Last night, the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan posted this image of Barack Obama’s chief economics advisor, Larry Summers:
And this morning, a reader directed Sullivan to the Bosch painting below, suggesting that Summers bore a striking resemblance to the Jewish character in profile. Consequently, Sullivan dutifully (and I think stupidly) posted the Bosch image:
Now I know that Sullivan, a Catholic, is on good terms (in general) with the Jewish community. And I know that Sullivan is not ignorant of the history of Christian antisemitism. I also understand when a joke is just a joke. But seriously. We are in the midst of Passover weekend and Andrew Sullivan is posting a grotesque, antisemitic image of a crowd of caricatured Jews leading Jesus to his crucifixion, and then suggesting that Lawrence Summers’s profile matches the Jew in profile. Sullivan even had the gall to title the post, Larry Summers on Good Friday. I’m not for political correctness, but could such a link be made by, say, Pat Buchanan without someone noting its antisemitism?
Obviously, Andrew Sullivan is not an antisemite—and I understand that he meant it as a joke. But Sullivan also has his enemies on the right, and I’ve got to believe that they are going to seize upon this as a way of alienating some in the Jewish community from Sullivan. It’s sad. And it’s weird (at least to me) that Sullivan would do something so emotionally tone deaf and bone-headed. He’s usually more self-aware and sensitive than this.
After the Holocaust, I think that it is highly problematic for any Christian, however friendly to Israel and the Jewish community, to make light of antisemitic caricatures of Jews as Christ killers. We know the historical impact that these types of caricatures have had upon the collective psyche of Christian Europe, and it’s not funny.