Maureen Dowd’s metaphors of hate

I have no reason to believe that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hates Jews, but after reading her November … Continued

I have no reason to believe that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hates Jews, but after reading her November 11 column, many people are asking, and not without some justification. In writing about Goldman Sachs, the famously/infamously successful investment bank, Dowd dredged up ancient and dangerous motifs that have inspired hatred of Jews for 2000 years.

Comparing the employees of Goldman Sachs to “the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple”, and also linking blood lust and GS bankers’ lust for money, Ms. Dowd stepped over a very important line — one which when crossed in the past cost thousands, if not millions of lives. At the very least she demonstrated how deeply the metaphors of hate are rooted even in the lives of some well meaning people, and that alone is deeply disturbing.

The story of Jesus driving the money changers — all presumed to be Jewish — out of the Temple was used for centuries to justify the pernicious linkage of Jews and money, and helped Christians to kill Jews with precisely the glee Ms. Dowd ascribes to Goldman CEO, Lloyd Blankfein’s approach to making money. It was also used to justify driving Jews from their homes since, like the money changers in Jerusalem, they had no place in God’s house or, as the interpretation ran, in any decent house.

The idea that Jews had a special taste for blood, especially in sacred rituals including the preparation of Matzah, was a perverse twist on the Christian Eucharist. Quite possibly, this deadly lie was rooted in the need to deflect the obvious interest among early Christians in consuming blood, at least metaphorically.

But whatever the cause, the Jewish taste for blood was perhaps the most enduring and ugly idea used by Christians to justify not only the hatred of Jews but also the mass murder of Jews. Why in the world would anyone, including Maureen Dowd, need to make their point by going there?

Admittedly, the rage at Goldman Sachs is real and in some cases and to some degree, understandable, if not justifiable. We are living through a weird kind of recovery in which Wall Street is booming and many on Main Street are worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

With a job market worse than any time in almost 40 years, this is not the time for anyone to look at profits alone as their bottom line. That is something which Mr. Blankfein should consider carefully, but failing to do so should not lead to a theological justification of dehumanizing him, should it?

When Mr. Blankfein referred to Goldman Sachs doing “God’s work”, as he did in a recent Sunday Times of London interview by John Aldridge, he too made a mistake. But as offensive as that line may be to some, as insensitive as it may be to invoke God at such a moment, especially given that he would not have said God was punishing GS if they were having a bad year, it’s simply not a claim dripping in blood.

The claims made by Maureen Dowd are, and one hopes that she will address that issue with as much vigor and passion as she did her assault on Goldman Sachs. Hopefully though, with fewer historically dangerous and ugly metaphors.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, lets us review some bible “history”:”Matthew 21:12-13 (New International Version) Jesus at the Temple also: Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew , 21:23–27 and Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8) and near the start in the Gospel of John (at John 2:12–25). Footnotes:a. Isaiah 56:7 (New International Version) 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain b. Jer. 7:11″Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORDFrom: “(Professor JD) Crossan (an On Faith panelist) accepts that Jesus caused a disturbance in the Temple, but (Professor) Paula Fredriksen (another On Faith panelist) argues that the moneychangers occupied an isolated spot within the huge Temple plaza [pic?], and knocking over the tables would have been noticed by at most a few dozen people.”Questions: Were not the “authors of fiction and myth) i.e. M, M, L and J again simply making the NT correspond to the OT so they could claim Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies?And were not dirt-poor farmers selling/buying doves and pigeons in the Temple even more guilty of desecrating the Temple?Bottom line: The Jewish scribes who concocted Isaiah 56:7 share a huge amount of blame for without such statements there would have been no Jewish temple!!!!

  • gillotte43

    Brad, give your paranoia a rest. Dowd was making the obvious point that GS is going directly against the grain by reporting great profits and rewarding the very same employees with bonuses while increasing numbers of US citizens dont know how to pay for their mortgages, rent or cable bills.Face the facts in the article instead of nitpicking it apart which takes away from the brunt of her story; GS is bad for lording it over the rest of the suffering country desplaying once again the rotten aspects of raw capitalism and showing that Blankfein has a tin ear, brain and other faculties.Now make something anti semitic out of that Bradley.Tony Gillotte

  • scon101

    If the shoe fits–wear it

  • folk1

    I do not think that Ms. Dowd (who published in a newspaper owned by Jews) wrote anything hateful about Jews as a people. She did have some well-deserved criticism for Mr. Blankfein who made a silly remark about “doing God’s work.” I don’t know whether he is Jewish or not (I think we are Jews here)and we cannot know anything certain about the religions, if any, of the money-changers at the Temple, but we are sure that Mr. Blankfein and the money-changers were all bankers. If we are to believe Christian fables, Jesus (allegedly being the son of a Jewish mother) was Jewish. Ms. Dowd obviously approves of his expelling the money changers. It is a little late in the day to worry about squabbles between different Jewish factions that may have occurred two millinia ago. Things have come to a sorry pass if we may not insult bankers regardless of their religion. I think that right is in the Bible, the Constitution, or the Declaration or somewhere.

  • fred39

    Mr. Hirschfeld really is straining to turn Ms. Dowd’s commentary into something offensive to Jews. Woody Allen made fun of this sort of hypersensitivity years ago, taking offense at someone who asked him “Jew eat yet?”

  • ccnl1

    And were not dirt-poor farmers/peasants selling/buying doves and pigeons in the Temple even more guilty of desecrating the Temple?And the irony?? Jesus, the simple preacher man was a member of said peasant class!!See Professor JD Crossan’s book, The Historic Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, for added information.

