M.G. Piety

Damning with Faint Praise: Bizarre Defense of Kierkegaard in Danish Newspaper

In Kierkegaard and the Jews, News from Copenhagen on December 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Just when you thought the debate surrounding Peter Tudvad’s book Stadier på antisemitismens vej: Søren Kierkegaard og Jøderne (stages on the way of anti-Semitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews) (Rosinante, 2010), had probably died down, it’s actually flared up again. Ole Jørgensen published what has got to be the most bizarre defense of Kierkegaard yet. Jørgensen’s article, “Sjusk med ord. Søren Kierkegaard var ikke antisemit” (Linguistic carelessness. Kierkegaard was not an anti-Semite) appeared in Monday’s edition of Kristeligt Dagblad (Christian daily news). The title might lead one to suppose that Kristeligt Dagblad is a relatively obscure paper. It isn’t. Remember, Denmark has a state church. The Danish Lutheran Church is the official church of the Danish people. This undoubtedly explains why Jørgensen took it upon himself to defend not only Kierkegaard, but also Martin Luther against the charge of anti-Semitism. Luther, he asserts, merely “chastens the Jews in his book On the Jews and their Lies.” One might be tempted to conclude from that remark that Jørgensen hasn’t actually read Luther (or Tudvad either since Tudvad quotes extensively from Luther’s works where they bear on the Jews).

It’s not clear whether Jørgensen has seriously studied Luther on this issue. What is clear, however, is that Jørgensen has what one could charitably call a rather idiosyncratic understanding of what constitutes anti-Semitism. He observes, for example, that far from being an anti-Semite, “Kierkegaard even had a Jew in his employ for several years: Israel Levin, who […] was thus able to advance himself, in the manner Jews are so good at, both economically and socially.” That is, Jørgensen apparently does not see the generalization that Jews are particularly good at advancing themselves economically and socially as in any way anti-Semitic, which is bizarre given such a generalization buys into stereotypes concerning Jews and money, and that there is hardly a worse crime in the eyes of the Danes than social climbing.

Jørgensen observes that “[o]ne should use some other word than ‘anti-Semitism’” to apply to Kierkegaard. “[I]t was more Kierkegaard’s [religious] zeal,” he continues, “that led him to rein in [lægge mundbidslet på] these occasionally mischievous [frække] Jews.”

It wasn’t merely Kierkegaard, or even Luther, who felt it necessary, according to Jørgensen, to “rein in,” or “chasten” the Jews. Christ himself, observes Jørgensen, “pulls no punches” (lægges der virkelig ikke fingre imellem) when he “says to the Jews: ‘You are of your father the devil and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and a father of lies’” (John 8:44).

“See how closely,” asserts Jørgensen, “lies and murder are connected with each other–both with the Jews and with Hitler. The lies of the Jews crucified Christ. Hitler’s lies murdered six million Jews.” Jørgensen’s digression on what he claims is the connection between lies and murder is not merely a stylistic flaw in his piece; his attempt to use this purported connection to draw an analogy between the Jews and Hitler suggests he may be suffering from some sort of cognitive disorder. How could anyone trot out the stereotype of the Jews as “Christ killers” (a stereotype so offensive that even the pope was forced recently to officially repudiate it) in an article that purports to defend someone, anyone, against the charge of anti-Semitism?

“Søren Kierkegaard was not an anti-Semite,” concludes Jørgensen, “That’s a careless use of language and an [attempt to] exploit Kierkegaard’s good name for personal gain.” That is, Kierkegaard was no more an anti-Semite than Luther was, or than Jørgense’s “careless use of language” make him appear to be. Wow, that puts a whole new spin on the expression “damning with faint praise.” It makes the textbook example of “For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much,” seem positively considerate!

 

 

 

 

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  1. […] to Hitler. We have to thank the blog Piety on Kierkegaard for keeping us informed. The author of the blog writes here: Just when you thought the debate surrounding Peter Tudvad’s book Stadier på antisemitismens […]

  2. Thank you very much for your detailed and precise evaluation on Ole Jørgensen´s defense of Kierkegaard. That article is the words of a mad man. He doesn´t understand Kierkegaard, hasn´t read Luther and apparently not Tudvad either.

    Same evening and night Sten Harck, master of law, and I both wrote replies on the newspapers internet debateforum. It´s astonishing that one of Denmark´s best newspapers print such rubbish. Both of us attacked the clearly offending antisemitism in the article – Sten Harck with his expertise on law also pointed out that the article was a violation of the penal law §266b. That´s serious for both the author and the newspaper.

    In the printed newspaper the day after they had a reply from Professor Eremitus in Church History Martin Schwarz Lausten, a major figure in danish theology and church history and also the author of 5 big volumes on the relation between the danish church (catholic and lutheran) and the jews during danish history. He´s also an expert on Luther´s antisemitism which is actually included in this work. He told them, it´s an antisemitic article -No discussion. I´m glad he´s my mentor from university.

    That´s properly the reason why Kristeligt Dagblad closed down the debate afterwards (also for Tudvads reply). But they told Tudvad (as I understand from his facebook) it just couldn´t continue! Indeed an embarassing newsstory on antisemitism. Or exactly not new…

    Best regards

    Lars Foldager Pedersen
    Master of Theology
    University of Copenhagen

    • Dear Mr. Pedersen,

      Thanks so much for this comment. It’s always interesting to hear what readers think. Rarely, however, do I get comments that contain so much information that is pertinent to a post! Thanks for that!

      Sincerely,

      M.G. Piety

  3. […] the Nazi holocaust which used Luther’s essay as its blueprint) was not anti-Semitic.  Piety reports: Just when you thought the debate surrounding Peter Tudvad’s book Stadier på antisemitismens […]

  4. […] Tudvad: Yes, I’m very sad that I was not born in the US, where I could have raised this discussion without being met by so much ignorance and prejudice, so much unwillingness to discuss a rather important aspect of western civilization and the Christian religion. In resulting controversy, the official newspaper of the newspaper of the Danish state church has published a defense claiming that even Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lives” (and presumably, the Nazi holocaust which used Luther’s essay as its blueprint) was not anti-Semitic.  Piety reports: […]

  5. […] Israel Levin, who […] was thus able to advance himself, in the manner Jews are so good at…Post in full here. By Chanah ShapiraRelated Posts6 December 2011 – Incitement, Israel Palestine Conflict &#187 […]

  6. I should add that in fact I requested the Danish Police to file a suit against Ole Jørgensen and the responsible editors of Kristeligt Dagblad for publishing an article containing antisemitic propaganda and thus violating Article 266b of the Danish criminal code.

    Kind regards,

    Sten Harck

  7. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

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