Unification Sermons and Talks
by Reverends Wilson
Towards the Removal of Anti-Jewish Language from Divine Principle: A First Step
Andrew M. Wilson
Harvard Divinity School
March 15, 1980
In recent decades, various Protestant and Catholic denominations have become sensitized to the problem of anti-Semitic language and theology, and have made efforts to revise their doctrinal formulations and catechetical materials to excise such objectionable material.
The Unification Church, a new-religious movement that understands itself to be Christian, has also in Rev. Moon's Divine Principle: a Report (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1976), has pointed out the repeated use of anti-Semitic language and ideas in Divine Principle, the official textbook of the Unification Church. Written in Korea in 1966, Divine Principle contains some phrases and concepts drawn from the tradition of anti-Jewish polemic that runs throughout Christianity. Its authors were ignorant of the progress which has been made in identifying and removing such language in American and European churches.
The most recent exposition of the ideas in Divine Principle, prepared by Chung Hwan Kwak and entitled Outline of the Principle, Level 4 (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980), shows a marked reduction in language which would be objectionable to Jewish people. In response to some of the valid criticisms of Rudin, and especially with comments from church members of Jewish extraction, this new text has eliminated many of the most objectionable phrases of anti-Jewish polemic in a manner consistent with its basic theology. Although Divine Principle remains the "official" text of the Unification Church, it is a bulky source for a movement which does most of its teaching through lectures. Several lecture guides have been successively employed for instructing members in lecturing, and Outline is the most recent and comprehensive of- these. Furthermore, the improved language and exposition in Outline will probably be incorporated into a new official text, replacing Divine Principle, which is widely expected to be written later in this decade. This concern to improve language and phraseology will continue, not only on the issue of anti-Semitism, but also on issues raised by feminists, blacks, Evangelicals, and other theologians, many of whom have been-consulted in Outline's preparation.
Anti-Jewish language in Divine Principle has centered around two main themes: Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, and the consequent punishment which the Jews have borne as a result of that sin. In Outline, the language of the first theme has been considerably clarified, and the second theme has been entirely eliminated. -Let us compare corresponding passages of the two texts in detail.
In its discussion of the crucifixion, Divine Principle (pp. 142-47, 342-71) speaks of the Jews as a faithless people, who opposed Jesus and finally collectively crucified him. Although the role of the leaders is noted, and especially the failure of John the Baptist is regarded as a stumbling-block to the Israelites' acceptance of- Jesus, their own faithlessness is accented as if it were deliberate "treachery" and "rebellion" against God. In Outline (pp. 57-64, 167-70, 177, 202-3), the theme of ignorance is stressed more than forgiveness, and words like "treachery" and "rebellion" are avoided.
John the Baptist's failure, which confused the people based on their messianic expectations, is characterized as "the main factor that prevented the people of Israel from coming to Jesus." The people's inability to recognize Jesus as the messiah was the logical result of John's loss of faith, given the trust the people had put in him:
(john's)personal ignorance and disbelief led not only to his individual loss, but also to the disbelief of most of the people and ultimately to Jesus' crucifixion. (p. 64)
The theme of faithlessness of the Israelite people is also present in Outline, but it is nuanced: faith in God is distinguished from faith in Jesus. This is an important distinction; the Jews were "faithless" only in respect to Jesus, not in respect to God (though it was God's will that they believe in Jesus, according to the Principle).
When Jesus came two thousand years ago, there was great faith--of a sort--among the people. Some prayed day and night in the temple, and they memorized the commandments. They tried hard to keep all of the commandments and laws that God had ordered them to keep. They faithfully offered their tithes, and they fasted. In this sense, they had great faith in God, yet there was no true faith. Why didn't they have a faith that would allow them to believe in Jesus as the Messiah sent by God? (p. 202f.)
Generally, the Jews of Jesus' day are considered to be analogous to the Christians of today, and the picture which is presented of both groups is mixed (p.213). The leaders who rejected Jesus are contrasted with the "simple lower class Jews" who accepted his teachings, just as among today's Christians, the Unification Church is reaching out to the layman and the "unchurched" in the face of total rejection by the ministers and bishops in the established denominations.
