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Okay, this would probably be more resonant if I did it closer to Good Friday, but on the off chance that I have any significant number of Christian religious professionals/educators following me, let's talk about making Good Friday less antisemitic. (Thread.)
Because here's the thing: if you DON'T think carefully about how you're conducting your Good Friday stuff, especially if you're doing a Passion Play, it's probably directing at least tacit anti-Jewish sentiment from the pulpit to the pew.
Jesus is recorded as saying some pretty stern stuff to his fellow Jews, and that's one thing when it's coming from a member of a group, directed at other members of the group. But the gospels aren't part of the Jewish canon. They're the canon of a non-Jewish religion.
Which means, that in Christian hands, they cease to be a Jew talking to Jews and become something that talks ABOUT Jews. The point of Good Friday should be Christians confessing their own sins, not Christians confessing the sins of the Jews.
But the gospel text doesn't contain the nuance of "2,000 years and a lot of attempted genocide later, having become a major power, maybe we need to reconsider how we deal with and teach those passages criticizing the Jewish people."
Power relations matter. Context matters. What was completely normal within Jewish communities in the 1st century CE became deadly in the Christian-dominated West.
And, like, look, I'm a writer, I GET how good a story it is, and I'm a game writer, I GET how cool and powerful and engaging participatory narrative and audience participation are.
But when you put on a play where the audience takes on the role of a Jewish mob demanding the execution of your god, that's... um. That has some probably unintended effects on how people think and feel about Jews.
So, I'm going to say upfront that I don't have a ton of good ideas about how to put on a Passion Play that isn't anti-Jewish. I have ideas about how to make it LESS so, but it's pretty baked in. Ultimately, it's not my problem to solve.
So, let's take some probably obvious questions:
-Is this that big of a deal? Do Passion Plays and Good Friday gospel readings actually cause significant anti-Jewish sentiment in 2019?
-But Jesus DOES criticize the Jews, so doesn't that have to be part of the conversation?
And a couple more obvious questions:
-But the gospels say that the Jews DID demand Jesus's execution--isn't that an important part of the story?
-Judas is one individual, not a Jewish mob, and is a great character--why is he a problem?
Okay, I'll address those one at a time in a minute, but first some context. I went to a Good Friday service in college, with a Passion Play. It was AMAZING. Pageantry, drama, intense emotion--like, as liturgical theater, *chef kiss.*

It was also DEEPLY uncomfortable.
Because, again, having a bunch of Christians play a Jewish crowd demanding Jesus's death, speaking FOR Jews, pretending to BE Jews, in a ritualized setting was--well, take an aspect of your identity you care about and are proud of and sub that in, and imagine.
Okay, now let's talk a bit about history. Good Friday, for a lot of European history, was a big pogrom day. One of the biggest, in some areas. Christians went to Good Friday services, heard all about the bloodthirsty Jews, and went out and took it out on their Jewish neighbors.
And look, this wasn't just some peasants misinterpreting the service and going and doing what they wanted to do anyway using it as an excuse. Passion Plays were overtly, and intentionally, anti-Jewish.
And just to be clear, traces of that sentiment still remained in the official Catholic Good Friday liturgy until very recently. (I think they're still there in Tridentine circles.) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Frid…
Pope John XXIII got rid of the word "faithless," apparently not because he had an issue with it, but because in Latin it's perfidis, and people were interpreting it as "perfidious," (treacherous) rather than as "faithless."

...cool, thanks. I'm sure everyone felt much better.
You'll note that the big change in 1955 was... they started kneeling. Previously, they hadn't kneeled, because, well, I'll let a Catholic liturgist (Dom Prosper Guéranger) explain it.
I mean, the people who knelt and mocked him were Roman soldiers (Mark 15:17, Matthew 27:28) but sure.
And all of these changes were taking place within a larger conversation about Catholic-Jewish relations: a Catholic doc called Nostra Aetate (1965); Dabru Emet, a Jewish response (2000); and another Vatican doc, "The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures" (2002).
Those documents are worth reading, though FWIW I have some problems with all of them, not least of which is that the last seems to fancy itself a dialogue, yet there were no Jews on the biblical commission that wrote it, and a dialogue requires two partners at least.
But in any case, I think the thing to notice is that the least offensive version of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews is the 1970 one, and it actually got worse again in later versions.
(Yes, the 2011 is close to being the same as the 1970 one, but while the 1970 one is clear that the petitioner is asking through Jesus, the 2011 version is ambiguous as to whether redemption is through Jesus or the petitioner is asking in Jesus's name.)
Anyway, that was a long digression, but the point is: maybe actually you don't need to pray specifically for the Jews on Good Friday. Maybe just leave us out of it? Appreciate the thought, but maybe just pray for all of humanity?
I focus on Catholicism here because it's the largest Christian denomination with a centralized hierarchy and relatively consistent practice. (Evangelicals as a group are larger, but what they do on Good Friday varies widely.)
So, anyway, that's the context, and the context is recent. Your Catholic parents probably grew up praying for the "faithless Jews" on Good Friday.
Okay, so now that there's a bit of context, let's talk about those questions I outlined:

