26 Linden Lane Princeton, New Jersey November 9, 1954 Sir Robert Mayer Finsbury House Blomfield Street London, E. C. 2 England Dear Sir Robert, Your kind letter reached me only a few days ago. My wife and I were greatly touched by your gracious recollection of days past, and of the friendly meetings in our apartment on Fifth Avenue; we send you and Lady Mayer our cordial greetings. I have tried to present my views on the problem about which you and Berenson are concerned in my essay "The mystery of Israel" (in Redeeming the Time); in a little book "A Christian looks at the Jewish question" (the title of the English edition is Antisemitism); and in a letter to Hayim Greenberg (in The Range of Reason) -- better perhaps, than I can do now in a brief letter. I would say, first, that Christianity is not, and cannot be, antisemitic, for any antisemitic utterance is an insult to Christ and His Mother, to the Apostles and to the Church ("Spiritually we are Semites," Pius XI has said)* in which the Gentiles are grafted on the olive tree of Israel. The positions of the Church on Israel are expressed in St. Paul, Rom., ch. XI.-- But any kind whatever of Christian civilization is neither the Church, nor Christianity. And that particular type of temporal civilization which was medieval Christendom fostered a certain type of antisemitism, religious in nature, -- because medieval Christendom was a "sacral" civilization, in which the Jew was not a member of the temporal city; he was tolerated in it (as opposed to the heretic) but as a potential enemy, by reason of his refusal to recognize Christ. _____________________ * Here is a kind of confirmation of Berenson's feeling: "how Jewish Christianity is."
2 Now medieval antisemitism, nefarious as it may have been, (especially when allied with the greed of princes for money) was essentially impatience against those who prevented by their spiritual obstinacy the advent of Christ's Kingdom on earth. It was totally different from racist antisemitism. The latter, nevertheless, may be regarded as an aggravated metamorphosis and secularization of the former. This does not authorize, in my opinion, the Rev. Parkes to regard antisemitism as "a creation of the Christian Church." He says, furthermore, that the Jew should not "be left out of the question." That's right. At this point I would say that the basic cause of antisemitism is the thirst of the Jews for justice, and their eagerness to have God here below, and the testimony given by their indefectible hope. They are in the world and cling to the world, -- and with what tenacity! And whatever they may do, they are not of the world. Is there any wonder that the world is prone to hate them? And it hates Christians too. In the last analysis, Maurice Samuel was right in stating that modern antisemitism hates the Jews not because they killed Christ but because they gave Christ to the world. Medieval Christendom is finished and will never revive. A new Christendom, if it ever comes about, will belong not to "sacral" but to "secular" types of civilization. And Christians today are summoned to purify themselves of those forms of thought and language which are warped by some antisemitic bias inherited from the errors of the past, and which have nothing to do with the essence of Christianity but prey upon it as parasites. The only way open to us is to develop mutual friendship, esteem and comprehension between Jews and Christians. Israel is a paradox and a mystery. I think that a temptation for a number of contemporary Jews is to shun their privilege of being the chosen people, so as to be "like the others." Another -- opposite -- temptation is to yield (just like the other modern nations) to nationalism, in order to preserve their identity (not realizing that nationalism is but a perverted secularization of the idea of the chosen people, -- brought about by peoples who are not chosen . . .) It is true that Israel is both people and religion. Nevertheless Berenson is right, to my mind, in thinking that the Jews have basic decisions to make in this connection. On the one hand, the state of Israel can neither be a theocratic state nor a neutral state. There is a
3 distinct possibility that (if inner conflicts are satisfactorily solved) it may evolve toward a type of Democratic Society which, while being lay or secular (equal rights for all, freedom or religion, etc.) would be at the same time religiously inspired. On the other hand, and as concerns the Jews as a whole, I do not see how they will be able to maintain their spiritual identity if not by the fire of their religious faith, and at the same time by making this faith of the Old Testament more and more universal or supra-historical, -- which would mean, despite any intrinsic differences, a kind of rapprochment with Christianity as to practical attitudes. And this very fact would, I think, involuntarily pave the way for that final reintegration of Israel which will be the plenitude both of Israel and the Church, and to the abiding hope of Christianity, and which St. Paul viewed as a miraculous splendor of the world. With every kind regard, Sincerely yours, Jacques Maritain JM:ms