Actually, it's worse than this because it is much more subtle and not nearly as superficial as I've made it out to be. Take, for example, this recent interview given by Bono:
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?
Bono: There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Hello supersessionism, my old friend. Why are all of my favorite social justice icons so willing to adopt the premise of an OT-God-of-Wrath vs. a NT-God-of-Grace? I have no problem with underscoring the "God is Love" mantra. We probably need much more of this. I can even get on board with the action movie metaphor. But what warrant do we have for viewing the Hebrew Bible as an action movie and the New Testament as a love story? Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod is of the mind that the dominant thread of the Hebrew Bible is love (specifically eros). God chooses a specific people to love passionately.
It may well be the "passion" that motivates the action in our R-rated narrative (to merge the metaphors of Wyschogrod and Bono). But, and this is where Bono fails, doesn't this metaphor work just as well for the book of Acts? Or Revelation? Or Mark and John for that matter? The notion that "God is Love" is most clearly expressed in 1 John. This epistle is quite disturbing for those of us who would rather preach a gospel of inclusion. The particularity of election established in the Hebrew Bible is alive and well in the New Testament - just framed differently.
And this brings us back to the topic of supersessionism.
Hebrew Bible scholar and Jewish theologian, Jon Levenson writes:
Radically transformed but never uprooted, the sacrifice of the first-born son constitutes a strange and usually overlooked bond between Judaism and Christianity and thus a major but unexplored focus for Jewish-Christian dialogue. In the past this dialogue has too often centered on the Jewishness of Jesus and, in particular, his putative roles of prophet and sage. In point of fact, however, those roles, even if real, have historically been vastly less important in Christian tradition than Jesus’ identity as sacrificial victim, the son handed over to death by his loving father or the lamb who takes away the sins of he world. This identity, ostensibly so alien to Judaism, was itself constructed from Jewish reflection on the beloved sons of the Hebrew Bible, reflection that long survived the rise of Christianity and has persisted into the post-Holocaust era. The bond between Jewry and the Church that the beloved son constitutes is, however, enormously problematic. For the longstanding claim of the Church that it supersedes the Jews, in large measure continues the old narrative pattern in which a late-born son dislodges his first-born brothers, with varying degrees of success. Nowhere does Christianity betray its indebtedness to Judaism more than in its supersessionism. (Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, p.x.)This, I think, helps us understand the particularity of Christianity and the buds of supersessionism that are evident in the New Testament - buds that grow into forests in the writings of the Church Fathers. But, while I can affirm the genius of Levenson on this point, I must be very careful when I echo it. Levenson is a master at what he does. He is also a Jew who is invested in the well-being of Judaism. And, crucially, he is a Jew who is deeply invested in the well-being of Christians. So he can imply that Christian supersessionism (e.g. Bono's view) is just a big-brother-little-brother thing. And, after all, Christians are just mimicking what we've learned from our forebears. But I, for one, am tired of being the prodigal. It's time to grow up and take some responsibility. Levenson's brilliant observation, while true, does not let Bono off the hook.