The Stubborn Antisemitism of Yahoo and The Christian Century

Muslim and Arab hostility toward Israel and Jews was downplayed and ignored while Jewish wrongdoing was highlighted. Palestinian violence was depicted as an attempt to achieve sovereignty, and not as an attempt to deny the Jews their right to sovereignty. Palestinians’ actions were explained; Israelis’ actions were condemned.

When presented with evidence of James M. Wall’s factual errors, the publication declined to correct them.

Eventually some people in mainline churches started to realize that these overtures were causing more damage to mainline Protestantism than they were to Israel.

The crimes of The Christian Century continue unabated.

Yahoo, the well-known search engine company, has apparently decided that an antisemitic website, Veterans News Now [VNN], is a credible news source. People who rely on Yahoo’s news aggregator to view information about the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict will now find in their news feed links to articles published on this website, which traffics in Holocaust denial and displays articles that blame Israel for the attack against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. This scandal was exposed last week by Gilead Ini, a colleague at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America [CAMERA].

Yahoo should not be mainstreaming a website that posts like this. Moreover, it is not the only entity helping to make VNN look like a respectable website.

James M. Wall, former editor of the The Christian Century, a magazine that caters to liberal (mainline) Protestants in the United States, is also helping to mainstream the website. He does this by having his articles published on the website and by agreeing to serve as an “associate editor” for the publication. During his decades-long career at The Christian Century, Wall was the standard-bearer for liberal Protestantism in the United States. As a result of his recent actions, Wall’s name and writings will be forever linked with virulent antisemitism.

Historically, behavior like this would result in Wall’s being expelled from polite society in the United States, but Wall’s name remains on The Christian Century’s masthead where he is listed as contributing editor.

While it is a shock that the people who run The Christian Century will not move to disassociate themselves from its former editor and the scandal he has created, it should not come as much of a surprise. Historically, The Christian Century has had a difficult relationship with the Jewish people, a fact acknowledged in the pages of the magazine itself a few decades ago.

The History

A year after Wall took over as editor of the publication in 1972, The Christian Century published a review of American Protestantism and a Jewish State by Hertzel Fishman. The book, published by Wayne State Press in 1973, was a study about the attitudes of mainline Protestants in the U.S. toward the Jewish people and their homeland during the first several decades of the 20th century.

The laudatory review, written by Seymour J. Cohen, and published under the heading of “Editor’s Choice,” was more than a treatment of the book in question, but a harbinger of how The Christian Century was going to confront its well-documented historical hostility toward the Jewish people during their time of trial in Europe. It also provided some clues about how the magazine would relate to the Jewish people in the decades ahead.

Fishman, who accurately depicted The Christian Century as a bellwether of mainline Protestant attitudes toward Jews and their homeland in the decades before, during and after Israel’s creation, detailed numerous instances in which the magazine behaved in a discriminatory manner toward the Jewish people. It was an ugly story.

Fishman documented how the magazine had condemned Jewish efforts to maintain a distinctive identity in American society, opposed Jewish efforts to obtain a sovereign state, and expressed contempt for Jewish support for America’s entry into World War II.

When Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress, tried to warn the American people about the murder of European Jewry in 1942, The Christian Century’s editor Charles Clayton Morrison denounced him, accusing Wise of exaggerating the threat and asking what his motives were. The magazine eventually acknowledged that the Holocaust did take place, but never apologized for its mistreatment of Rabbi Wise.

The episode remains a black mark on the legacy of the man who served as editor and publisher of The Christian Century after buying the struggling magazine from the Disciples of Christ in the early 1900s. Simply put, Morrison had an antipathy for the Jews and it showed in the publication he ran. On a couple of occasions, the magazine under Morrison’s watch made comparisons between the Germans and the Jews they tried to kill. The magazine, for example, in 1933 published an editorial that claimed Jewish nationalism caused the crucifixion of Jesus, just as Christian nationalism was doing the same thing to the Jews in Germany: “Let the Jews see themselves as suffering from the same cause as that which put Jesus of Nazareth to death,” the magazine stated. And in 1945, the magazine expressed hope that after their defeat in World War II, the Germans would not embrace a “martyr complex” and become “another Jewry.”

Comparisons such as these prompted Fishman to conclude that, “The pages of The Christian Century carried little criticism with regard to other nationalist groups. American nationalism is applauded, and the nationalist aspirations of colonially held societies are respected. Only Nazi nationalism and Jewish nationalism are put in the same category.”

Clearly, The Christian Century has a lot to answer for, a point reluctantly acknowledged in 1973 by James M. Wall, the publication’s newly appointed editor. Wall, who had been hired as editor of the magazine in 1972, published a defensive preface to Cohen’s review of Fishman’s book.

The preface, which included a reluctant admission that the magazine had made some terrible mistakes in its coverage of the Jewish people, was marred by a troubling petulance. “Nobody else looked good either in the matter of World War II and the Jews,” it stated.


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