Anti-Jewish, Anti-Gay Comic Book Distributed By U.S. Military Chaplains?

Anti-Jewish, Anti-Gay Comic Book Distributed By U.S. Military Chaplains?

by Bruce Wilson

[image, above: Manga Messiah illustration suggests a Jewish rabbinic alliance with Beelzebub]

[image, right: Rabbis, as depicted in Manga Messiah]

[UPDATE, 5:50 PM: the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, in a new press release, states that “these “Manga Messiah” comic books have been distributed liberally across all the service branches and on military bases and naval vessels all over the world including the combat zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, and at many other U.S. armed forces bases in the Area of Responsibility (AOR).”]

The publisher claims that millions of copies of Manga Messiah have been distributed in countries around the globe, from Uganda to Guatemala to Great Britain. And, according to U.S. Army Sergeant Justin Griffith, who also serves as the Military Director for American Atheists, Manga Messiah has been distributed by United States military chaplains.

 

To an almost complete lack of media scrutiny, the Japanese manga-style comic book Manga Messiah seems to have joined Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as one of the most internationally prolific forms of anti-Jewish propaganda in history.

According to Manga Messiah’s publisher, the comic version of the Medieval “passion play” - which depicts the life of Jesus and portrays sinister, murderous Jewish rabbis in league with the devil and clamoring for the death of Jesus - is printed in 22 different languages including Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, Russian, Spanish, French, and German. The 288-page full-color comic, originally conceived to appeal to preteen boys and girls, also features virulently anti-gay content.

Manga Messiah resurrects two of the oldest and most common anti-Jewish stereotypes in Christianity; the claim that Jews killed Jesus and the charge that they are allied with, related to, or even offspring of, the devil: stereotypes that have helped inspire anti-Jewish massacres since the advent of the Crusades, and the 1096 slaughter of Jewish communities in the German Rhineland region.

In his classic and still heavily referenced 1943 book The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation To Modern Anti-Semitism, author Joshua Trachtenberg states that, during the Medieval period,

“the devil and the Jew joined forces, in Christian belief, not only in the war against Jesus during his life on earth but also in the contemporaneous war against the Church and its civilization. All the power of Christian propaganda was exerted to arouse fear and hatred of the Jews, for while Jesus fought the devil on his ground, his followers must destroy the agents of the devil on theirs, lest Satan inherit the earth and truth and salvation be lost. Christendom was summoned to a holy war of extermination…”

  (image, right: though it was not in Biblical scripture, Medieval depictions of Judas frequently showed him with red hair, which was symbolically associated with the devil. Manga Messiah resurrects this Medieval stereotype.[1])

But Manga Messiah also introduces a more contemporary anti-Jewish and anti-LGBTQ slur by suggesting that Judas, who in Christian scripture is said to have betrayed Jesus, was a gay Jewish financial money manager who might also have been an assassin. According to Manga Messiah, Judas Iscariot,

“is the disciple [of Jesus 12 disciples] in charge of the group’s finances. Does his second name indicate he’s one of the Sicarii, the “Knife man” sect of the Zealots who seek to overthrow the empire… or merely that he’s from the small Judean town of Kerioth. Nobody seems to be sure and the thoughts of this quiet but intense disciple are known only to himself… and Yeshauh !”

[image, above: note that Judas wears purple earrings]

In the Manga Messiah depiction of Judas he is drawn as effeminate, with an early 1980s Boy George-style haircut, a flowing head scarf, and earrings: a heavy handed suggestion that Judas might be gay. So, in the Manga Messiah version of the passion play, Judas is a gay banker or money-manager, and perhaps a violent revolutionary killer (the Sicarii carried out their assassinations with concealed daggers), who betrays Jesus with a homoerotic kiss.

