Turning his back on what one interfaith rabbi called “the emerging new Catholic theology about Jews and Judaism,” William F. Buckley Jr. says Jews still need to be targeted for conversion.
In a recent syndicated column, the noted Catholic pundit and leading conservative chides a group of progressive Catholic Bishops for declaring that proselytizing Jews is no longer theologically acceptable.
Instead, Buckley allies himself with Jim Sibley, the chief targeter of Jews for the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Evangelical group. Sibley believes the worst form of anti-Semitism is to deny access to evangelization.
Buckley apparently agrees.
In a Sept. 18 column he criticizes a new report by the U.S. Catholics Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for saying Jews “already dwell in a saving covenant with God.”
Buckley argues that the bishops cannot change the literal words of the New Testament’s Paul, who wrote that (Romans 10: 1-4) Jews “being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Buckley says Paul’s words must be taken literally.
“[He] used language that either means nothing at all, in which case nor does any biblical language, or else something beyond the reach of bishops to ignore, let alone undo.
“So why should it offend if Christians continue to pray for the conversion of the Jews?” Buckley asks. “And to say to a Jew that Christians are unconcerned about him is, as suggested by Mr. Sibley, less an injunction to acknowledge the covenant of Israel than an act of condescension and indifference.”
An angry Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz says Buckley is wrong and, indeed, impious.
“It should offend if Christians continue to pray, campaign and target Jews for conversion,” says the Orthodox rabbi, executive director of the Center of Christian-Jewish Understanding at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University. “Clearly this is not of God.”
He argues that Paul’s words are midrash — the Jewish process of rabbinic interpretation — and not necessarily to be taken literally.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Buckley is picking and choosing to see only a very small part of the amazing changes for good unfolding around him.”
Rabbi James Rudin blasted Buckley for allying himself with Sibley, “an ultra-fundamentalist whose professional role in life is to actively seek the conversion of the Jews.
“Buckley is still committed to the spiritual annihilation of Jews and Judaism,” said the senior interreligious adviser to the American Jewish Committee. “If Buckley’s hopes for Jewish conversion were somehow to be achieved, there would be no more Judaism and no more Jewish people — the ultimate goal of all anti-Semites throughout history.”
He said Buckley is “either unable or unwilling to accept the emerging new Catholic theology about Jews and Judaism that is built upon the Second Vatican Council’s call for ‘mutual respect and understanding.’
“The theological times, they are a-changin’, ” Rabbi Rudin said, “but apparently not for Buckley.”