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Taiwanese convert learned wrong lesson from Christianity

January 18, 2010 1 comment

By Danny Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, TAIWAN — One of my Taiwanese college students told me this distressing tale about her English professor, and I have no reason to doubt her.

The professor, educated in the United States, is a convert to Christianity — having been born in a family that was nominally Buddhist and Taoist, as is the case with most Taiwanese.  

This particular professor, outwardly a  sweet woman who I have met on several occasions, uses some of her classroom time to tell her young charges about her view of life as a Christian. To the point where most of the students in her life tune her out and roll their eyes when she launches into one of  her religious  anecdotes about how Jesus saved her life from despair.

All well and good, of course. In a democracy such as Taiwan, where freedom of religion is the norm, anyone is free to speak about their religion or their religious experiences. Even in a college classroom. Within limits, of course.

Professor X — let’s just call her Professor X for now — has also told her Taiwanese students about the “perfidious Jews” who are evil and will go to hell when they die, stressing that the Jews claim they are “The  Chosen People”, and the good professor uses this false and biblically incorrect assertion to try to persuade her students that the Jews are not to be trusted.

Give me a break, please, Professor X. There are very few Jews in Taiwan, and most Taiwanese students have no idea what Judaism is or what Jews believe in. They just know that Anne Frank was Jewish, and they also know that Einstein was Jewish, and a few other scientists and econmists like George Soros. They don’t know that Jesus was Jewish.

Is this an example of a new kind of Asian antisemitism raising its ugly head? No, it’s just one college professor who doesn’t know her history or religion very well and just quotes from her Bible books.

If she studied Judaism, of course, she would know that that the Jews do not claim a “chosen” role with God — in terms of being superior to all other peoples, as if God chose them among all people to be His people — but that Jews merely used the term
Chosen People to mean that the ancient Hebrews felt that God had chosen them to have a special covenant with God. That’s all, Professor X. Stop your classroom prosletyzing. Its unbecoming in a democracy like Taiwan. Sigh.

With chosenness comes obligations to God, which do not bind other religious groups.

But try explaining this to Professor X in Taiwan, who tries to tell her students
 that the Jews are a perfidious people who did not accept Jesus as their messiah and therefore are doomed forever. Oi.

*
Bloom is an American expatriate living in Chiayi City

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Goodbye to all that! — An American Jew’s life in non-Christian Asia

January 16, 2010 1 comment

By Danny Bloom

[This commentary was originally written in 2002 and updated in early 2010.]

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — In a magazine article a few years back, a British expatriate in New York by the name of John Derbyshire wrote that a lingering form of antisemitism is alive and well in the United States — and always will be. Nothing new there, but his words were startling.

Derbyshire, who is not Jewish, wrote in an earlier piece in the rightwing National Review Online, when Joseph Lieberman was named as Al Gore’s running mate in the presidential election that year: “My own impression … is that Jews are widely, though very mildly, disliked in America. It may indeed be kosher to joke about the powerful; but it is all too human to resent them. In the circles I move in — working-
and middle-class Americans — antisemitic comments are quite common between intimates, though everybody understands they are de trop in any less restricted circles.”

Derbyshire comments about Jews being “widely, though mildly disliked in America” struck a personal note with me, because I have been living in Asia for the last 17 years and have found life here — in both Japan and Taiwan — to be completely free of the ugly elements of public and social antisemitism. In fact, it so enjoyable to live in
non-Western, non-Christian societies that are free of antisemitism that I plan to live in Asia for the rest of my life and never return to the US. Goodbye to all that.

I remember, when I first penned this essay in 2002, that a small epidemic of “Jew-dislike” seemed to have made the rounds of the US at that time, spawned by several controversies, both in print and on the Internet.

First, there was cartoonist Johnny Hart’s mildy offensive — to Jews and many Christians — Easter cartoon “B. C.,” that caused a major sensation when it was published, and in some cases not published, in April. Then there was Washington-based conservative Paul Weyrich’s Easter commentary online that repeated the old canard about the Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus. Then there was the New York Times Magazine story that related the anti-Jewish remarks of two NBA
basketball players.

Derbyshire had noted in another NRO essay: “A cold-eyed view of human
nature is always wisest, and my own cold eye tells me that antisemitism will be with us for as long as the Jews themselves.” He may be speaking the truth, at least as far as life in the Western  [read “Christianized”] world goes.

Of course, Jews have never had it so good in America, as the pundits like to say, and there is little overt antisemitism anywhere in North America. But to be honest, Jews are widely disliked — though “verymildly,” as Derbyshire put it — in America and always will be. It will never change.

A hundred years from now, Jews will remain “widely … though mildly” disliked in America. Why? For a host of complex reasons that define the very essence of Western Christendom, but which boil down to one thing: the Christian Gospels are in their very theological essence anti-Jewish and therefore anti-semitic. Sorry, but that’s the truth!

Living in non-Western, non-Christian cultures as I have for the last17 years here in Asia, I have found that social antisemitism simply does not exist in places like Japan, Thailand, Taiwan or South Korea.