These themes, the suggestion that Jesus’ betrayer might have been an assassin trained to kill with a hidden dagger also appears to reference the early 20th Century German “Dolchstoßlegende” legend, the “stab in the back” myth, which blamed the German loss in World War One on a Jewish conspiracy. [2]

Commenting on the comic, founder of the nationally influential LGBTQ rights group Truth Wins Out Wayne Besen, who is both homosexual and Jewish, stated,

“This is a cartoon with dark connotations that blends historic homophobia and anti-semitism to mold impressionable young minds to think with malice.”

While Jesus and his apostles are drawn Manga style, with tiny, stylized noses, and enormous eyes, the Jewish rabbis in the comic are usually depicted differently - shown with sallow, yellowish complexions or with large or sharply hooked noses - calling for the stoning of an adulterous woman, attacking Jesus, and angrily clamoring for his death.

Interviewed for a 2009 Huffington Post story on the comic book, noted researcher Chip Berlet characterized Manga Messiah as,

”[a] colorful comic training manual for motivating young leaders of the next pogrom against Jews. Not just offensive—ghastly and horrific in content with a clear enemy scapegoat identified for venting apocalyptic religious bigotry.”

Manga Messiah presents both an ugly caricature of Jewish ethnicity and also depicts Jesus as non-Semitic, an unfortunate presentation given historic attempts by anti-Semitic streams of Christianity to erase Jesus’ Jewish ethnic identity and present him as closer to Northern European than semitic ethnicity. [3]

But the comic also twists Biblical scripture in a highly deceptive manner which associates the Jewish rabbis with the devil, represented in Manga Messiah by Beelzebub.

In the New Testament Book of Matthew, 12:24, Matthew describes the Pharisees as accusing Jesus, who was healing people by casting out their demons, of performing his exorcisms with the aid of Beelzebub, commonly taken to represent Satan.

Manga Messiah’s depiction presents to readers a wildly misleading pictorial narrative, by showing [see first image in this story] a glowering Pharisee, with a towering Beelzebub behind him as if a personal bodyguard, telling Jesus that he cannot possibly cast out demons without Beelzebub’s aid. The image clearly suggests to readers that the Pharisee is in league with Beelzebub. It is reasonable also to infer from the presentation that the Pharisee himself relies on Beelzebub for help in casting out demons.

The association of Jews with the devil, and the depiction of Jews as human-devil hybrids with demonic features such as horns, is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of anti-Jewish slurs and traces back to at least to the second century A.D., predating even one of the most outspoken early Christian purveyors of anti-Jewish invective, St. John Chrysostom.

In the mid-20th Century, following the Holocaust, Christian theologians, both in mainline Protestant denominations and in the Catholic Church, made a concerted effort to repudiate styles of Biblical exegesis that associated Jews with Satan. Those earlier exegesis styles inaccurately conflated the Jewish Pharisees, who at the time were only one particular religious tendency among many within Judaism, with Jews generally. Manga Messiah appears to resurrect that earlier, distorted approach.

According to Chip Berlet, “Manga Messiah,” which has been sold at Barnes and Noble bookstores,

Portrays a version of reading Biblical text about the crucifixion of Christ rejected by most Christians for decades—especially since the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Many readers of the Bible’s New Testament will recognize the jibes from the jeering crowd as coming from Jewish chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees. If readers don’t know the references, the Bible verses cited below the images can be consulted to make clear the Jewish identity of the bloodthirsty crowd taunting Jesus.

These images of Jews as the Christ killers make Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” hideous snuff movie seem tame in comparison.”

If Sgt. Justin Griffith’s account is accurate, it would be far from the only incident in which United States military personnel had promoted anti-Semitic material. In 2007, a press release from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which protects the religious and philosophical freedom rights of U.S. military personnel, MRFF revealed that,

“At the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Army base, military chaplains have been holding Bible classes for US soldiers using study guides that appear to be anti-Semitic.

  [...]

In one of the study guides, Galatians, posted on the Fort Leavenworth chaplain web site, the materials refer to Jews as “Judiazers” and claim that “the Judiazers were zealous people much like the zealous Moslems have become today.”

In an even more striking case, during the late 1990s the late evangelist E.H. “Jim” Ammerman, who by 2008 controlled between 5-8 percent of the active duty chaplains in the United States military, gave a series of talks, broadcast over TV and radio networks that could in theory reach about ten percent of America’s population, in which Colonel Ammerman claimed that Jewish bankers, including Rothschilds, “rule our money and rule our world”.

Anti-Semitic tendencies apparently arising within some sectors of evangelical Christianity today have disturbing resonance with tendencies in German Christianity in pre-WW2 Nazi Germany (also see footnote 2).

As I wrote in a 2009 Talk To Action story on the video documentary by Steve D. Martin that was originally titled (see link for full video of the one-hour documentary),

Recent academic studies, by scholars such as Robert P. Erickson, Doris Bergen, Susannah Heschel and others have demonstrated that the role of the German Protestant churches, in aiding, sympathizing with, and failing to oppose, the rise of Hitler and the German Nazi Party, was dramatically greater than has been previously recognized.

The documentary “Storm Troopers Of Christ: The Jews and Baptism in Nazi Germany” explores how a major, influential faction of German Christianity, the Protestant Church in Germany especially, helped support the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis, to relatively minor opposition from Christian clergy who disagreed with German fascism and the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazis.

for my previous coverage of Manga Messiah, see:

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/1/16/10917/4483
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/1/22/163837/833
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/5/29/18132/7644
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/4/27/115621/671

footnotes

[1] In Inventing the Jew: Antisemitic Stereotypes in Romanian and Other Central-East European Cultures (University of Nebraska Press, 2009), on page 63, authors Andrei Oișteanu and Mirela Adăscăliţei write, “Judas Iscariot—believed to be a leading “forebearer of the Jews and also a hypostasis of the devil—was red-haired and red-bearded (at least so he was depicted in medieval iconography).”

In The Red Jews: Antisemitism In an Apocalyptic Age 1200-1600 (1995, E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands), on pages 67-68, author Andrew Colin Gow describes,

“The history of German usage leads us to conclude that the ‘Red Jews’ were in physical terms Jews who bore the mark of red hair and red beards—because they were morally degenerate…   Jews were often portrayed in medieval illustrations in Christian texts with red hair and red clothes. Thérèse and Mendel Metzger even note in their book on the illuminations in medieval Hebrew manuscripts that in 1360, the Jewish men of Rome were required to wear a short red tabard, and Jewish women a red skirt….  Christian iconography ‘saw red in connection with Judas”
[2] The Dolchstoßlegende, the German “stab in the back” myth that arose immediately following the German surrender to the allies in World War One, claimed that Jews, along with socialists and communists, had secretly sabotaged the German war effort.

[image, right: early 20th Century German postcard graphically depicts the Dolchstoßlegende myth]

In the buildup towards World War Two, Hitler and his Nazis used the pretexts of alleged threats from internal and external foes to launch vicious attacks on Jews, on gays, on communists and socialists, then on liberals. The Nazis were not in the majority initially, far from it, but they knew human mass psychology, they knew the power of threats and intimidation to silence possible opposition to the gathering Reich. A similar “stab in the back myth” has arose in late 20th Century America, on the evangelical right.

In a striking statement he made at the September 2006 theological conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, noted conservative Baptist scholar David P. Gushee warned his audience of the emergence of conspiratorial and palingenetic myths on the evangelical right that bore resemblance to similar myths, and narratives of “cultural despair” that flourished in pre-World War Two Germany and helped Hitler and his Nazis rise to power. Stated Gushee,

“Like all Germans, and many all around the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply troubled by World War I and the cultural and political crisis that afflicted his nation after the war. And yet he never demonstrated any susceptibility to what Fritz Stern called “the politics of cultural despair.” I think it was because he believed in the interpretation of history offered by biblical revelation, which though realistic about human nature and history is never a counsel of despair.

