ORLANDO, Fla.—The greatest tool for fighting antisemitism is the Bible, and Jew-hatred is on the rise in the U.S. because Americans are less and less familiar with the holy text, a Christian leader warns.
Antisemitism “is on the rise in general,” Luke Moon, deputy director at The Philos Project and leader of Philos Action League, told The Daily Signal. Philos Action League mobilizes Christians to fight antisemitism.
Speaking with “The Daily Signal Podcast” late last month at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Moon said Jew-hatred is “on the rise because we as an American society are becoming less biblically literate, less connected to the Bible.”
“You find that people who are biblically literate tend to have a more positive view of Jews and Israel, and as a result, as that declines, so does any kind of affinity, any kind of knowledge,” he said.
“So it’s very easy for those tropes, the scapegoating of the Jewish people, to begin to rise,” Moon explained. “That’s what you see groups like the Goyim Defense League taking advantage of when they go after Jews … they’re like, here’s the 12 Jews that are wanting to take away your guns. So they’re using issues that the Right is very concerned about and weaponizing them against the Jews.”
Moon also noted the rise in antisemitism on the Left.
“Antisemitism on the Left is ‘I love Jews and hate Israel,’ and on the Right it’s ‘I love Israel and hate Jews,’” he said. He noted that student groups at the University of California, Berkeley, law school pledged not to invite speakers who have supported Zionism or “the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”
Moon also noted that Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., supported a resolution lamenting the establishment of the state of Israel as a catastrophe, or “Nakba,” for “the Palestinian people.”
“I don’t think it’s a very positive view of society when you’re celebrating the destruction of the Jewish people or the attempted destruction of the Jewish people. It’s a problem,” Moon said.
The Philos Project leader also addressed concerns about antisemitism among traditional Roman Catholics. The FBI recently drew attention to this issue by rescinding an internal memo citing the Southern Poverty Law Center on “radical-traditional Catholic hate groups.”
The SPLC, which routinely brands mainstream conservative and Christian groups “hate groups,” placing them on a map with KKK chapters, justified attacking traditional Catholics by accusing them of antisemitism, an accusation many loudly deny.
Moon said Roman Catholic antisemitism is “not very common, but again, it does exist.” However, he suggested that antisemitic Catholics are not faithful to their church’s teaching.
Moon noted that the Catholic Church explicitly has rejected the notion that all Jews in the time of Jesus or any Jews living today are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. In the 1965 document “Nostra Aetate,” Pope Paul VI stated that Jesus’ death “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” Paul VI also called on Catholics to oppose antisemitism.
As for the idea of blaming Jews for Jesus’ death, Moon noted that the Romans had taken the authority for capital punishment away from the Jews at the time.
“So it explicitly wasn’t the Jews alone, and it was the Romans who actually pulled the trigger,” he explained. He also repeated the doctrine that all humanity—not any group in particular—participated in the killing of Christ, the ultimate sin.
When churches recite Bible passages narrating the trial of Jesus, they often have the entire congregation utter the damning words, “Crucify him,” to illustrate the gravity of each individual’s sin and to encourage repentance.
Moon also discussed The Philos Project’s upcoming trip to the Christian Armenian breakaway region of Artsakh, where the neighboring Muslim country of Azerbaijan reportedly has cut off trade access. Sam Brownback, the former Republican governor of Kansas and former ambassador at large for religious freedom under President Donald Trump, is leading that trip.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil. I’m managing editor at The Daily Signal and I’m honored to be joined by Luke Moon, deputy director at the Philos Project. Thanks so much for joining me.
Luke Moon: Thanks for having me. It’s wonderful.
O’Neil: So you were talking to me about the Philos Action League, this part of this project of the Philos Project that’s really focused on combating antisemitism. Can you share more about it?
Moon: Yeah. So, over a year ago, we started the Philos Action League. Basically, it was to mobilize Christians. Anytime there’s an antisemitic incident anywhere in the country, a Christian will show up with a bouquet of white roses and a card saying, “We stand in friendship and solidarity with you.”
And the idea was, like, I was tired of the social media kind of activism and it was, like, let’s get people to actually show up and do something physical. And when we do that, it just makes such a big difference. It actually gives you something to talk about on social media, but it’s very physical and I think that that matters so much today.
O’Neil: Yeah, no, it really does. And recently you had a situation where a neo-Nazi group was gathering and you organized a counter-protest and then they pulled out.
Moon: Yeah, it was great.
The National Socialist Movement, which is a Nazi and neo-Nazi organization, they had planned to protest Sheriff [Mike] Chitwood of Volusia County, Florida. And so we heard about it and we organized a counter-protest in which we were able to get over 65 people, mostly, actually mostly conservative Jews and Christians, to man the barricade and stand in opposition to the neo-Nazis. And the cowards, they never showed up. It was great.
O’Neil: Yeah, no, I mean, that’s encouraging to hear because oftentimes you hear from the Left this threat of antisemitism and hate from the Right, and they act as though there’s a Klan hood in every Republican’s closet. And how would you respond to that kind of rhetoric?
