Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

Remembering Well: The Holocaust: Humility and Hope

This week we remember the unfathomable and unimaginable evil of the Holocaust. Six million Jews and millions of others perished at the hands of Nazi Germany’s systems of enslavement, mass shootings, and industrial murder. This moment of demonic horror is not the first or last genocidal episode in history; however, it is the most morally reprehensible, because a civilized world looked on and did almost nothing to stop it. The few thousands who helped their Jewish neighbors deserve great praise, and Yad Vashem honors them as The Righteous Among the Nations. The harrowing reality of passivity in the light of such evil is a cause for deep reflection, repentance, and a renewal of resolve that declares, “Never Again!”

Some prominent survivor voices can help us reflect:

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” (Elie Weisel)

“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” (Simon Wiesenthal)

“The Holocaust manifested the veneer of civilization so thin and fragile that repetition is possible.” (Sam Kaltman)

“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

As we humble ourselves and remember this moment, how can we cultivate hope and build a more peaceable future? Here are some insights arising the ashes of the Shoah:

  • We must resist anti-Semitism wherever it is found, especially since it is often disguised in protests against the State of Israel. The BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movements that question Israel’s right to exist and shout, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” are actually calling for the end of Israel and the destruction of millions of people.
  • We must call on Palestinian leaders to stop denying or minimizing the Holocaust and denying the rights of Jews to live in their ancient homeland. We must oppose all false revisions of history that only serve a political narrative and sanction racism. Leaders advocating for a new Palestinian state are declaring it shall be “Jew-free” (a phrase from Nazi Germany) while demanding that Israel absorb hugely inflated numbers of refugee descendants of the 1947-49 conflict.
  • Going broader and deeper, we must purge intolerance and racism from our hearts and our speech. I am not muzzling free expression in the public square, but calling for love and wisdom in how we think, feel, act, and speak.
  • Positively, we can celebrate the lasting contributions of Jewish traditions to our world, including Monotheism, the moral compass of the Ten Commandments and the Hebrew Scriptures, and the foundations for private and public ethics, human rights, and restorative justice.
  • Christians in particular must recover the Jewish roots of our faith and stop misreading biblical texts that turn the shouts of a mob into blood libel and religious violence against the very people from whom our Messiah comes. 
  • Finally, we must resist all forms of Holocaust denial and revisionism that try to lessen the evil or minimize the impact of this moment. Instead, we must accept the challenge of Richard Rubenstein, who declared, “Before the Holocaust, one could profess Christian identity and we accepted it. After the Holocaust, you must prove it.”

May we pause and ponder, reflect and repent, and renew our resolve to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”

Why Hannukah Matters in 2020

The Books of I and II Maccabees record the story of Jewish spiritual and military courage from 167-164 BC as they resisted the forced Hellenization and oppression of Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes IV. This evil leader desecrated the Second Temple by building an altar to Zeus and sacrificing a pig in what was the Holy of Holies to the Jews. In addition to this demonic symbolism, Antiochus prohibited Jewish observances and promoted the vilest pagan practices. Under Judas Maccabeus, the Jewish revolt brought liberation to Judea and the reconsecration of the Temple in 164 BC.

During the reconsecration, the Menorah remained alight in spite of the shortage of oil. The victory over oppression and the miracle is the basis of the Feast of Hannukah that is celebrated every December by Jews around the world. It is a time of gift-giving, feasting, and remembrance. Christians recognized this important moment, honoring God’s intervention and seeing the light of Hannukah as emblematic of the Light of Messiah Jesus (see the Gospel of John, chapters 8 to 10).

Why does Hannukah matter today? The courage of the oppressed Jews is inspiring. But the Hanukkah story is more than a memory or a holiday moment. In the 21st century, we are living in a moment of great anti-Semitism, with vile slanders and actual violence against Jews increasing exponentially. The number of anti-Jewish incidents far exceeds any “Islamophobia” pushed by the elites in the media. The movements in the West to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) the State of Israel for her purported oppressions of the Palestinians is simple anti-Semitism disguised as political correctness. Advocates of BDS seek the complete delegitimizing of Israel and hypocritically declare they are only anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish. But examination of the leadership and money behind these groups reveals an agenda that wants the Middle East “Jew Free” and the elimination of the only democracy in the region! When one hears, “From the River to Sea, Palestine will be free” it is a call for elimination, exile, and extermination disguised as advocacy for the oppressed.

From the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC to the founding of Israel in 1948, The Jewish people had no land to call their own. Out of the ashes of the Shoah came a new state that is a gift to the world, a beacon of toleration and innovation, freedom and opportunity. Hanukkah celebrates this new reality as well as the victory over Antiochus over two millennia ago. The nation of Israel is a world leader in compassion around the world, medical advances, technology innovation, and entrepreneurial start-ups. She also demonstrates that contentious domestic politics and national cohesion can coexist.

Lovers of liberty of all faiths (or none) should applaud Israel’s existence and condemn anti-Jewish expressions wherever they occur with the same passion as those that defend Islam, Christianity, or any other expression of religion and conscience. When we see the light of a Menorah, may we rededicate ourselves to liberty for all.

Inconvenient Insights, part 2

The American and European public squares are replete with extremism, polarizing language, and moral cowardice. Yes, that is correct: moral cowardice. Political correctness and an unwillingness to confront facts are deceiving millions into buying into false historical narratives and feeling paralyzed about making any absolute statements. Here are some paradoxical realities that deserve critical thinking and deep reflection, not platitudes and soundbites.

Islamic jihadists do not believe in fostering a pluralistic society, with liberty of conscience/religion, free speech and diverse worldviews learning civility and common good unity. While the vast majority of Muslims live peaceably with neighbors of all faiths or none, the agitators are proposing either a gradual or abrupt takeover of the West (and the rest) in the name of their faith. Extremists defend the subjugation and even extermination of all opponents of Islam and in chilling Orwellian fashion, declare that true “freedom” is only found in submission to their version of Islam.

What makes the above particularly nefarious is the cozy relationship between the pagan-secular Left and radical Islam. The political Left will persecute artists and bakers for refusing to endorse same sex weddings but turn a blind eye to the jihadist’s oppression of women, anti-Semitism, and blatant denunciations of gender and sexual liberty! This is moral cowardice where hatred of Jewish and Christian morality triumphs over history and reason.

Abortion kills babies. While a tragic necessity in rare cases of the mother’s survival or baby’s unviability, “pro-choice” advocates are now celebrating the termination of life at all stages, from early gestation to infanticide. And anyone who disagrees is depriving women of reproductive rights. The missing part of this “pro-choice” extremism is the choices men and women make that lead to conception and the irresponsibility of fathers in particular to care for the fruit of their intimacy. While incest and rape may be presented as exceptions, the vast majority (97%+) of abortions are elective due to economic or emotional issues. This is moral cowardice.

The refusal of many conservative Christians to face the realities of emotional and sexual abuse, racism, and sexism within their histories and current structures is also moral cowardice. In a convoluted desire not to bring shame to the church or the gospel, leaders that cover serious transgressions or make excuses for a lack of justice actually do greater harm to Christian witness. Regardless of ecclesial traditions, no person should feel disempowered or marginalized by any church. Becoming intentional about lamenting our tragic history of racism and sexism can lead to new friendships and true reconciliation. Victims of abuse must be heard and helped, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Moral cowardice can be overcome with humility and love, intentional repentance and resolution, and fostering new friendships across the barriers we create, and Jesus died to destroy and transform.