Tag Archives: Messiah

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.”

Christmas History

In the comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown is lamenting that Linus will have to go to school twice as long as others…in order to unlearn everything big sister Lucy (mis)taught him! This humorous aside reveals something important: sometimes we have to shed wrong ideas in order to understand the truth of any matter.

The Advent Season and celebration of Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the Incarnation of the Almighty, the arrival of Jesus as God with us. We are astonished at the mystery of Mother Mary nursing her Creator and Redeemer. We offer our worship as we join with the angelic hosts proclaiming peace with the birth of our Lord and Savior. As we, like Mary, treasure in our hearts the profound truth that the crèche of Bethlehem will soon yield to the Cross of Calvary as Jesus atones for the sins of all humankind.

It is also fitting that we unlearn a few things about this moment in history:

  • Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not homeless and poor. They we returning to their ancestral home for the census and found overcrowded conditions leading to modest lodgings in a barn. Jesus’ upbringing would be classified today as an artisan, small business owner or working class.
  • The Wise Men from the East arrived about 18 months after the birth of Jesus in an entourage of scores of people. These were Persian leaders and scholars alerted to Messiah’s birth by heavenly signs.
  • Christmas as a Christian holiday has been controversial from the 4th C to the present, with many rejecting its materialism and syncretism with winter solstice celebrations. As late as the mid-19th century, many churches and even states in the USA has no official Christmas Holiday!
  • Jesus is born in a geography that was a crossroads of the continents and cultures. Though considered a country backwater by the Roman Empire, Judea was in fact a place of deep learning and tradition in Judaism as well as a locale where the Greek was the marketplace language and Roman Law provided stability.

Celebrating Christmas is good. Adapting local cultural expressions into Christian worship is accepted by most around the world. As we enjoy this Season, it is fitting to renew our covenant with the Lord and share this Good News with a confused and rebellious world.