I have no reason to believe that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hates Jews, but after reading her November 11 column, many people are asking, and not without some justification. In writing about Goldman Sachs, the famously/infamously successful investment bank, Dowd dredged up ancient and dangerous motifs that have inspired hatred of Jews for 2000 years.
Comparing the employees of Goldman Sachs to “the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple”, and also linking blood lust and GS bankers’ lust for money, Ms. Dowd stepped over a very important line — one which when crossed in the past cost thousands, if not millions of lives. At the very least she demonstrated how deeply the metaphors of hate are rooted even in the lives of some well meaning people, and that alone is deeply disturbing.
The story of Jesus driving the money changers — all presumed to be Jewish — out of the Temple was used for centuries to justify the pernicious linkage of Jews and money, and helped Christians to kill Jews with precisely the glee Ms. Dowd ascribes to Goldman CEO, Lloyd Blankfein’s approach to making money. It was also used to justify driving Jews from their homes since, like the money changers in Jerusalem, they had no place in God’s house or, as the interpretation ran, in any decent house.
The idea that Jews had a special taste for blood, especially in sacred rituals including the preparation of Matzah, was a perverse twist on the Christian Eucharist. Quite possibly, this deadly lie was rooted in the need to deflect the obvious interest among early Christians in consuming blood, at least metaphorically.
But whatever the cause, the Jewish taste for blood was perhaps the most enduring and ugly idea used by Christians to justify not only the hatred of Jews but also the mass murder of Jews. Why in the world would anyone, including Maureen Dowd, need to make their point by going there?
Admittedly, the rage at Goldman Sachs is real and in some cases and to some degree, understandable, if not justifiable. We are living through a weird kind of recovery in which Wall Street is booming and many on Main Street are worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
With a job market worse than any time in almost 40 years, this is not the time for anyone to look at profits alone as their bottom line. That is something which Mr. Blankfein should consider carefully, but failing to do so should not lead to a theological justification of dehumanizing him, should it?
When Mr. Blankfein referred to Goldman Sachs doing “God’s work”, as he did in a recent Sunday Times of London interview by John Aldridge, he too made a mistake. But as offensive as that line may be to some, as insensitive as it may be to invoke God at such a moment, especially given that he would not have said God was punishing GS if they were having a bad year, it’s simply not a claim dripping in blood.
The claims made by Maureen Dowd are, and one hopes that she will address that issue with as much vigor and passion as she did her assault on Goldman Sachs. Hopefully though, with fewer historically dangerous and ugly metaphors.