A warning about rising anti-Semitism

May 20, 2020

I will never forget the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Such a quiet setting in the midst of a bustling city. A beautiful, tranquil place set apart for learning, reflecting, and resolving.  

Resolving what? “Never again.”  

If you have been there, you know that Yad Vashem — the World Holocaust Remembrance Center — sits on that mount. Its Hebrew name comes from Isaiah 56:  

“I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off.” (Isa. 56:5, CSB, emphasis added)  

Yad Vashem and other sites that tell the story of the Holocaust are needed now more than ever.   

Sadly, our memories can be dangerously short. We are prone to forget that the evil manifested in the murder of 6 million Jews did not just suddenly appear. We may overlook its seeds in anti-Semitic words, images, and disturbing actions that many felt either powerless to confront or more comfortable to ignore.  

Anti-Semitism is on the rise again today. If we fail to remember and we choose to avert our eyes, we do so at our own peril.  

Reports of an evil resurgence  

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released its Annual Report aimed at helping the State Department put together its “Country of Particular Concern” list. That statutorily mandated roll is for foreign governments that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”  

Much of the report focuses on who USCIRF is concerned about and why (the ERLC explored this here). However, the watchdog agency added a new section this year with observations about the world’s broader religious freedom landscape.   

Among those more general areas of concern is the resurgence of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.  

Europe’s Jewish population was more than 9 million strong before the Holocaust, but today that number is closer to 1 million. France has the largest number at 450,000 — a group that is less than 1% of the country’s population. The United Kingdom has 270,000, Russia 170,000, and Germany 116,000.   

Despite their relatively small numbers, Jews have come under increasing attack in the last year. USCIRF reports a 27% increase in anti-Semitic acts in France, including assailants using Nazi symbols to desecrate more than 180 graves in Jewish cemeteries. In the UK, the commission notes a 7% rise in offenses punctuated by a schism in the powerful Labor Party over allegations of unchecked anti-Semitic pronouncements.   

There was also a Yom Kippur attack on a German synagogue, serious threats to an Italian member of parliament who is Holocaust survivor, and “a pattern of anti-Semitic bullying” in Sweden.  

At a USCIRF hearing on anti-Semitism in January, Sharon Nazarian of the Anti-Defamation League pointed to a European Union poll showing that 28% of Jews there reported some form of harassment over the prior 12 months. Many (40%) worried about being physically assaulted, and a third of respondents had avoided at least some Jewish events because of those fears.   

Strikingly, a quarter of those polled had faced Holocaust denial. Also, 38% of them considered emigrating over the last 5 years because of security concerns.  

A global problem  

Of course, this problem is not limited to Europe. ADL’s Nazarian told USCIRF, “In many countries around the world today Jewish communal leaders advise their community members not to display outward signs of their Jewish religion or identity, such as kippot, for fear of violent attacks by anti-Semites in public.”  

Similarly, USCIRF Vice-Chair Gayle Manchin highlighted recent attacks on Jewish people and property in Argentina, Kenya, and Australia to show that “this truly is a global phenomenon.”  

And, let’s not forget our own house. The 2018 assault on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that claimed 11 lives was the deadliest single incident of anti-Semitic violence ever in the United States. Since then, America has seen more acts of intimidation and violence, including a Passover shooting in California and a Hanukkah knife attack near New York City.   

After the holiday stabbing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “If anyone thinks that something poisonous is not going on in this country, then they’re in denial.”  

Time to stand  

In a 2003 resolution on anti-Semitism, Southern Baptist Convention messengers denounced “all forms of anti-Semitism as contrary to the teachings of our Messiah and an assault on the revelation of Holy Scripture.”  

They resolved to “affirm to Jewish people around the world that we stand with them against any harassment that violates our historic commitments to religious liberty and human dignity.”  

Indeed, we must stand against this hatred and its seeds whether spewed by neo-Nazis, militant Islamists, or far-Left vilifiers of Israel and its 6.7 million Jews.  

Holocaust denial must also not be permitted to take root.  

Anti-Semitism is an imminent threat to our Jewish neighbors, and it is a scourge to all who love life and liberty. Let us redouble our resolve to stand against this evil. Never again.

Aaron Mercer

Aaron Mercer is a seasoned policy strategist and communicator. He aids organizations with research, analysis, and writing services, and he reflects on faith, technology, and the public square at FTPolicy.com. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24