"WE FIND IT highly crude, insulting and an example of outright Jew-hatred," cries the website of the Jewish Defense League (JDL). "It is telling Christians to destroy our religion in the name of Jesus."
The writer is referring to the now-infamous Easter installment of the "B.C." comic strip, by syndicated cartoonist Johnny Hart.
It depicts a menorah melting into a cross.
Many Jewish groups have raised the anti-Semitism alarm. Having been born of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, perhaps I can offer a more nuanced view.
The JDL website complains that, "B.C. is pushing Replacement Theology (the theory that Christianity has replaced Judaism)."
Personally, I have never heard of Replacement Theology. In my family, we just called it "Christianity." Like all Christians, I was taught that Jesus brought a New Covenant to replace the Old.
Evidently this belief has now been classified as hate speech.
Religious tolerance is essential for America’s survival. But the JDL and other Jewish groups seem to have misunderstood its meaning.
Tolerance does not mean changing everyone’s beliefs to match yours. It means, "You worship your way, and I’ll worship mine."
I know about religious hatred. It divided my family for years.
When my mother became engaged to my father, she worried that her Jewish in-laws might dislike her for being Mexican. But Mama’s ethnicity did not turn out to be the problem. The problem was her religion.
My Jewish grandparents opposed the marriage fiercely. They did not visit us for years. They did not know their grandchildren.
But, years later, when my grandmother was dying of cancer, my mother took them in. I was only 3 or 4 years old, but I remember the excitement and wonder of their arrival, the way my mother fussed over them, the strange and beautiful sound of the Russian language they spoke.
My mother and grandmother became inseparable. As Grandma lay dying, she refused to allow anyone but my mother to nurse her.
I remember those months as the happiest of my childhood. My grandmother’s death was the first great sadness I knew.
The rejection my mother experienced from her in-laws hurt her deeply and permanently, in ways more personal than anyone has been hurt by Hart’s cartoon.
Yet, I don’t blame my grandparents for shunning my mother. It was their duty. They were being true to their faith.
Religion is not about sparing people’s feelings. It is about sticking to your convictions, even when it hurts.
No one should understand this better than the Jewish Defense League. Condemnation of intermarriage is a cornerstone of JDL founder Meir Kahane’s teaching.
Some Jews refer to the rise in mixed marriages as a Second Holocaust. They say that people like my father are traitors, and that people like me should never have been born.
Does that hurt my feelings? Sure it does.
But Jews have a right to worship as they please, regardless of my feelings. My respect for that right is absolute.
The truth is, I have a soft spot for the Jewish Defense League. I like their bluntness and rudeness. I respect their bold faith, though it holds nothing but rejection and scorn for half-Jews such as me.
When my aunt Lorraine was a little girl, my grandmother told her that whenever she saw a nun, she should spit three times and grab a button, as a charm against evil.
My grandparents hated Christians and feared them. Yet, in the end, they loved me.
Their love is a burden that I carry to this day. My grandparents died dreaming of Jewish grandchildren who would never be.
In their honor, I learned Russian and studied in the Soviet Union. I walked the grounds at Babi Yar where 34,000 Jews were killed, and I listened for the cries of my ancestors.
How I longed to be one with them!
Yet I remembered Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:33, "Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
And that is why I can never be a Jew.
In a brave defense of Hart’s cartoon, Binyamin Jolkovsky, editor of JewishWorldReview.com, urges fellow Jews to "grow some thicker skin."
He writes, "Just as Christians believe they have `Truth’ – capital `t’ – so do I."
Jolkovsky is right.
Tolerance does not require that we obliterate the differences between religions. It means accepting those differences, with humor and grace, acknowledging that some lines can never be crossed, some doors never opened, some arguments never settled, and some wounds never healed.