  • Nosmanic

    In the past people used the story of Jesus to make people hate Jews. So now no one can every use that story again? Sounds like that to me.

  • frederic2

    Jesus was a Jew. He didn’t found Christianity. The whole scream is paranoia.

  • gcombuy

    first: to RAVITCHN re “Typical Jewish paranoia.”I’m not religious, but I am culturally Jewish. If you think Jews are paranoid you must be profoundly ignorant about our history. My father-in-law was from Dresden. He, his sister and his parents are the only ones in his extended family who survived the Holocaust. I have faced discrimination numerous times, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. Say what you want, you are hopelessly out of touch with reality, especially if one’s not on the coasts.Dowd (who I’ve long admired) immediately brought religion into her article when religion has nothing to do with anything. Nor does the Temple story. (And for those who care about historical accuracy, Jesus only interacted with Jews – who else gave a damn about a Hebrew/Aramaic speaking poverty stricken Jewish prophet?)And to NOSMANIC – I don’t tell stories about blood drinking Christians (which were prominent until transferred to Jews as the blood drinkers.) If you don’t think Jews have reason to be paranoid, read some of the comments on Dowd’s column and some of the one’s here. When you walk a mile in my shoes, your opinion will be based on something solid. Not now.Bottom line – people are people. one’s religion or atheism, means and says nothing about one’s ethics or moral character. What is the point of mentioning it if you’re not trying to make a point of some kind?Personally (no, I don’t think you really care), I believe religion is the most destructive force on earth, killing billions, promoting ignorance and destroying the world by allowing the ideas of primitive, ignorant people to dominate our world; almost always for political and power purposes.If Dowd hadn’t mentioned religion should could have made the same point without bringing up still fresh memories (65 yrs is not very long ago) and very justifiable fears.

  • whistling

    When thhe Jews at Goldman Sachs play outevery one of the cliches of history, we dare not see or mention it?Because about some people we must not tell the truth? Or what?Does anyone look at Gaza, at Lebanon and the cluster bombs for civilians, at Syria, at the screaming for war in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan–and Georgia and talk aboutand not think of “BLOOD LUST”? The Israelis have done nothing but shed bloodBut we mustn’t notice? Good Grief, it it walks, indeed strides with loud boots, like a duck.And all the sniveling and whining about what is, and so obviously is, won’t change it.Maybe this rabbi might work to change that behavior that has been so detrimental instad of constantly blaming anyone who sees it?

  • Counterww

    Yes CCNL, we all know you love Crossan, the heretic of our age.Only a fool would listen to that idiot.

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, “whistling” is back. Again, we wait for Farnaz’s answer to her/his anti-semiticism. But again, is there something else going on here????

  • ccnl1

    “In the work of John Dominic Crossan, there is a refreshing emphasis on methodology. To this end, Crossan has compiled a database of the attestation for the Jesus traditions by independent attestation and stratification, provided by Faith Futures Foundation in the links above. Crossan in The Historical Jesus explains that his methodology is to take what is known about the historical Jesus from the earliest, most widely attested data and set it in a socio-historical context. The bulk of the common sayings tradition shows itself to be specific to the situation that existed in the 20s of the first century in Galilee in which the agrarian peasantry were being exploited as the Romans were commercializing the area. The historical Jesus proves to be a displaced Galilean peasant artisan who had got fed up with the situation and went about preaching a radical message: an egalatarian vision of the Kingdom of God present on earth and available to all as manifested in the acts of Jesus in healing the sick and practicing an open commensality in which all were invited to share. The historical Jesus was an itinerant whose mode of teaching can be understood on analogy with the Cynic sage but who was nonetheless a Jew who believed that the kingdom was being made available by the God of Israel to his people. The revolutionary message of Jesus was seen to be subversive to the Roman vision of order and led to the fateful execution of Jesus by Pilate on a hill outside of Jerusalem. In The Birth of Christianity, Crossan re-iterates an emphasis on methodology in laying out his presuppositions about the gospel texts as forming the basis for all of his other judgments about the historical Jesus and early Christianity. Among these are the existence of an early Cross Gospel reconstructed from the Gospel of Peter as elaborated in his tome The Cross that Spoke as well as his belief that the Gospel of John is dependent upon Mark. Crossan also explores the development of two different traditions from the historical Jesus, the Jerusalem tradition in which Jesus is believed to be the resurrected Christ, and the Q Gospel tradition in which Jesus is remembered as the founder of a way of life. For the former, Crossan reconstructs a group in the city of Jerusalem who shared everything in common and awaited the coming of Christ in power. For the latter, Crossan identifies Q, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Didache in which itinerants preach the teachings of Jesus and are supported by sometimes-critical communities. Both traditions are connected in their practice of share-meals and their origins in the historical Jesus.”

  • ccnl1

    Professor John D. Crossan: an On Faith panelist and”Lecturer and professor emeritus, DePaul University John Dominic CrossanCrossan is a professor emeritus in the religious studies department at DePaul University. He was an ordained priest from 1957 to 1969 and is the author of 23 books.”Some of his books/articles (see also the On Faith archives for his commentaries on various On Faith topics):Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (Harper San Francisco 2001)The Jesus Controversy : Perspectives in Conflict (Trinity Pr Intl 1999) Who Is Jesus? (Westminster John Knox 1999)Who Killed Jesus? (Harper San Francisco 1996)The Historical Jesus (Harper San Francisco 1993)An Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by Independent Attestation (online) Common Sayings Tradition in Gospel of Thomas and Q Gospel (online) Seminar: HJ Materials & Methodology (online) A Closer Look at the Mustard Seed (online)Alchemy and Accuracy (online)Simple Choices? A Response to John Dominic Crossan