I know someone who read Amy-Jill Levine’s The Misunderstood Jew last year. At least he read some of it. At some point he had a negative reaction and started telling others not to read the book.
Now I have probably read the part he didn’t like. Levine takes on the anti-Judaism she finds in progressive theology, especially liberation theology. She goes into a lot of detail and cites many passages that have been published by the World Council of Churches. I will not try to summarize. She has put much of this material on the web, so I will just link to it. Readers can look at it and make their own judgment. See here.
Part of the reason for these publications that are offensive to Jews is that the mainline denominations and particularly the World Council of Churches side with the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian unpleasantness. Part of the reason is that indigenous churches and liberation or feminist movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have found it convenient to use Judaism as a foil in their own struggles against taboos and cultural bondage in their cultures. The Jewish scribes and priests of Jesus’ day, they claim, also supported cultural bondage and colonialism. But Jesus set the women, children and the downtrodden free.
Levine argues that to identify Jewish family purity practices and other observances with oppressive cultural taboos in other societies is just mistaken.
She seems to me to have a good point. I would go even further and say that some who preach liberation theology are just plain anti-Semitic–Jeremiah “them Jews” Wright, for instance.
But I have to admit that I dislike liberation theology on other grounds. It derives from Marxist social conflict theory. And that was used as an excuse to murder about 100 million!!! people in the last century–the genocides associated with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other “peoples movements”. My opinion is that these were not just rogue events, but implicit in social conflict theory itself. I used to make fun of my Marxist professor who didn’t even know how to use an AK-47. He had no grasp of the fact that, come the revolution, they would need to kill people like me and most Jews too, probably.
I complain that churches are letting people with political agendas, on the right and on the left, hijack the gospel. On the left, I think one culprit is liberation theology.
This is not Levine’s problem. She is a feminist and thinks liberation theology is fine except when it misunderstands and misuses Judaism.