It was this cultural despair—a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)—that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler’s rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler’s narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.

Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and “God withdraws his blessing” from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the “secularists” now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer—a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action—also has its parallels with the era under consideration.

It is in part my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer’s example that has led me to a rejection of the toxic politics of cultural despair and commitment to a hopeful vision of Christian cultural engagement in light of the sure advance of God’s kingdom.”

Few in the American Jewish community, or the Israeli Jewish community, grasp the magnitude of the anti-Jewish hatred that has been stoked, from American pulpits and American televangelist broadcast networks, literally for decades. The propaganda has been slightly coded but in the end is not very subtle. Rather than directly vilify Jews, Christian fundamentalist preachers and leaders have for decades vilified groups and terms that traditionally, for better or worse, have been associated with Jews.

Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have inveighed against Hollywood and “liberal media,” and singled out New York City as a purported, uniquely horrible “moral cesspool.” They have railed against traditional Jewish occupational pursuits, such as law, media and journalism, blaming those for many of the evils they claim beset American society.

And over the last several decades, through the vector of dispensational prophecy loaded with anti-Jewish memes, stereotypes and symbolism, Christian leaders such as John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Tim Lahaye and others have injected anti-Jewish ideas so effectively into American culture, that one can now buy comic books, such as Manga Messiah, published by Tyndale House, at leading national bookseller chains.

But anti-Jewish conspiracy theories involving evil cabals of Illuminati, Masons or Rothschilds, alleging that Jews control the World and are to be blamed for all manner of societal and national misfortune—because they [Jews] are of, allied with and intimately related to the Devil—are to be found nowhere in the Bible.

In a 1995 New York Review of Books article, and a subsequent 1997 book, author Michael Lind criticized Christian Broadcasting network founder and evangelist Pat Robertson for the claim, made in Robertson’s bestselling 1991 book The New World Order, that, as Lind summarized it, “Jewish international bankers were supporting a world revolution against Christianity and capitalism”. Lind observed that the anti-Semitic style of conspiracy theory promoted by Robertson was extremely similar to those promoted by the 1930s proto-fascist Catholic radio celebrity Father Robert Coughlin.

In his book The Turning Tide: The Fall of Liberalism and the Rise of Common Sense (1993, Word Publishing), on page 199 Pat Robertson included homosexuals in his conspiracy theory-driven narrative of “cultural despair” that closely tracks the historic Dolchstoßlegende :

“Another form of attack on traditional values is the whole issue of homosexuals in the military. From the outset, this was an agenda perpetrated by the extreme Left that set out to weaken the military, to cut defense appropriations back drastically, and insinuate people into the midst of America’s fighting forces who would destroy morale and cause critical divisions of authority…   At the top of their hit list are such things as family values, social ethics, sexual morality, judicial probity, and government restraint…   Until now, no one else has pointed out just how dangerous these doctrines of the Left really are to the future of American society. They are inimical to every foundational principle of this nation.”

During the 2008 presidential election, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain aggressively courted the political endorsement of megachurch evangelist John Hagee, whose sermons have for years been featured on the U.S. armed forces broadcast network.

McCain renounced Hagee’s political endorsement after I published an audio recording from a sermon Hagee had made in 2005, in which pastor Hagee claimed that God had sent Hitler and his Nazis to drive Europe’s Jews toward Palestine because, according to Hagee, it was the only home that God ever intended for the Jewish people.

But that was far from the only anti-Semitic theme from Hagee’s globally broadcast sermons or in his bestselling books. Pastor John Hagee has also claimed that international Jewish bankers, including Rothschilds, control the U.S. economy through the Federal Reserve and are scheming to bankrupt average Americans - a conspiracy theory nearly identical to one that was perhaps Adolf Hitler’s favorite anti-Jewish accusation, the claim that the Rothschild banking family and other Jewish banking dynasties controlled the world economy through international money markets. The theme was featured in what is perhaps the most effective work of anti-Jewish cinematography in history, the Nazi propaganda film “The Eternal Jew” (Der Ewige Jude)

Hagee has warned that the coming antichrist will be gay and “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler.”

