The Blessings of Judaism and Christianity

While Jews prepare for Pesach and Christians prepare for Easter, it is a proper time to consider and to grasp the enormous blessings of these great faiths of Jews and Christians, both of which are reviled and slandered and despised not because of their failures, but because of their triumphs.

It is part of Judaism and of Christianity to accept the grim fact that the world despises those who follow these religions.  This hatred is profoundly irrational.  Consider the rage vented on Israel, which wishes only peace on that narrow strip of land that is holy to Jews.  Consider the rage vented on Christians in the media for following the Gospel of Love.  Yet nearly every good and noble movement or deed has its roots in Judaism or Christianity. 

The status of women, for example, found liberation in the rights granted to women in Judaic law and the special honor bestowed on the many great women in the Tanakh, something revolutionary in the ancient world.  The status of women under Christianity was so deeply ingrained that as Christian Europe colonized India, China, and the rest of the Old World, such hideous practices as the suttee and foot-binding were suppressed.

Slavery in the ancient world was a horror, but slaves, uniquely, had rights under Jewish law.  Christianity explicitly recognized the spiritual equality of slaves and masters, and from Africa to Ireland, Christian leaders campaigned against this evil.  Slavery was essentially abolished in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Pope Paul III in 1537 issued the bill Sublimis Deus, which expressly declared any slavery, regardless of race or creed, null and void.

The global anti-slavery movement in the 19th century was championed by men like William Wilberforce whose voices compelled the Christian world to embrace the abolition of slavery and ended that institution in the lands ruled by Christians.

Compassion for animals also has deep roots in Judaism, and it is not for nothing that the Psalms of the Tanakh read so movingly about animals.  The campaign to outlaw cruelty to animals was almost exclusively waged by Christians, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law against cruelty to animals in 1641.  American Evangelical Christian preachers in the 19th century were required to have sermons at least once a year on the evils of cruelty to animals. 

Jews and Christians also dramatically elevated the intellectual life of the world.  The first people to have universally literate males were Jews, whose requirement for Bar Mitzvah was to read Torah in Hebrew.  The first nation to have universally literate people, regardless of sex, was Scotland, whose church required all boys and girls to be literate. 

Jews also engaged in spirited intellectual debates almost as soon as the Babylonian Captivity ended, and this produced a tradition of free discussion and inquiry.  The modern university evolved exclusively out of the cathedral schools of the Middle Ages and became the pinnacle of scientific and analytical thinking for the whole world for the next several centuries.  Anyone who imagines that medieval Europe was ignorant or backwards is bigoted and wrong.  The geniuses of that era dwarf our modern "thinkers," and a single work, Friar Bacon's Opus Magnus, reveals one of the greatest and most comprehensive minds in human history.

Why, then, are Judaism and Christianity so reviled and condemned?  This hatred is the result not of its failures, but rather of its triumphs.  The lands that began as Israel were poor and miserable until the Jews made the deserts flourish.  The world Christendom changed was a nightmarish realm of helpless women, brutalized slaves, and tormented animals until Christians forced change upon these lands. 

We are in danger, as the long cold war against Judaism and Christianity programs more and more people to hate and fear the only thing that brings love and peace into the world, of losing the only true hope of mankind.  All the economic growth, all the technological gadgetry, all the plans of all the politicians in the world will fail if these faiths are reduced to irrelevance in our lives.  The hour is near when, one way or the other, humanity will embark on a course that will either save us or reduce us to pathetic and hopeless drones.

While Jews prepare for Pesach and Christians prepare for Easter, it is a proper time to consider and to grasp the enormous blessings of these great faiths of Jews and Christians, both of which are reviled and slandered and despised not because of their failures, but because of their triumphs.

It is part of Judaism and of Christianity to accept the grim fact that the world despises those who follow these religions.  This hatred is profoundly irrational.  Consider the rage vented on Israel, which wishes only peace on that narrow strip of land that is holy to Jews.  Consider the rage vented on Christians in the media for following the Gospel of Love.  Yet nearly every good and noble movement or deed has its roots in Judaism or Christianity. 

The status of women, for example, found liberation in the rights granted to women in Judaic law and the special honor bestowed on the many great women in the Tanakh, something revolutionary in the ancient world.  The status of women under Christianity was so deeply ingrained that as Christian Europe colonized India, China, and the rest of the Old World, such hideous practices as the suttee and foot-binding were suppressed.

Slavery in the ancient world was a horror, but slaves, uniquely, had rights under Jewish law.  Christianity explicitly recognized the spiritual equality of slaves and masters, and from Africa to Ireland, Christian leaders campaigned against this evil.  Slavery was essentially abolished in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Pope Paul III in 1537 issued the bill Sublimis Deus, which expressly declared any slavery, regardless of race or creed, null and void.

The global anti-slavery movement in the 19th century was championed by men like William Wilberforce whose voices compelled the Christian world to embrace the abolition of slavery and ended that institution in the lands ruled by Christians.

Compassion for animals also has deep roots in Judaism, and it is not for nothing that the Psalms of the Tanakh read so movingly about animals.  The campaign to outlaw cruelty to animals was almost exclusively waged by Christians, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law against cruelty to animals in 1641.  American Evangelical Christian preachers in the 19th century were required to have sermons at least once a year on the evils of cruelty to animals. 

Jews and Christians also dramatically elevated the intellectual life of the world.  The first people to have universally literate males were Jews, whose requirement for Bar Mitzvah was to read Torah in Hebrew.  The first nation to have universally literate people, regardless of sex, was Scotland, whose church required all boys and girls to be literate. 

Jews also engaged in spirited intellectual debates almost as soon as the Babylonian Captivity ended, and this produced a tradition of free discussion and inquiry.  The modern university evolved exclusively out of the cathedral schools of the Middle Ages and became the pinnacle of scientific and analytical thinking for the whole world for the next several centuries.  Anyone who imagines that medieval Europe was ignorant or backwards is bigoted and wrong.  The geniuses of that era dwarf our modern "thinkers," and a single work, Friar Bacon's Opus Magnus, reveals one of the greatest and most comprehensive minds in human history.

Why, then, are Judaism and Christianity so reviled and condemned?  This hatred is the result not of its failures, but rather of its triumphs.  The lands that began as Israel were poor and miserable until the Jews made the deserts flourish.  The world Christendom changed was a nightmarish realm of helpless women, brutalized slaves, and tormented animals until Christians forced change upon these lands. 

We are in danger, as the long cold war against Judaism and Christianity programs more and more people to hate and fear the only thing that brings love and peace into the world, of losing the only true hope of mankind.  All the economic growth, all the technological gadgetry, all the plans of all the politicians in the world will fail if these faiths are reduced to irrelevance in our lives.  The hour is near when, one way or the other, humanity will embark on a course that will either save us or reduce us to pathetic and hopeless drones.