Prager, who is Jewish, sees that (aside from the divinity of Jesus) the greatest difference between Judaism and Christianity is the difference in conceptions of forgiveness and how to react to evil. In Judaism, he writes, only victims can forgive, and therefore murder is unforgiveable. Tolerance of murder is the characteristic of a “world in decay.”
Prager’s essay addresses some of the differences seen throughout many of the other essays, just as Eva Fleischner notes them. Judaism views murder as the unforgiveable sin, while Christians argue that forgiveness is limitless.
Prager provides several examples of this difference, including one incident in which a Catholic Cardinal visited a gang of young men in prison. They had been accused of raping and beating a woman jogging in Central Park, and the Cardinal had told them that God loved them. Prager had been furious, and publicly noted that someone ought to write an article entitled “How to Get a Personal Visit from a Cardinal.”
Prager’s fury is based on the idea that many Christians seem more interested in finding ways to forgive people for their sins rather than condemning the evil deeds in the first place. This idea can be seen in many of the Christian essays in the book. The difference in tone between Christian and Jewish respondents is sometimes striking.
Prager provides four reasons for this difference in conceptions of forgiveness and how to react to evil. First, the Christian doctrine of forgiveness blunts the anger people feel in the face of oppression. Second, the notion that one should pray for one’s enemies is taken to mean one should not fight them. Third, the belief that God loves everyone makes it impossible to hate evil people or fight them. Finally, the Christian emphasis on the afterlife has led to a de-emphasis on saving actual lives.
Prager’s argument is a good, logical explanation of how different tenets and beliefs in a religion (for Christianity versus Judaism, the limitlessness of forgiveness and God’s love and the belief in an afterlife) can lead to different ways of leading one’s life, even though both are moral systems.