-Is this that big of a deal? Do Passion Plays and Good Friday gospel readings actually cause significant anti-Jewish sentiment in 2019?
Yes. I mean, I dunno for sure about 2019, but they were still doing it in 2017 and 2018. Friends' kids still get taunted at school by Christian kids, especially around Easter, for killing Jesus. Adult Christians still talk about Jews killing Jesus.
Hell, several people I know have actually been asked, by well-meaning little old church ladies, if they have scars from having their horns removed, apparently in the tone you'd use to ask about an appendectomy scar.
And are Passion Plays and Good Friday gospel readings still actually CAUSING anti-Jewish hatred? I don't know, honestly. Causality is hard to determine. But they're definitely fanning it and giving it a vocabulary and a shape.
For my largely liberal, agnostic social circles, Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ may not be something they saw, let alone cared about, but it sold like hotcakes to churches.
-But Jesus DOES criticize the Jews, so doesn't that have to be part of the conversation?

Oh, boy. This is one of those parts of Jesus's Jewish context that it's not okay for Christians to appropriate. The fact that you worship him doesn't automatically make all of Judaism yours.
So yes, Jesus criticized other Jews. (Somewhat in the gospels, and even more in Pauline commentaries on the gospels.) Judaism is HUGE on self-criticism as a community.
I mean, take a moment and consider how weird it is that Judaism's holy book, the Tanakh, contains 24 books and 15 are prophets yelling at us. Like instead of focusing on how great we are, it's mostly self-criticism.
And reproving your neighbor if you're aware they're engaged in wrongdoing is literally a religious commandment (Leviticus 19:17). Of course, the first half of that verse is not to hate them in your heart. It's pretty important that those two concepts are paired.
Debate and disagreement are also huge parts of Jewish practice. The blessing for Torah study is "la'asok b'divrei Torah," literally "to engage with words of Torah." The word translated as "engage" has the sense of combat. lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/6229.ht…
So Jesus as a Jew yelling at fellow Jews, as is Jewishly traditional, is one thing. For Christians to preach those passages without a BIG DISCLAIMER about "hey, we read these rebukes as applying to US, not to the Jews," is, well, dangerous.
Because, again, without that disclaimer, you get Christians confessing the sins of the Jews, rather than the sins of the church. If you're going to lay claim to those scriptures, then they apply to YOU. You're the target, not Jews.
And that needs to be made clear, otherwise those passages take on some very ugly implications.
-But the gospels say that the Jews DID demand Jesus's execution--isn't that an important part of the story?

...do they?
I mean, part of Christians wielding the gospels responsibly, when it comes to their relationship with Jews, is understanding historical context and accepting that there's a human element of polemic.
The gospels were codified AFTER Paul, and Paul was trying to get a religion in direct competition with Judaism off the ground, and he maybe was not an unbiased source about Judaism.
So, based on what we can independently verify, as far as Jewish vs. Roman methods of execution, Jewish beliefs at the time, and Jewish vs. Roman authority in 1st-century Judea, Jesus was executed by Romans for activities considered criminal by Romans.
Crucifixion was not a Jewish method of execution. It was a Roman one. Declaring yourself King of the Jews was not illegal under Jewish law (people might have thought you were nuts, but that's different). It was a direct challenge to Roman authority.
Long story short, while there may have been individual Jews who wanted Jesus dead, there was no reason, legally or religiously, for Jews as a group to view anything he said as warranting execution, or anything other than sideeye. OTHER than fear of how the Romans would react.
So yeah, there's a big problem with the text of the gospels itself, in the whole shouting "crucify him!" thing.
-Judas is one individual, not a Jewish mob, and is a great character--why is he a problem?

