Unification News for August 2003
Reflections on the Breakthrough in Jerusalem
by Dr. Andrew Wilson
This address was given to the Red Hook Family Church, Barrytown, NY, on July 20, 2003
II want to praise all the great Christian ministers who came to Israel on the pilgrimage last May. Truly, a miracle took place in Jerusalem! The spirit of God was alive in Jerusalem in a way that was just amazing. It is unbelievable to think that some rabbis actually apologized in front of a Christian group for what our ancestors did to Jesus Christ by sending him to the cross. This is something that no Jew in his right mind would ever admit to.
For there is a wall of denial in the Jewish heart towards Jesus. It has been built ever stronger and higher by two thousand years of painful and bitter persecution from Christians. I speak both of physical cruelty: mob violence, murder, rape, kidnapping of children, expulsion from home, etc., and of mental torment through being relegated to inferior status as outsiders. Koreans talk about han, but I declare that the Jewish han is far deeper than the Korean han. Compared to the length and depth of Jewish suffering, the historical suffering of the Korean people is like peanuts.
Yet han is not a good thing. It is full of bitterness. Resentment makes the heart bitter and cold. It destroys the roots of one's humanity. To overcome that bitterness we need the love of God in abundance. God's love was indeed abounding in Jerusalem. It was conveyed by that very special group of ministers who went to Jerusalem in May.
I want to give particular appreciation and praise to the African-American clergy. Some of us white Americans have questioned, why does Father Moon make such effort to have good relations with Black clergy? What about White clergy? Blacks are at the margins of the Christian establishment in America. We can't restore Christianity by only working with Blacks. However, in Jerusalem I understood the wisdom of God in raising the Black church to work with Father Moon. The Black church grew up through slavery and persecution. How many years did they suffer? 400 years. That is a familiar number. How long were the Jews enslaved in Egypt? 400 years. African-Americans and Jews share in common a history of suffering.
This bond of common suffering is what made this conference in Jerusalem, which brought a largely African-American group of clergy to an encounter with Israeli Jews, very different in spirit from ordinary Jewish-Christian conferences. There have been many Jewish-Christian dialogues and conferences since the 1960s, mainly between establishment leaders on both sides. Yet none of those meetings achieved the sort of deep spiritual breakthrough that our meeting achieved in Jerusalem. Why not? Because when a Jew sees a white Christian, he sees power, he sees arrogance, he sees a man who thinks that his faith is superior. This sets up a wall that no one can break down. But when an African-American clergyman meets a Jew in the atmosphere of God's love, there is humility; there is a common obedience to a God who commiserates in their sufferings. This penetrates those walls of doctrine that have kept them apart, and allows a coming together. Amen.
Thus, the fact that God has raised up the African-American church to work with Father Moon is no accident, but rather it is a necessity in order for this providence to break down the barriers between the first and second Israel to be successful. It is in the plan of God, that He would raise up the African-American church to go to Israel to resolve the deeper pain of God-the barrier between Judaism and Christianity, the first and second Israel. Amen.
Therefore, if you still have any doubts-and I'm speaking to my Unificationist brethren here-about the wisdom of working with the African-American churches, the Jerusalem conference should put them to rest. We should all appreciate the great brotherhood and fellowship that was created through the African-American clergy. Let's appreciate their openness and their willingness to work with Father Moon at this critical hour, the messianic time that we are living in today.
I believe, and it is the teaching of the Divine Principle, that the fundamental starting-point of Christianity and the reason that God could bless Christianity throughout its history is the price it paid enduring through 400 years of persecution under the Roman Empire. The blood shed by the Christian martyrs was the seed of the church, to quote Tertullian. They laid a foundation of sacrifice which, according to the Divine Principle, was equivalent to the 400 years of slavery in Egypt that the first Israel suffered 2000 years earlier. On that foundation, God could give His blessing upon Christianity as the second Israel.
At the time of Constantine, when Christianity finally attained power and became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, there was a missed opportunity for the first Israel and second Israel to come together. There was an opportunity for Christian people, now that they had power, to turn around and embrace their Jewish brothers and sisters with the same love that Jesus had for them, knowing that the Jews were their own flesh and blood, and knowing that Jesus had instructed them to "forgive them, for they know not what they do." If Christians had shown such a loving heart towards the Jews, I believe it would have been quite possible for the Jewish people to achieve reconciliation with Christian people around Jesus.
When in Rome our group visited the Catacombs, built during the days when Christians were being persecuted by Rome. In the Catacombs we didn't see any symbols of the cross. What we saw was the fish. Do you know why the Christians met under the symbol of a fish? The word "fish," IXQUS in Greek, is an acronym. We Unificationists have our fish, CARP, which is also acronym. CARP stands for "Collegiate Association For The Research of the Principle." The parallel is almost too perfect. The Christian fish, in Greek IXQUS, means "Iesus Christos Theos Uioi Soter," "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." This was the first symbol of the early church. The second symbol of the early church was the "Chi-Rho," which looks like an X superimposed on a capital P. It stands for the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, XRisto?.
It is important to note that neither of those two symbols have anything to do with the Cross. It was Constantine, we learned, who lifted up the cross as a symbol of Christian conquest and dominion. Constantine fused the Christian religion with ideology of imperial Rome. The legacy of Rome made it very difficult for the confident, conquering Christianity, which as the official religion of Rome had become the spiritual embodiment of Roman power, to then turn and look with compassion upon the Jews. Instead, Constantine and later Roman emperors made the subjugation of the Jews official Roman policy, because this was a mark of their eternal subservience and of Christianity's eternal glory.
This was Roman thinking, not Jesus' thinking. Jesus in his heart did not intend eternal punishment for the Jews because they were ignorant of him. Jesus understood that the reason why Jews were ignorant of him was not due to any fault of their own, but because certain leaders, like John the Baptist, had misled their people. Jesus also understood that the people who crucified him were not the leading rabbis of his day, but rather leaders of questionable worth, people like Caiaphas who were simply Roman puppets. These leaders held high office, but they didn't at all represent the religious spirit of mainstream Judaism.
Jesus wanted to embrace the Jews. But from the time of Constantine, the Roman Catholic Church became something very different than the church of Jesus and the Apostles. It became an imperial church. As we walked around Rome and saw the Vatican and the Church of Peter and Paul, built of sumptuous marble, we felt a spirit totally different from the spirit of Peter and Paul. They were real Christians, martyrs who sacrificed everything in their love for Jesus. The church had passed through 400 years of persecution, during which time Christians and Jews could have learned to reconcile, based upon Jesus' will and heart of love. There surely must have been some Christians in Rome who were prepared to do so. Yet that historical opportunity was lost.
Now God has raised up another group of Christians, the African-American church, that has suffered 400 years of persecution by White people who called themselves Christians. God taught the African-American church not to practice the Constantinian way of power and revenge, though certainly there are people in the Black community who have such a mindset, by raising great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King taught that Blacks should practice the sacrificial love and love of enemy that Jesus taught, by forgiving and standing in solidarity with White people. In this way, the Black church stands in the position to inherit the true spirit of Jesus, the true spirit of Christianity. Therefore, when Black ministers meet with Jews, they carry a different heart than the heart of the typical white clergyman.
Also, Jews are very intellectual people, legally oriented and doctrinally oriented people. Most White Christians are also doctrinally oriented people. When two groups lifting up different doctrines meet each other, they clash. But the African-American church is a church of the heart, a church that puts the Spirit above doctrine. In Jerusalem, when the African-American ministers began singing gospel songs, the spirit of God flowed through the room. The rabbis stood up and joined in singing those hymns. It was a beautiful sight to see. [Applause]
This is the work of God. God is working with the African-American church to bring about a new day of unity between the first and second Israel, between Jewish people and Christian people. Ultimately we have to bring together the entire body of Christ- all Christians and all Jews together. Yet this was a seed, a very important seed, and a first step in an on-going process that will continue. In time it will alter the face of Christianity and of Judaism as well.
We read in Romans 11:25, "A hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and then Israel will be saved." Paul was looking towards the Last Days. He was looking towards reconciliation with the first Israel that would take place at the consummation of human history, when the Messiah returns. The reconciliation of Judaism and Christianity is the messianic work of the Second Coming. And believe me, there were many Jews in the Jerusalem conference who also understood. They saw churches taking down their crosses and believed that indeed the time of the Messiah might be at hand. They dared to hope that the days of the Messiah have finally come. This was not any ordinary conference; it was the work of the Messiah! It was very special indeed. [Applause]
It is a very hard thing for Christians to take down the cross. You all know some of the arguments and explanations that Father Moon has given to explain why churches should take down the cross. By far the most important reason is the pain in the heart of God. The crucifixion was not something that God loves, but something that God hates. It hurts every time He sees people glorifying the cross, which was the instrument of execution used to kill His beloved Son. God doesn't want to remember that event. It is God's desire that Christians put the cross behind them and enter a new day when we can approach Jesus as our true father, who embraces all humankind as one family. Jesus declared, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matt. 23:37) That is the heart of a loving parent, which Jesus as our true father expressed in the Gospels. That was Jesus' heart then, and it is still Jesus' heart today. In the love of Jesus' heart, there is no reason why Jews and Christians should be separated at all.
