Jewish Guilt vs. Catholic Guilt

Graphic Eric Bent

Jewish Guilt
I’m really sorry about this. I’m just going to get that out of the way.

I mean, I probably shouldn’t feel guilty. All I’m doing is writing a little piece of ha-ha for all of you. Here’s the thing about Jewish guilt, though: it doesn’t come from any action I (or any other chosen person) might undertake. It comes from the furthest possible logical outcome of that action.

So when you read this, you might go, “Oh, that’s kind of funny,” or, “That wasn’t funny. Good luck with that journalism degree, buddy.”

But due to years of conditioning from my mother, father, other relatives, childhood friends, society as a whole, Holocaust movies, and the works of Shalom Alechem (but mostly my mother), I kind of have to assume that a) anything I do represents the entire worldwide Jewish community, and b) anything I can do might result in the total obliteration of the Jewish people, so c) feel really badly about everything before I even do anything.

See, somebody might read this and go, “Oh, this is such a Jewish stereotype. Ugh, those Jews are always complaining. And they think they’re so amusing, like that Woody Allen schmuck, but I saw – Midnight in Paris and it wasn’t even funny, and hey! That Jack Abramoff was Jewish! And I’m pretty sure a Jew once worked at Fox News…”

Eventually, Montreal starts looking a lot like Poland in the 1930s to me, and I feel bad about every part of that, up to and including the regression to babushkas as a viable fashion statement.

This can only go so far, because luckily, I’m a pretty abysmal person. That’s why I can ignore those twinges of guilt when I eat a delicious, succulent piece of bacon. (Though it should be noted that only part of my guilt comes from the fact that it’s not kosher. Most of it comes from the cholesterol. Sorry, arteries.)

Case in point: as I was writing this, I had some music on random, and some Matisyahu came on. I don’t even like this song, but I feel bad about changing it because that would mean that I’m ignoring my own culture, and if nobody cares about the culture, it’s going to disappear, and then IT’S ALL MY FAULT OH GOD WHY DIDN’T I JUST LISTEN TO THE STUPID FUCKING SONG?

Look, I get that those Catholics feel guilty a lot. They’ve got Jesus looking down on them, which is hard, and they produced Rick Santorum, which is just brutal. But Jesus hasn’t been kind to us, either. After all, we killed him (Ed.’s note: citation on this was Mel Gibson’s diary). That’s not an easy burden to bear.

This is why we shvitz the small stuff: because the small stuff is gigantic.

Quite frankly, it’s a wonder any of us manage to date, because I could see how this is just phenomenally irritating.

So, again, if I’m accidentally causing Holocaust Part II: Holocaustier, I’m really, really sorry. Especially to you, mom.

Catholic Guilt

Before I ever found out that Jesus was a man who died for our sins, I knew him as a kind of magical baby.

The Baby Jesus, it turned out, could see everything you did and when you misbehaved he would cry.

Growing up in a Catholic household, there was no shortage of transgressions that would bring the infant Christ to tears. Lied to your mom? Just made the Baby Jesus cry. Pushed your brother down a flight of stairs? The Baby Jesus weeps for you. Bad report card? Way to go dummy, now the adorable Baby Jesus is bawling.

In a way, the Baby Jesus was like Santa Claus except that instead of being given gifts once a year you were left with a lingering pain at the core of your soul.

These were my first brushes with Catholic guilt. Having to live with the knowledge that, as a six-year-old, you’ve pretty much been a consistent disappointment to God’s only son.

Of course, I eventually figured out that the Baby Jesus routine was really just something our mothers used to keep us in line. Instead, as they taught us in Catholic school, the truth was far worse.

You see, the Baby Jesus grew up and turned into a man—a great man. He cured the blind, resurrected the dead and brought forth a message of peace and hope to all mankind.

Then he died, because we’re all sinners. That’s right, Timmy, Jesus was tortured, humiliated and crucified because someone had to take the rap for all those times you “borrowed” your classmate’s pen and forgot to return it. It hurts, doesn’t it?

Just look at all of our depictions of Christ on the cross. It’s the look on Jesus’ face. He’s not mad that your sinning has cut his life short. He’s just disappointed, is all.

The Jews set aside one day each year to atone for their sins. It’s called Yom Kippur. Catholics have a somewhat similar concept. It’s called life.

Being a good Catholic is about many things. It’s living in a constant state of guilt. It’s having trouble saying the word ‘vagina’ without cringing. It’s a voice in the deepest chamber of your heart reminding you just how disappointing you are and always will be.

We’re supposed to confess to a priest every week and then double down on our apology by repenting to God himself. I mean, the first question the priest asks you in confession is, “How long has it been since your last confession?” How’s that for guilting?

There’s even a guy whose job it is to write down all of your sins into a ledger and then decide if you go to hell. Oh, yeah—hell. Another great Catholic tradition that hinges on guilt and punishment.

Maybe Jesus knew we would always feel this crummy, which might be why the blood of Christ is red wine. Well, I’ll drink to that, and confess my gluttony in the morning.