Protestant Clerics Less Anti-semitic but Many Unaware of Unconscious Prejudices

A “silent majority” of Protestant clergymen are helping to perpetuate the status quo on social and political problems, according to a comprehensive study made public yesterday by Seymour Graubard, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The study, entitled “Wayward Shepherds: Prejudice and the Protestant Clergy,” reveals that although Protestant clergy are much less anti-Semitic than their parishioners, they remain “a good deal more anti-Semitic than they ought to be.” Prepared by a team of four behavioral scientists–Rodney Stark, Bruce D. Foster, Charles Y. Glock and Harold E. Quinley–under a grant from the Anti-Defamation League, the work will be published this month by Harper and Row. The study is based on more than five years of research conducted for the League by the University of California Survey Research Center. The analysis shows that Protestant clergy are much less anti-Semitic than they used to be even though this ancient attitude persists. The general basis for ill will toward Jews is hostility to Judaism as a religion stemming from what the authors call unwavering commitment to “traditional” Christian teachings. These blame Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus and believe the Jews to be beyond redemption unless they convert. Noting that “clergymen are remarkably free of anti-Semitism which is not rooted in religious hostility,” the study points out that if “conceptions of contemporary Jews as unforgiven for the crucifixion and under a curse from God could be eliminated from Christian consciousness,” considerable progress toward eliminating anti-Semitism could be made.

The study grades ministers on an anti-Semitism index–with 37 percent scoring “none,” 46 percent rating “low,” and 17 percent falling in the “medium to high” category. The authors declare that they are more pessimistic today about the change-producing potential of churches than they were after doing their first study of clergymen in 1966. The researchers say that church pronouncements exonerating the ancient Jews of deicide “will not reduce the anti-Semitism of Christians unless they are coupled with an attack on notions of the contemporary Jews as damned and an object of divine retribution.” Overall, it was found that while one of five laymen had rejected all the anti-Semitic statements, nearly two of five clergy did so. It was also found that among the clergy, anti-Semitism is more highly correlated with their religious convictions than was the case among church members. The sociologists go on to say that among those clergymen who scored medium to high on the anti-Semitism index, 85 percent failed to recognize, or at least to admit, that they harbor any ill will toward Jews. “Anti-Semitism may not be rampant among the clergy,” the sociologists declare, “but neither is self-awareness.” In making the study public, Graubard said that the Anti-Defamation League will intensify its meetings with Christian leaders to discuss its implications and to find ways of instituting cooperative efforts for improving the situation.

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