Still, the cross reminds everybody of the wall that separates Jews and Christians because of the unfortunate fact that Jesus was crucified, and that there were some Jews who had a hand in it. The cross signifies that believers in Jesus are saved by his blood, but those who don't believe are not. And the Jews in particular are cursed, for having killed him. That's the message of the cross, at least as it speaks to we Jews. How can a Jew even remotely desire to be reconciled with Christianity under the shadow of the cross? It's impossible. The cross was the beginning point of Christian anti-Semitism, which theologian Rosemary Reuther termed, "the left hand of Christology." While Christology glorifies the salvation through Jesus Christ to the believer, at the same time it hurls condemnation and anti-Semitic animus at the Jew, who is portrayed as the arch-villain of history for having killed the Son of God. That's putting it rather harshly, but Reuther's words ring true. They have lodged deeply in the minds of modern theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. Students who took my class on Jewish-Christian Relations read James Carroll's book, Constantine's Sword, which makes much the same point in great detail.
Thus, for Christians to take down the cross is an act of weighty significance that opens the door to Jewish-Christian reconciliation. Why should Christians take down the cross? Maybe we should rather ask, why do Christians glorify the cross? As our own UTS professor Dr. Lonnie McLeod said at a seminar at Georgetown University, by glorifying Jesus' death on the cross, "we are only making excuses for our own bad behavior." That is, we Christians did not know Jesus when he came, and we sent Jesus to the cross. So now we cover up our mistake by saying that the cross was a good thing? I really love Prof. McLeod for saying those words, because he gets to the heart of the matter. He recognizes that we who claim to be "Israel," whether we call ourselves first Israel, or the second Israel, or the third Israel, we are all one. We are all the same. We were all present at the cross, and when we stood there, we rejected our Lord too.
Anti-Semitism began when Christians separated themselves from their Jewish brethren and pointed the finger at them, saying "you" killed Jesus, while "we" accepted him. Making that distinction between "you" and "we" was the starting-point of anti-Semitism. We cannot maintain that separation today, because we are all one family. Therefore, when Jesus was rejected, mocked, betrayed, arrested, jailed, whipped, crowned with thorns, and crucified, who was rejecting him? We-Christians and Jews together-we rejected Jesus and killed Jesus. Christians no longer have any right to claim they were innocent while judging the Jews as guilty. After all, when Father Moon was persecuted, sent to jail, and ostracized from Korean society, it was Christians who rejected him. In America, we Jews joined in and rejected Father Moon as well. Now, therefore, it is time to take joint responsibility for the mistakes of the past. Unless Christians feel that kind of bond with their Jewish brothers and sisters, we cannot fulfill the goal to establish the Kingdom of God, where we are all one family.
This is the meaning of Rev. Moon's teaching: "before we dominate the world, we have to dominate ourselves." Before Christians can love the Jews and help them deal with their history of rejection, they have to admit that they were also the crucifiers of Christ. As a Christian, I should say: I am Judas, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss. I am Peter, who denied his Lord three times. I am Maria Park, who alienated the Korean establishment from Father Moon. All of us have the nature to reject God's Messiah, as we all of the same flesh and blood. Therefore, the time of finger-pointing is over. The time has come to take responsibility to lift up our brothers and rejoin as one family. That is the time we live in today.
In taking down the cross we want to glorify Jesus. Specifically, we glorify the original purpose for which God sent Jesus Christ to fulfill, which was to create one redeemed family of humankind, Jews and Gentiles together, living in the Kingdom of Heaven and glorifying the One God together.
Now let me apply that same principle to myself as a Jew. We Jews still have so many resentments, grudges that we cannot readily overcome. When we examine the source of our present attitude of resentment against Christianity, we see that it comes from myself and my ancestors-my lineage. Among the Jews in my lineage, there are many who are still suffering in hell because they were unable to overcome the grudge against their Christian brothers. I sincerely want to save them, and I know I can help as their earthly representative by practicing forgiveness. Yet because their pain has gone on for thousands of years, I also know that reaching the point of forgiveness is not a simple task. Moreover, forgiveness is not a primary Jewish teaching; we have much to learn from Christians on this score.
I must repent for my sin as a Jew. This means not only for the mistake we Jews made in the time of Jesus Christ, but also for all the stored up resentments that keep us from approaching our Christian brethren with an open heart. We Jews have to repent, and next, we have to forgive. Until we can forgive our Christian brethren, our people will remain in trapped hell.
Therefore, I speak for all Jews when I express my gratitude to Father Moon and to our African-American Christian brethren for helping us to open our minds and hearts to face this historical problem. We are grateful for their love, which comes without any hint of judgment. Only through love, compassion and service can we Jews find the courage to go though this door. We need all the love and caring service we can get. In this light, we particularly appreciate our Christian brothers and sisters for coming to Israel and asking to learn from us, because they see value in the Jewish tradition. This gladdens the hearts of Jewish people very much.
Rev. Graves, you are a true representative of Jesus Christ, and you are showing us Jews the way to love him. I'm forever grateful to Father Moon and all the Christian clergy who made the journey Jerusalem to open the door of our hearts and to end the historical separation between our faiths.
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