On Jewish space lasers

Like many of you, I would imagine, I am having fun with the latest bit of crazy to come out of the far-Right and even the not-so-far-Right of the supposedly mainstream Republican party — the Jewish space laser, which Republican member of the House Marjorie Taylor Greene has claimed started the wildfires in California to clear land for a high-speed rail project.  I’ve texted a few memes to friends, wondered aloud if I could get one on Amazon (delivered for free in two days since I have Prime), and laughed out loud when one of those friends texted back “yah, they are great, I use mine to light my barbecue.”  Never mind the fact that there have to be easier ways to clear land than developing and launching a satellite into orbit.

In the New Yorker, Andy Borowitz reports:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—QAnon leaders are increasingly concerned that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s obsession with Jewish space lasers is distracting her from her core mission of battling baby-eating cannibals.

In an emergency meeting of QAnon elders, the conspiracy theorists issued a communiqué warning Greene to “stay on point.”

“We sent you to Washington as an anti-cannibal candidate for a reason,” the communiqué read. “Your focus on Jewish space lasers, while totally valid, may impair your effectiveness in defeating the international baby-eating cabal.”

Greene responded by saying that, while she was “capable of multitasking,” she had received QAnon’s message “loud and clear.”

“The great thing about QAnon is we can always discuss things rationally, despite Bernie Sanders’s attempts to control our minds with his Jewish magic mittens,” she said.

All good fun, until one stops to remember that at the root of the hoopla surrounding Ms. Taylor Greene and QAnon is blatant, unapologetic, disgusting anti-Semitism that has been encouraged and emboldened by the former President of the United States, Donald Trump.

There’s a reason Jews are so often the targets of conspiracy theories, even mainstream ones.  Much of conspiracy theorizing as we know it — explaining the world’s problems by suggesting that a shadowy, all-powerful “elite” is behind them — is deeply rooted in European Christianity.

On October 28, 1965, the bishops of the Second Vatican Council overwhelmingly approved and Pope Paul VI then promulgated the final text of Nostra Aetate, a statement on the Catholic Church’s relation to non-Christian religions; the fourth chapter addresses Judaism.  So what does Nostra Aetate say about Judaism?  This landmark document:

  • Repudiates the long standing charge of deicide (“belief that the Jews killed Jesus”)
  • Affirms the religious bond and spiritual legacy shared by Jews and the Church (calling Judaism the spiritual patrimony of all Christian faiths)
  • Implies that God and the Jews abide in covenant, a recognition that was made explicit by John Paul II and subsequent popes
  • Condemns “all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism directed at Jews at any time or from any source”
  • Stresses the need for accurate biblical interpretation and religious education so that negative views of Jews and Judaism are not presented as biblically based or as authentic Catholic teaching
  • Calls for respectful dialogue and collaborative biblical and theological inquiry between Jews and Catholics
  • Explicitly, and importantly, does not call for the conversion of the Jews

In light of 55 years of Jewish-Catholic dialogue since, one might wonder why I’m bringing this up.  Many Catholics (and Christians writ large) have no experience of the pre-Conciliar, pre-Nostra Aetate Church.  We should not forget that at the time Nostra Aetate was truly revolutionary — it sought to reverse centuries of European contempt for Jews and Judaism which held that the Jews were collectively and perpetually accursed for the death of Jesus and that God had replaced them with the Church as the new “Israel,” the new “chosen people.”  It is impossible to overstate how big a sea change Nostra Aetate was; it has been described as the “Copernican revolution in Jewish-Christian relations,” in the book A Jubilee for All Time, edited by Gilbert S. Rosenthal.

But, in the gospel story of Good Friday, drawn primarily from chapters 18-19 of John's gospel, the bible version of the passion declares plainly that the Jews did it, and by it I mean killed Jesus.  Pontius Pilate is portrayed as powerless against the evil Jews and supposedly wants to set Jesus free:

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”  But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”  The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
(John 19:6-7)

Eight chapters earlier blame for the plot to kill Jesus is laid explicitly at the feet of the Jews.  John 11 details how the Jews' high priest, Caiaphas, wanted to sacrifice him to curry favor with the Romans:

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
(John 11:45-50)

That’s the story taught every Christian child in their Sunday school bible study.  But biblical scholars and historians dispute it for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it served a political purpose for early Christians to steer “blame” away from the Romans.  Everything we know about the Roman government of Judea and about Pontius Pilate himself tells us the official biblical story is pure codswallop.

It was Roman governing practice at the time to let provincials follow their standard customs and religions.  Some Roman officials in Jerusalem had been accommodating to the Sanhedrin; but even under these lenient governors, Jews in first-century Jerusalem didn't have the power to crucify criminals.  Only the Romans could nail someone to a cross.  Pontius Pilate, who was the emperor Tiberius' prefect in Judaea from 26 to 36 CE, was not inclined to respect local custom and law.  According to Jewish historians, who despised him, Pilate was determined to affirm the might and power of Roman rule.  He showed so little regard for the Jewish leadership that the people of Judea finally invoked the right of all conquered peoples under Roman law to petition the Roman emperor to replace him.  This Roman hardliner, Pontius Pilate, not the Jews, was responsible for the death of Jesus.  But not according to the bible.

The early Christians taught that “the Jews” conspired to kill Jesus.  This, according to Deborah Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University and leading expert on anti-Semitism, was part of a strategy; Christianity had become a competing religion to Judaism, and its leadership wanted to marginalize the older, more established Jewish religion.  What better way to do that than to blame Jews for killing the savior of the world, leaving each new generation of Jews as inheritors of a dark conspiracy?  Lipstadt writes,“This formulation rendered Judaism more than just a competing religion. It became a source of evil.”

This is the crucial thing to understand about anti-Semitism — it serves as an explanatory framework:  in the warped, anti-Semitic mind, Jews are the explanation for all that is bad in the world.  After Christianity became the “official” religion of the Roman Empire (Catholic originally meant you were a part of the empire, non-Catholic meant you had not yet been conquered) and once it had spread throughout Europe, blaming the Jews for the world’s problems — famine, plague, crime, social injustice — became a defining feature of European society.  It answered the age-old question:  whence evil?  Evil existed, so it must come from somewhere… it doesn’t come from God who is loving, caring, and good, they would profess, it comes from the Jews who killed his son.

And this idea persists today.  Because Europeans colonized most of the world and exported Christianity to it, they likewise inculcated this deep-seated hatred of Jews wherever they went.  Three days after a murderer entered the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh and killed 11 Jews as they prayed, then-President Donald Trump characterized a migrant caravan of undocumented immigrants coming to steal American jobs and resources as having been organized and funded by George Soros, a Jewish billionaire often cast by anti-Semites as a villain.  Soros has been blamed for the world’s problems by everyone from the highest ranking Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to the man with the most watched program on cable television, Fox News host Tucker Carlson.


Okay, so US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s claim that the 2018 California wildfires were ignited by a space laser controlled by a cabal of wealthy Jews, including the Rothschild banking firm, is the frothing-at-the-mouth of a crazy person.  I take that back, as that is offensive to crazy people.  Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t crazy, she’s an anti-Semite.  Which is why I’ve stopped laughing and am taking this threat seriously (Ms. Taylor Greene, not the space laser).

When Jonathan Chait writes in New York Magazine that, “Most Republicans are probably quite skeptical that the California wildfires were intentionally set by a Jewish space laser,” I am left with two questions:

  1. Only “most” are skeptical?
  2. They are “probably” skeptical?


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