Moon: Well, the problem is there are voices on the far Right that are behaving in a manner that is inappropriate of the Right, I would say. And I think it’s important for us to call that out.
I think it’s important for us to draw a clear line between those who are using antisemitism, any kind of xenophobia, any kind of proper old-school racism is inappropriate for anybody on the Right. And so my goal is to really draw a bright line between what I would call the good Right and the bad Right.
And the problem is that the bad Right is using and exploiting the issues that are major issues, that the Right sees are problematic, and blaming the Jews for those. And that’s a real problem. That’s why I want to make sure that we’re clear to everybody out there. I’m a man of the Right and I am leading one of the most powerful movements against antisemitism that exists in the country.
O’Neil: And you talk about there is antisemitism on the Right and it needs to be combated, but there’s also antisemitism on the Left. What does that look like?
Moon: Well, it manifests itself a little bit differently. So I have this—say, antisemitism on the Left is “I love Jews and hate Israel,” and on the Right it’s, “I love Israel and hate Jews.”
And it really actually plays out a lot like that because, for instance, the same month, last August, that Kanye [West] came out and said all his antisemitic statements on Alex Jones’ show and stuff like that, that same month, Berkeley, California, the university passed or student body passed a bunch of initiatives where they were like, “We’re not going to allow any Zionist speaker to speak to our group.” All the student associations were like, “We don’t allow Zionists.”
So we’re busy calling out the antisemitism of UC-Berkeley, and then Kanye came on the scene, and then everybody got focused on Kanye. But it really kind of highlighted that issue that in that month of August of the problem of the Right and the problem of the Left.
O’Neil: Well, I think we saw, and I don’t know if you can speak to this or not, because she is an elected official, but [Rep.] Ilhan Omar having an event in Congress to lament the 75th anniversary of Israel.
Moon: Yeah. I mean, again, her constituency are largely Muslims or Palestinians and she is responding to their desires.
But the issue of what they—it’s called Nakba, “catastrophe,” of basically the Arab armies losing to this fledgling Israeli force that was, they just had endured the Holocaust. They had their backs against the wall. And the Jordanian soldier, his wife and kids were in Amman. He hadn’t had the same existential crisis that the Jews faced that day.
And so, yes, it was a catastrophe for the Palestinians that their armies lost. But to celebrate that, it’s a little weird. To intentionally antagonize Jews is also weird. I don’t think it’s very positive view of society when you’re celebrating the destruction of the Jewish people or the attempted destruction of the Jewish people. It’s a problem.
O’Neil: And I’ve been hearing a lot of reports saying that in election years, attacks on Jews ramp up, that hate crimes increase, that various things like that are going on. Would you say that tracks with your monitoring of antisemitism?
Moon: Well, it’s on the rise in general. It’s on the rise because we as an American society are becoming less biblically literate, less connected to the Bible.
You find that people who are biblically literate tend to have a more positive view of Jews and Israel. And as a result, as that declines, so does any kind of affinity, any kind of knowledge. And so it’s very easy for those tropes, the scapegoating of the Jewish people to begin to kind of rise.
And that’s what you see groups like the Goyim Defense League taking advantage of, when they go after Jews, they’re like, “Here’s the 12 Jews that are wanting to take away your guns.” So they’re using issues that the Right is very concerned about and weaponizing them against the Jews. And I think that’s really what we’re going to see an increase of.
And again, one of those things that I’m fighting very hard to highlight the difference between the good Right and the bad Right.
O’Neil: Yeah. And I think of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It recently had a report—a very outdated report from what I understand, when you look at the actual state of traditional Catholicism in the U.S.—but they had “radical-traditional Catholic hate groups.” And the FBI was citing this report. And the report essentially boils down to these groups are antisemitic. And have you seen a lot of radical-traditional Catholic antisemitism?
Moon: It’s not very common, but again, it does exist. You have guys like Nick Fuentes who has come out pretty aggressively against Jews. I remember watching a video of him yelling at Ben Shapiro when he was walking with his wife and kids across a parking lot and just saying the most foul things. And he identifies as a Catholic—I don’t think he’s a faithful one, but that’s me.
But one of the things that we’re doing is we have a whole arm of the Philos Project called Philos Catholic. And this fall, we will have a conference on Catholics against antisemitism. So we’re actually going to raise that issue within the Catholic community, have a conference, get people, people are going to sign on to our statement and from the Catholic Right.
And they’re, again, creating that nice, bright line between the good Right and the bad Right because there’s a majority of conservative Catholics, traditional Catholics, they have nothing against the Jews. The Nostra Aetate settled that for them, which was the papal decree that we can’t blame the Jews for killing Christ. That kind of, the deicide argument was taken off the table.
And for traditional Catholics to say, “Oh, no, we’re going to hold onto that,” they’re actually going against papal authority. And my understanding of Catholic tradition is that’s wrong.
