This is part II of a discussion piece related to my Sunday July 18 blog entry entitled Mixed Premises: Glenn Beck, Collective Guilt and "the Jews". Yesterday, in More on Mixed Premises: Part I--Challenging Assumptions, I outlined the differences between Judaism and Christianity that I believe are the most important and most commonly misunderstood, so that they contribute to Jews and Christians in dialogue talking past one another. In today's post, I am going to discuss three common themes in the comments on the Mixed Premises post, found both here and on my Facebook link to it.
כל מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמיים, סופה להתקיים; ושאינה לשם שמיים, אין סופה להתקיים
I don't think "the Romans" put Jesus to death any more than did "the Jews." Roman soldiers under the command of a Roman governor did. Most of the Roman soldiers doing occupation duty in Judea at that time were freed slaves from the wars with Gaul, and they probably had no clue about why they were executing Jews. Jesus was just one of the many thousands of Jews crucified during the time 'the Senate and People of Rome' governed Judea. Most Romans probably had little to no idea about where Judea was and why Rome was governing it. Even those in the Senate who did, probably thought of Judea as an abstraction and nothing more.
More to the point, no matter how much the governor supposedly abjured his own responsibility--"I did what the ubiquitous they told me to do"--it was his, not theirs. If he gave the order, he--and he alone--was responsible. With great power comes great responsibility. I doubt the literal truth of that portion of the story as well, because it would be a rare Roman who would care much about justice towards barbarians, and the history of Pontius Pilate indicates that he was a brutal governor to the point where even the Roman Senate--hardly the sensitive types--thought it was excessive and removed him from office.
So even if you take the gospel accounts to be true, an individualistic assessment of responsibility would require you to assign the blame to Pontius Pilate, and the over all responsibility to those who gave him power, the Roman Senate.
However, this belated excuse that "the Jews" are cleared from blame because "the Romans" killed Jesus, is in itself an evasion. Perhaps, the evasion takes place because present day Christians become very uncomfortable with the actions of previous Christians, which is also an error of assigning collective responsibility (see Response to Point I above). Or perhaps it is an evasion of the bloody history of Christianity, which was just as inevitable as the bloody history of any other religion or state that reasons from a collectivist philosophy or from mixed premises. But as an individualist, I do not assign responsibility to present-day Christians for the past sins of Christians against Jews or anyone else.
I think that blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus was just an excuse to rob, plunder, rape and kill the strangers living among the Christians of Europe. It has the same root as the excuses that Che used to kill dissenters in Cuba, or that Stalin used to starve the Kulaks off their land. That collectivism leads to this bloody end over and over again in history cannot be disputed. That is why I agree with Glenn Beck that collectivism is evil.
And this is why I wish that Beck would open his eyes and see past the accusers to the accusation itself, and acknowledge his mixed premises. He has a lot of influence, which gives him great power. And with great power comes great responsibility.