WASHINGTON (May. 15)
President Carter, in a clarification of his remarks to a Baptist Bible class here in March, has personally denounced the false charge against the Jewish people over the crucifixion of Christ and expressed his gratification that Christianity’s leaders have “totally and decisively rejected” the “unjust accusation.”
Carter’s clarification came in a letter dated May 12 to the Rev. John F. Steinbruck of the Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington in response to a letter dated May 6 from the Lutheran pastor who had written to him that “an uneasy concern” prevails in the Jewish and Christian communities that press accounts of the President’s remarks “will undermine progress that has been made in the Christian world removing the basis of deicide charges against the Jewish people.”
The President, in March said, among other things, at the First Baptist Church, that “a turning point” in Christ’s life was that “he had directly challenged in a fatal way the existing church, and there was no possible way for the Jewish leaders to avoid the challenge. So they decided to kill Jesus.” Carter, in his response to Steinbruck, wrote:
TEXT OF CARTER’S RESPONSE
“Several weeks ago, I conducted a Bible study class during which the subject of the role of the Jewish people in the crucifixion of Christ was discussed. A number of newspaper reports have appeared about my comments which have led to some questions about my views on this subject. I am glad to have this opportunity to set forth my personal position and to clarify any misunderstanding which may have resulted from these incomplete accounts of my convictions:
“The Christian religion holds that Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Jew, gave his life to redeem the sins of all humanity. The Gospels declare that the death of Jesus was foreordained, and without that death and the resurrection which followed it, Christians would not be saved in Christ. Yet the crucifixion required human instruments. Among these were Judas, who was a Christian disciple, Caiaphas who was a Jewish priest appointed by the Roman authorities, and Pilate, a Gentile, who actually condemned Jesus to death.
“In accordance with the Gospels, I know that Jesus forgave the preordained human instruments of his death, but I am also aware that the Jewish people were for many centuries falsely charged with collective responsibility for the death of Jesus, and were persecuted terribly for that unjust accusation which has been exploited as a basis and rationalization for anti-Semitism.
“I know and am personally gratified by the fact that the highest authorities of the major Christian churches–Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox–have totally and decisively rejected the charge that the Jewish people as a whole were then or are now responsible for the death of Christ. My own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, adopted an official resolution on June 7, 1972, declaring ‘anti-Semitism as un-Christian’ and as being opposed to any and all forms of it.
“Further the Baptist Churches have resolved that we covenant to work positively to replace all anti-Semitic bias in the Christian attitude and practices with love for Jews, who along with other men, are equally beloved of God. To that I can only say ‘Amen’ with all my heart.”
PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE HAILED
Hailing the letter, Steinbruck responded to the President: “There is no question that the authority of your office as President of the United States, combined with our respect for you as a committed Christian, will make this response an historic repudiation of the ‘Christ-killer’ canard that has so long and so unjustly been the burden of the Jewish people–our older sisters and brothers.”
Steinbruck also told Carter that Christian and Jewish leaders “share with me the profound appreciation of this moment in which you have made a compassionate, just and constructive contribution to destroy the poisonous roots of anti-Semitism and prejudice.”