O’Neil: Yes. Generally speaking, yes. That’s interesting because I’d always thought, being, growing up Protestant, but also in high church circles, that we all as a church repeated those horrible words in the passion narrative where we say, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” The implication is we all are implicated in the death of God. It’s not singled out Jews. This is something that we all must lament because we all share in the sin that led Jesus to the cross.
Moon: Absolutely. And actually, I was just teaching a group last week on the history of Christian antisemitism, and it was actually before Christ was born that the Romans took away capital punishment from the Jews. It was a law, it was part of the taking on the authority of Rome over a province, was it took away the ability of the conquered people to be able to exact capital punishment.
And so it explicitly wasn’t the Jews alone. And it was the Romans, actually, pulled the trigger. And so regardless of whether it was Jews or gentiles, all of us participated through our sin of the killing of Christ. And all of us then need the saving grace of Jesus Christ in order to be redeemed.
O’Neil: So how important is it for Christians to stand up against antisemitism?
Moon: Well, I actually define antisemitism as an irrational hatred of the Jewish people rooted in the fact that the people by which God brought his moral revelation into this world, and the world hates him for it, and the degree to which Christians are hated, were hated, because we’re actually affirming that same law.
And there’s a verse in Romans, it says, “You don’t sustain the root. The root sustains you.” And I think drawing on that understanding of the Hebraic roots of our faith, not only should shape our Christian faith, but also shapes our understanding of Western civilization. …
Particularly as a Protestant, I’m Protestant as well, the reformation was a direct result of people reading the Bible for the first time, with their own eyes, reading the development of the Hebrew nation and beginning to articulate the principles that they found there.
That was significant in shaping Western political thought. And all that is somehow lost. It’s now coming back to the forefront, but I think it serves Christians well to understand that we stand on the shoulder of giants and those giants are the patriarchs.
O’Neil: Yeah. Well, are there any other impressive, interesting things that Philos is working on that you’d like to share?
Moon: Well, we’re also working on a big project with Armenia. It’s a very interesting country. Obviously, the word “genocide” was coined because of the genocide against the Armenian people. And they were the first Christian nation, the first nation that as a people adopted Christianity.
But I was talking recently to a group, and I was like, “Well, how does the Armenian story fit into the, I don’t know, the meta-narrative of Christianity?” And I get an almost like an offhand remark. Robert Nicholson, who’s the executive director of the Philos Project, he says, “Well, Noah’s Arc was landed there.” And I’m like, “Well, that’s kind of important. We should lead with Noah’s Ark is Armenian, right?”
To the degree to which there’s the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs, the line that we follow that developed the Israeli people, the Jewish people, that continues to this day, really, the Armenians kind of almost represent the nations. Everybody else.
The Bible kind of divides things that way. You get the Jews and then everybody else. And I think Armenians represent that everybody else in the meta-narrative of our faith. And by, I think, articulating and highlighting the importance of that people as a particularly representative people, I think is important for us.
O’Neil: Well, and from what I understand, there’s a particular community in Armenia that’s been cut off by Azerbaijan.
Moon: The Artsakh, which is this little, I don’t know, appendage almost that’s connected with Armenia by a very narrow corridor. Armenia’s in the mountains so you have a lot of mountains and valleys kind of things going on. And Azerbaijan’s basically just cut it off, not allowing fuel, not allowing food. It really has a stranglehold on the hundreds of thousands of Christians that are living there.
And I don’t want to overstate the kind of Muslim-Christian element to this, but it does matter that the Azerbaijan is a Muslim country. Turkey, which also borders Armenia, is also a Muslim country. And they have an antagonistic relationship against Christians, not only in Turkey and Azerbaijan, but around the region.
O’Neil: And from what I understand, Philos is planning to do something on it. I understand if you can’t share with me what that is yet.
Moon: Yeah. Well, we have a trip coming up actually later, or actually not later, but next month in June. Just really a fact-finding trip.
One of the things that we love to do is just bring people to a place and say, “Let you see for yourself.” We’re not prescriptive about the policy applications afterward, but more understanding that we bring smart people to these places and give them a variety of views that they will walk away with a better understanding and then also be able to articulate their own positions.
O’Neil: And who is going on this trip? Is that something you can share?
Moon: Yeah. Basically, Ambassador [Sam] Brownback is going on the trip. Several leaders from—there’s Catholic leaders, leaders of organizations, major ones in Washington, D.C. Yeah, it’s a good trip. It’s a good number of people.
O’Neil: Yeah. Well, I’d be very curious to see what comes out of that trip.
Moon: Yeah, you and me both. You and me both.
O’Neil: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Luke. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Where can people find the Philos Project and plug into your important work?
Moon: Yeah. We, like everybody else, have a website and it’s philosproject.org. … Philos means “friend” in Greek. Our goal is to just basically promote positive Christian engagement in the Near East. And that means identifying your friends and affirming them and doing stuff with them to show that you’re a friend, physically show that you’re a friend.
O’Neil: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Luke.
Moon: I appreciate the time.
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