The satire may be a little heavy-handed in an Onion article on the Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy , but it does get at the way some people feel about Jews. Or, as some of them would put it, “the Jews.” (That definite article is important.) Or, at a strategic rhetorical distance, “Israel.” See, for example, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters . In some circles, attacks on “the neocons” (read “cosmopolitan, rootless, ideological Jews”) serves the same purpose.

The Onion is making fun of anti-semites of the obvious sort, like the Greek Archbishop I wrote about last week, but I think, from observation, there is among political conservatives and among conservative Christians a vague and general feeling of at least discomfort with Jews and Judaism, and sometimes overt dislike, which can edge into real anti-semitism. You see it in website comboxes (admittedly not a good source for generalizations, but still illustrative), email strings of normal people, conversations, and some published articles.

I don’t know the reasons for this but I can guess at one, one a lot of other people have suggested. Conservatives instinctively understand and want a more organic and traditional society and religion, one with the rules and conventions not only inherited but implicit and understood. The world they desire requires a considerable degree of conformity. The more organic and traditional the society they have or want, the more Jews, especially observant Jews, stick out. They don’t fit in.

But of course they do, if one’s vision is slightly adjusted. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was Catholics who were felt to be the aliens, the ones who didn’t and couldn’t ever fit in. Now even the traditionalist conservative has in his ideal world a Catholic church on the main street with the Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians, based on some idea of the shared Christian heritage and mind. It would not take too much effort to extend this vision to include a synagogue, based on some idea of a shared belief in God and the moral law.

Of course most political conservatives and conservative Christians have made this intellectual move. But not all, and I suspect the portion who haven’t is bigger than we would like to think.

Articles by David Mills

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