The latter claim plays into a startling style of historical revisionism on the evangelical right in which historical victims of Hitler’s Nazi regime - including Jews, gays, communists and socialists - are depicted as themselves having engineered the Holocaust. I explored this subject in a February 2010 article in Zeek, an imprint of the Jewish Daily Forward, Christians Rewrite the Holocaust. Perhaps the most extreme expression of this horrific revisionist tendency come in the writing of Massachusetts-based evangelist Scott Lively, now on trial in civil court for allegedly helping to inflame eliminationist anti-LGBTQ hatred in Uganda, where a bill that has loomed before Uganda’s parliament since 2009 threatens to impose the death penalty for a range of homosexual acts.

Lively is the author of the 1995 book The Pink Swastika, which claims that Hitler and other top Nazi leaders were gay, and suggests that both World War Two and the Holocaust had their origin in alleged homosexual sociopathy.

During a March 5-7, 2009 conference in Kampala, Uganda, Lively aired that conspiracy theory and told Ugandan politicians and religious leaders that homosexuals are typically pedophiles. AIDS was God’s punishment against homosexuality, Lively informed his audience, and he blamed the Rwandan genocide on gays, whom he depicted as “serial killers” and “mass murders”. Lively also claimed that rich Westerners were conspiring to bring homosexuality to Uganda, by bribing youth to engage in homosexual acts - a conspiracy theory that has widespread traction in the country.

Scott Lively’s appearance at the conference is widely credited with helping to inflame Ugandan antigay sentiment to a fever pitch. In the month following that conference, the initial version of the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, commonly referred to as the “kill the gays bill” was introduced in Uganda’s parliament by Ugandan MP David Bahati who, according to journalist Jeff Sharlet, author of two books on the Washington-based global evangelical network known as “The Family” or “The Fellowship”, Bahati is the head the Ugandan branch of The Fellowship.

Longtime head of the Washington D.C. based Fellowship network Douglas Coe has repeatedly encouraged for Christians to be as dedicated to Jesus as were the Hitler Youth to Hitler, or as dedicated as young Chinese Red Guard under Mao, who during the Cultural Revolution chopped off the heads of their own mothers and fathers for the good of the state.

“Purpose Driven Life” author and Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren, who gave a prayer at President Barack Obama’s early 2009 presidential inauguration, has also public called on at least two different occasions for Christians to be as dedicated as were the Hitler Youth to Hitler.

[3] Throughout the late 19th Century and in the decades leading up to the rise of Nazism in Germany, European writers began to claim Jesus was Northern European, an “aryan”. In her book The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and The Bible in Nazi Germany, Princeton professor Susannah Heschel examines the work of the “Institute For The Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence On German Church Life”, a Nazi-supported institute that sought to de-Judaize Christianity. Heschel describes, in the introduction to her book, that institute’s work:

The Institute’s goals were both political and theological. Seeking to create a dejudaized church for a Germany that was in process of ridding Europe of all Jews, it developed a new biblical interpretation and liturgical materials. In the six years of its existence, as the Nazi regime carried out its genocide of the Jews, the Institute redefined Christianity as a Germanic religion whose founder, Jesus, has fought valiantly to destroy Judaism, falling victim to that struggle. Germans were now called on to be the victors in Jesus’s own struggle against the Jews, who were said to be seeking Germany’s destruction.”
SOURCE:  Talk to Action

TAM Editors Note:  This sort of anti-Jewish propaganda mirrors many recent anti-Muslim publications.  All decent people need to condemn such speech. 

See also:  the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demand letter, which was sent to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  MRFF Demands Immediate DoD Corrective Action on Distribution of Anti-Semitic “Manga Messiah” Christian Proselytizing Comic Books Throughout Military

 


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