The April issue of the Journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis contained a lengthy article, “Christians and Jews in Western Civilization” by Professor Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Theological Seminary, New York, in which the Christian missionary obligation to the Jew is virtually dissolved. The article attracted wide attention in the secular and religious press, and was received with great joy in many Jewish circles. The editor of the CCAR Journal, Abraham J. Klausner, introducing Niebuhr’s article, stated: “For the first time in Christian history,” we believe, “a leading scholar suggests that an end be put to the attempt to convert the Jews.”
Professor Niebuhr maintains:
These (missionary) activities are wrong not only because they are futile and have little fruit to boast for their exertions. They are wrong because the two faiths despite differences are sufficiently alike for the Jew to find God more easily in terms of his own religious heritage than by subjecting himself to the hazards of guilt feeling involved in a conversion to a faith, which whatever its excellencies, must appear to him as a symbol of an oppressive majority culture. Both Jews and Christians will have to accept the hazards of their historic symbols. These symbols may be the bearers of an unconditioned message to the faithful. But to those outside the faith they are defaced by historic taints. Practically nothing can purify the symbol of Christ as the image of God in the imagination of the Jew from the taint with which ages of Christian oppression in the name of Christ tainted it.… We are reminded … of anti-semitic and semi-fascist groups, claiming the name of Christ for their campaigns of hatred.
The problem of the Christian ...1
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