Author James Carroll traced Anti-Semitism last night from its early points, discussing the implications of different eras and the prospect of reconciliation of a history that he said can still make its way out of tragedy.
Carroll spoke about the role of Christianity in Jewish history as the keynote speaker of Hillel’s 23rd Annual Conference on the Holocaust. “We Christians are at last beginning to do the grim work of facing this history more than ever before,” he said.
Business junior Eric Frank, conference co-chair, said Carroll was invited to speak because of the insight and perspective he provides, which is addressed in his book, titled “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews.” The book focuses on the history of Anti-Semitism from Jesus to the Holocaust.
“One of our goals is to get different parts of the University community to realize the Holocaust impacted them as well,” Frank said. “Everyone realizes Nazis played a role, but we want to focus on other groups that took additional action to help the Jews or failed to take action to save them.”
Carroll discussed the notion of exclusion, which he said is part of human nature and can all too easily lead to suspicion, contempt and hatred.
He addressed the topic both with regard to past prejudice against Jews and also in relation to Sept. 11. “This new era requires every religion and every religious person to undertake an urgent new examination of conscience,” he said.
He also said it was important for Christians to do a much fuller job of confronting the history of Christian Anti-Semitism.
He added that Christians and Jews can take hope from the fact that the Christian church has turned away from it.
English Prof. Ralph Williams said he read Carroll’s book and considers it “one of the most important issues not only of our times but of the last two millennia.”
“I think the chief issue he wanted to address was what he saw as the profound need for Christianity to rethink itself on the issue of their relationship to Jews and to repent not only as individuals but as an institutional community for its profound wrongs,” Williams said.