Asian cartoonists do not draw Easter cartoons that show a menorah morphing into a cross. Asian writers do not publish online commentaries about so-called “Jewish cabals” in Hollywood or on Wall Street. Asian parents do not teach their children ancient myths about Jewish “Christ killers,” and they don’t speak at the dinner table in undertones of polite dislike for “those Jews.”

In Asia, Jews are an enigma, yes, an historical enigma, but they are not the object of theological scorn. It is so refreshing to live here. I have never been told by a Japanese or a Taiwanese person that I will go to “hell” because of who I am — or that my Jewish beliefs are wrong. Asians do not “think” this way.

It’s amazing — to me, a true 60-year-old innocent abroad — that when one moves to a land where the old Christian myths and hatreds and prejudices do not exist, and where neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament are taken at face value by the populace, how quickly quirky antisemitism and its ugly ramifications — for both Christiansand Jews — disappears, ghost-like, lost in the mists of ancient and
modern European and Middle Eastern history.

It is so refreshing to live here in Asia. As a Jew, as a human being, as an American. It’s the way life was meant to be.

**
Danny Bloom, a 1971 Tufts graduate and a native of Springfield, Mass., has lived in Japan and Taiwan for the last 18 years. The above oped commentary received over 5,000 page views on the Internet over the past 8 years.

Climate change poses question ‘Will Israel be here in 2500’?

December 26, 2009 1 comment

By Danny Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — Two recent newspaper articles about climate change in the far distant
future, say 2500 or so, (titled, respectively, “How much more proof is needed for people to act?” and “Ignoring the future — the psychology of denial”) emphasized the importance of facing major issues that will have an impact on the future of the human species.

Climate change is indeed an issue that is on everyone’s mind, and while Israel seems to be far removed from the experts who recently made their way to Copenhagen to try to hammer out blueprints to prevent global warming from having a Doomsday impact on humankind, Israel will also be on the front lines of these issues. Why? Because Israel will not exist as a country by the year 2500. Everyone there will have migrated north to Russia and Alaska.

Despite most observers’ belief that solutions lie in mitigation, there are a growing number of climatologists and scientists who believe that the A-word — adaptation — must be confronted head-on, too. The fact is — despite the head-in-the-sand protestations of deniers like former Alaskan Governor Sara Palin in the US — that we cannot stop climate change or global warming. The Earth’s atmosphere has already passed the tipping point, and in the next 500 years, temperatures and sea levels will rise considerably and millions, even billions, of people from the tropical and temperate zones will be forced to migrate in search of food, fuel and shelter. This includes the people of Israel.

By the year 2500, Israel will be largely uninhabited, except for a few stragglers eking out a subsistence life in the Golan Heights. The rest of the population will have migrated north to Russia’s northern coast or northern parts of Alaska and Canada to find safe harbor from the devastating impact of global warming.

Okay, how do I know all this, you ask? I don’t know. I am just saying that we all must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

By the year 2500, most likely, Israelis en masse will have left the country for faraway northern regions to find shelter in UN-funded climate refuges in places such as Russia, Canada and Alaska. Israeli climate refugees will join millions of others from India, Vietnam,Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. It won’t be a pretty picture.

When I asked a professor at National Taiwan University in Taipei if this was a possible future scenario for Israel and other nations in the Middle East some 500 years from now, he said it was very possible, and that these issues needed to be addressed now, if only as a thought exercise, and even if it all sounded like a science fiction movie script. When I asked acclaimed British scientist James Lovelock if such a scenario for Israel was likely, he said to me in an e-mail: “It may very well happen, yes.”

We humans cannot engineer our way out of global warming, although
scientists who believe in geo-engineering have offered theories on how
to do it. There are no easy fixes. Humankind has pumped too many
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the result of the industrial
revolution that gave us trains, planes, automobiles and much more,
enabling us to live comfortable and trendy lives — and now there is so
much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth cannot recover.

Israel, like the rest of the world, is doomed to a bleak future filled with billions of climate refugees seeking shelter in the far north, and
in places like New Zealand, Tasmania and Antarctica in the far south.

Meetings in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro and at the UN in Manhattan
will not stop global warming.

What we need to focus on now is preparing future generations for what
our world will become in the next 500 years and how best to survive
it.

For the next 100 to 200 years or so, life will go on as normal in
Israel in terms of climate change and global warming issues. There is
nothing to worry about now. For the next 100 years posh department
stores will hawk their trendy items, computer firms will launch their
latest gadgets and airline companies will continue to offer passengers
quick passage here and there, to the Maldives and to Manhattan, for
business and for pleasure.

But in the next 500 years, according to Lovelock and other scientists
who are not afraid to think outside the box and push the envelope,
things are going to get bad. Unspeakably bad.

Those of us who are alive today won’t suffer, and the next few
generations will be fine, too. The big trouble will probably start
around 2200 — and last for some 300 years or so.

By 2500, Israel will be history, and so will be all the nations of Africa,
Asia, the Americas and Europe.

We are entering uncharted waters, and as the waters rise and the
temperatures go up, future generations will have some important
choices to make: where to live, how to live, how to grow food, how to
power their climate refugee settlements, how to plan and how to pray.

*
Danny Bloom is a Jewish writer based in Taiwan where he blogs daily
about climate change and global warming at his “Northwardho” blog.