The whole Judas story is... oof. Like, this would be twice as long if I went into it, but basically, he's utterly superfluous as a character, and his name is suspicious.
Like, the Roman authorities already knew who Jesus was and where he would be, so why was Judas necessary again? And of all the names he could have, he just HAPPENS to have one that basically just means "Jew"? Yikes, narrative.
Okay, so, like I said, I don't have good answers on how to make Passion Plays not anti-Jewish, and I dunno what to tell Christians about the gospel text itself. I do, however, have a few suggestions to make it all LESS nasty.
-Reconsider having the audience play Jews and chant "crucify him!" Yeah, I know, it's great theater. It's also... don't do Jewface? Like, I dunno, maybe you could set it in contemporary times or something if you really want that part to be participatory?
-Don't compound the problem of the narrative by attributing stuff Romans did to Jews. It was Romans who executed him, Romans who stripped and mocked him, etc.
-Stop trying to make Pilate out to be a sympathetic character who's forced by bloodthirsty Jews to execute Jesus. History documents that Pilate was such a bloodthirsty monster that even other bloodthirsty Romans thought he was over the top.
-Learn the difference between Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus argued with the Pharisees because THAT WAS PART OF WHAT THE PHARISEES DID. But the gospels don't actually portray them as hostile to him, and they disappear from the narrative when he gets to Jerusalem.
Pharisees are proto-rabbis, essentially. Rabbinic Judaism, as is practiced by Jews today, evolved from the Pharisees. And they're not portrayed in the gospels as being involved with Jesus's death. The term only appears 11 times in the KJV, btw, and 12 in the NIV.
Consider carefully whether you actually want to include Judas.

You've already got a villain: the Roman Empire. And that sort of villainy is far more relevant today than one random Jewish guy without any authority who isn't even narratively necessary.
Above all, provide context. The story gets dangerous to actual living, breathing Jewish people when it's flattened, when the historical context is ignored, etc.
If you're going to teach these texts, *teach* them.
And while I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that Jews drop in on Good Friday services so people doing Passion Plays have to look them in the eye, both because we shouldn't have to, and because I don't want to interfere with someone else's observance of their holy day...
...if you're putting on or participating in a Passion Play, and you WOULD be uncomfortable or awkward if you were sitting next to a Jewish family while this was going on--if you're writing it, change it. If you participate in it, talk to your pastor or music director or etc.
And maybe consider ways you might want to revise it for next year.

Because, like, look: the world doesn't need any more hate in it right now. And 2000 years of this shit--even if now it's unintentional, tacit, implications, etc.--is enough.
Actually, hang on, let me screenshot a few examples from the first two pages of Google results for "Passion Play script" of What Not To Do.
Okay, so this one, as far as I can tell, is maybe supposed to be performed by kids, which kind of makes it even worse. abychurches.co.uk/content/pages/…
So, don't do this. The only "blasphemy" that would have warranted execution under Jewish law is pronouncing the formal divine name (except in an accepted ritual context), which the gospels don't record Jesus as doing. This is making Judaism itself out to be the villain.
And above all, do not do this. This one line has caused possibly more Jewish death, over the centuries, than anything else in the Bible. Especially don't do the whole Jesus's blood is on all the Jews' descendants thing with kids, wow.
From here: champagnat.org/shared/prayers…

Why are there Pharisees in the dramatis personae for a Passion Play? Why AREN'T there priests/Sadducees? Stop.
Honestly, if you're going to have kids do a Passion Play, this is maybe better than accuracy, because framing it in "church" language brings it closer to home for kids at church, and doesn't give them negative associations with the term synagogue.
It still lets the Romans off the hook, and misses a chance to teach about power and occupation and colonialism, but if kids are too young to learn about the nuances of Jesus's Jewish context, this might be the least terrible way to go about it, I dunno.
Like 90% of this play is Jews plotting. FFS. greatpassionplay.org/uploads/1/5/6/…
Oh, fuck all the way off.
BTW, this version of the Passion Play, which is, for real, mostly Jews mustache-twirling and plotting, is apparently America's #1 attended outdoor drama. greatpassionplay.org Go see some Shakespeare in the Park instead, please.
And here's a really good article by a pastor, especially the paragraph on how to talk to kids about it. huffingtonpost.com/rev-eleanor-ha…
Okay, NOW I'm done.
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