tortured, mutilated and murdered during cruel pogroms. Jews were banned from owning land and barred from most respectable professions – at one point the only profession Jews could legally enter was banking, leading to the now-famous Jewish proficiency in handling money and negotiating rates. Jews were banished from Poland, Portugal, France, and every other country in Europe at some time or another. Christian hero Martin Luther was famous for his seething hatred for the Jews – he wrote multiple pamphlets suggesting that Jews be rounded up and executed and their homes razed to the ground. The Nazis later used Luther’s teachings to excuse their actions when dealing with religious leaders who objected to their ideology and methods.
By the mid-1700’s, severe Antisemitism had spread to Russia and pogroms began there as well. In the 1800’s, Pope Pius IX called for the ban of Jews in the Vatican to be enforced anew. By the end of WWI, the Jews were being accused of all kinds of nonsensical things, from betraying Germany to loss in the Great War to hatching a secret conspiracy to dominate the world by forcing Christian nations to go to war with each other. Then came the Nazis and Shoah.
Today, large groups of people all over the world decry Israel as an apartheid state. I never learned anything about the realities of being Jewish throughout history in school; I had to teach myself. Even now American churches don’t talk about what Christians did to the Jews for centuries. They’ll talk all day about the Muslim persecution of Jews in the modern age, but they often won’t face what supposed believers subjected them to since the early days of their faith. Liberal Christians won’t even agree that Israel has a right to exist and to defend herself.
What else do you expect a culture to do when every nation in the world makes clear that they don’t want them? What do you expect them to do after they spend centuries living in fear of torture, exile, or death simply because they are Jewish? When you cruelly persecute a people long enough, they’ll eventually be willing to do just about anything to finally have peace – even if it means taking back a sliver of land that they haven’t inhabited in eons and forming an army to defend it. Yet despite the constant hatred and abuse, the Jews have still tried desperately to live in peace. They have only fought as a last resort, when talks fail and all that is left is to flex their muscles to show that they will not be bullied. That is the meaning of the national motto, “Never Again.”
Never again will we hide who we are. Never again will we be forced from our homes for no other reason than the fact that we are Jews. Never again will we be forced to denounce the God who has believed in us even when we didn’t believe in Him. At the same time, never again will we stand by while one group victimizes another simply for being who they are.
The next time you want to accuse the Jews of being unfair, consider this history. Meditate on the fact that they have suffered for innumerable generations the kind of cruelty and indignity that was never even shown to slaves. They have brought life to a lifeless strip of useless desert that the Arab Muslims never cared about until the Jews wanted it. They have shown kindness to all people, including the sick children of their enemies. I have more respect for Benjamin Netanyahu than I have for my own President, and it takes a lot of effort to make that happen.