The second theme concerning the Jews in Divine Principle, that their later suffering was a result of their negative response to Jesus, is completely eliminated in the new text. Unfortunate phrases such as:
"due to the Jewish people's disbelief in Jesus, all were sentenced to hell," (p.146)
"Since then, the Jews...have been scattered, suffering persecution through the present day..." (p.147)
"...because they delivered Jesus to be crucified; and therefore, the chosen nation-was scattered." (p.200)
"... from the moment of their rebellion against Jesus, who appeared as the Messiah- God was compelled to deliver them, His elect, into the hands of Satan. Thus God, together with His son, who was betrayed by the Israelites, had to abandon and turn against His chosen nation." (p. 359)
have been systematically excised from the corresponding sections of Outline. Instead, the Outline has this to say concerning the consequences of the crucifixion of Jesus for the Jewish people: Israel lost the opportunity to become the "glorious core of Heaven," the Jewish and Christian worlds were divided, and the people of Israel would have a "troubled future," (pp. 58-9)along with the suffering which would result for the early Christians who would have to bear the brunt of the indemnity for that historical failure.
Perhaps the clearest illustration of how the theme of the guilt for the crucifixion has been reworked is seen in a comparison of Divine Principle and Outline on their explanations of the notion of collective sin, i.e. the sin each person shares by being a member of a nation-, religion, or other social group. Divine Principle (p. 88f.) uses the fate of the Jews as its primary example:
"The chief priests and scribes of the people had Jesus crucified, therefore all the Jews have undergone God's punishment, taking responsibility as a whole."
But in Outline (p. 51) we read:
The faithlessness of John the Baptist!, the chief priests, and the scribes toward Jesus was responsible for his crucifixion. Though a relatively small group of, people was directly responsible for the crucifixion, Christianity in particular, and mankind as a whole, have had to bear responsibility for that sin and as a result have suffered greatly. (emphasis mine)
The theology in the new text is actually more consistent with the larger thrust of the Principle, which sees Christian history as restoring the history of Israel by following a parallel course. Christianity, as the second Israel, took all of the indemnity of the first Israel upon itself, and therefore it has had to pay for the sin of the crucifixion, rather than the Jews. This is the only way a theology of election can be consistent with the notion of divine punishment; for if Christians are to consider themselves the new chosen people, they ought to bear the chosen people's responsibility. To hold otherwise is to separate the blessings of Israel (to the Christians) from their responsibilities (to the Jews), and hence to encourage the worst sort of triumphalism.
In the discussion of the several Israels, Divine Principle mainly follows the Pauline theology of Romans 9-11. But one unfortunate phrase, not Pauline, is that the Jews had "God's heritage" taken away (p. 519). Outline , removes this phrase, and with good reason. The concept of the chosen nation refers only to the special providence to receive the messiah, while the heritage of Judaism, its history, traditions, and achievements, should not be taken as lost even though the position of "Israel" has been transferred. The entire discussion must be seen in light of the universal purpose of the providence of God:
The Lord does not come to save Christians alone. While Christians are the central nation in God's dispensation, all people are to be God's children, and God himself as created and guided all of the major religions toward the restoration of the people of their particular region, time period, and circumstances. (p.210)
However, a serious problem remains in defining the place of post-Biblical Judaism in terms of a theology of several discontinuous "Israels", considered in terms of a linear providence in which the Jewish portion runs from Moses up to Jesus, followed by the Christian portion which begins with Jesus continues to the present day. This language seems to imply that Judaism is an anachronism, having lost its purpose since the establishment of Christianity. The idea that God has created and guided all the major religions, quoted above, suggests that this interpretation may be too harsh, but a positive role for post-Biblical Judaism is nowhere specified in either text. Perhaps a starting point for considering the role of modern Judaism is to be found in the text of Rev. Moon's Washington Monument address;
Judaism was God's firs central religion, and Christianity was the second. The Unification Church is the third, coming with the new revelation that will fulfill the final chapter of God's Providence. These central religions must unite in America and reach out to unite religions of the world.
Judaism, centered upon the Old Testament, was the first worker of God and is in an elder brother position. Christianity, centered upon the New Testament, is in the position of the second brother. The Unification Church, through which God has given a new revelation, the Completed Testament, is in the position of the youngest brother.
These three religions are indeed three brothers in the Providence of God ....
From this point of view, Judaism has a very active and central role to play in today's world. How these two viewpoints can be reconciled should be an important topic of discussion for-future expositions of the Principle.
The newly-published Outline of the Principle, Level 4 clearly has attempted to give a more positive picture of Judaism by deleting many of the most egregious phrases of anti-Jewish polemic found in Divine Principle. Though the improvement is dramatic, there are still some remaining problems. We can only hope that further discussions on these issues by interested par-Lies, both from within the Unification movement and from the Jewish community, can bring more improvements in -future textbooks in which the tenets of the Unification Principles are explained. We also hope that Unification Church leaders on the local level will become conscious of these changes and the issues behind them, so that the education of individual church members can be advanced.
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