Sources of Christian Doubt: the Second Coming deferred

Stereotype and prejudice are the eternal message and legacy of those documents most holy to all Christendom. The fountainhead of antisemitism, their literal message remains mostly hidden and relatively benign: until social stress again achieves critical mass.
To my audience: Issues discussed in my writings will almost certainly offend some, hurt others. It is not my intention to cause such feelings among my Christian readers, but to explore what lies below the surface of modern antisemitism. Antisemitism is an outgrowth of a long tradition of Christian theological anti-Judaism. As a constant presence in what is referred to as the Diaspora, antisemitism tends to intensify fed by social uncertainty and economic stress. As Europe between the wars illustrates, incipient Jew-hatred can quickly transform into a lethal form resulting in a murderous assault on millions of otherwise innocent human beings whose only crime was to have been born Jewish; or to be told that despite several generations of Christian heritage, a single apostate Jewish grandparent was sufficient to impose a sentence of death. My purpose is to provide warning; my audience those who were past, and will again provide, the victims for the next confluence of social stressors resulting in our next Holocaust.
In my most recent submission, Christian Insecurity and the Jewish Problem, Part 2: Quest for Identity, I questioned why Augustine suggested that Jesus’ messiahship would be in doubt, why when he wrote, “by their own Scriptures [Jewish survival is] a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ” (The City of God, Book 18, Chapter 46)he used the word, “forged” regarding Christian claims on behalf of Jesus? Of course he might have been addressing the Jews, an argument intended to convince a hypothetical Jewish audience. But his overall argument is clearly directed at a Christian, not Jewish audience, and so the word, “forged,” has to be taken at face value: it is an expression of doubt in those same Jewish scriptures claimed as foretelling the salvational messiah’s future appearance.
There is no way of proving or disproving “history” based on belief. Yet rational believers, such as Augustine in the fourth century, and such Christian theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries as Nicholls, Carroll and Reuther represent, if not doubt in the existence of Jesus, at least question the value of early church documents as historical in representing the man and his mission. What follows is a discussion of one major source of a malaise undercutting Christian confidence, occasionally surfacing over the centuries, an unease that Nicholls so painfully describes as, “...the very presence of the Jewish people in the world ... could not fail to cause profound and gnawing anxiety [for Christianity which]...usually leads to hostility.” It is this anxiety that is my true subject of interest.
Christianity is a religion of acceptance, forgiveness and love. So how explain the disconnect between that self-perception and the Holocaust? What is the source of that persistent historical sense of disquiet that resulted in the perpetuation of an early conflict between mother and daughter that has proven lethal to the parent at the hands of the child?
Be patient therefore, brethren, until the parousia. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient, establish your hearts, for the parousia of the Lord has drawn near. — James 5:7–8
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11
Paul and Parousia: Expectation of the Parousia, the return of Jesus and the installation of the thousand year Kingdom of God has been a principal, perhaps the principal of Christian faith since its emergence from Judaism two millennia ago. That sense of disquiet that began with St. Paul continues in the present. The accuracy of the following quote is disputed, but the intent is clear, a long-held conviction and hope:
Is Jesus going to return in glory by the year 2000? According to Fr. Gobbi’s locutions, the Blessed Mother says he is: "I [Mary] confirm to you that, by the great jubilee of the year two thousand… the return of Jesus in glory, to establish his Reign in the world.”
Over the course of his ministry Paul’s expectation of the Parousia evolved from imminent to deferred. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:29 he writes:
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short… For this world in its present form is passing away.
Here stated his expectation is that Jesus’ return is near at hand. But Jesus did not return and Paul, described by Alan Segal in his biography, Paul the Convert, as himself in dread of dying, was continually forced to put off the date of personal and collective salvation. His reassurance to his communities of converts was as much self-assuring, consolation to himself. In II Thessalonians 2:1, expectations of immediate parousia dashed, he explains that parousia is delayed indefinitely, until Satan is revealed:  
Now concerning the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that Day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and then the man of lawlessness is revealed…”
For a religion a mainstay of which is the Parousia and “eternal life in Christ,” I suggest that parousia deferred is faith uncertain. Along with the fact that those to whom Jesus was supposedly sent, the Jewish people, failed to accept him; that somehow, even following Jesus mission of salvation and the replacement of Judaism by gentile Christianity Jews and Judaism continued to exist alongside Christianity: perhaps not an issue for the general and unreflective population of believers, for some influential Christian thinkers, such as Augustine, such questions demanded answers. And the very need for “answers” illustrates primal Christian insecurity.  
And while the presence of influential Christian thinkers questioning Christian roots points at the sources, it is the overwhelming body of naïve faithful, those for whom the writings of Paul and the gospels are not questioned but are the “inerrant Word of God;” those who accept unreflectively that, as described in Matthew, the Jews hated Jesus to the point of demanding his death; that, as they appear in John Jews are the children of Satan, in league with the antichrist: Christ-killers and Christian haters.
Stereotype and prejudice are the eternal message and legacy of those documents most holy to all Christendom. The fountainhead of antisemitism, their literal message remains mostly hidden and relatively benign: until social stress again achieves critical mass.
Other writings in this Series: