Never Again. OR Never Again?
“The Holocaust was an act of insanity in which the whole world went mad.” - David Matas
What does our Gospel message today say to others?
The murder of millions in months which occurred during the Holocaust was a perfect storm of evil, hate, stereotyping, bigotry and prejudice. One of the conditions of this perfect storm was nearly 2,000 years of Christian antisemitic theology with roots in two demonic ideas:
Deicide - “The Jews” killed Jesus.
Supercessionism (a.k.a., Replacement Theology) - The Christian Church has replaced, or is the new and true Israel.
Baptized Christians who confessed Jesus as Lord and believed in their hearts God raised Him from the dead, actively participated in the murder of an estimated 6 million Jews. How did this happen? How could Christians who proclaimed the Gospel found in the Bible, who wore Nazi uniforms with crosses on their belt buckles, have participated in genocide?
The uncomfortable answer is because of Christian antisemitic theology which traces back through nearly every major pre-Holocaust Christian leader including Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Chrysostom and Saint Augustine.
Abraham Joshua Heschel hits the nail on the head:
“The Christian message, which in its origins intended to be an affirmation and culmination of Judaism, became very early diverted into a repudiation and negation of Judaism; obsolescence and abrogation of Jewish faith became conviction and doctrine; the new covenant was conceived not as a new phase or disclosure but as abolition and replacement of the ancient one; theological thinking fashioned its terms in a spirit of antithesis to Judaism. Contrast and contradiction rather than acknowledgment of roots, relatedness and indebtedness, became the perspective. Judaism a religion of law, Christianity a religion of grace; Judaism teaches a God of wrath, Christianity a God of love; Judaism a religion of slavish obedience, Christianity the conviction of free men; Judaism is particularism, Christianity is universalism; Judaism seeks work-righteousness, Christianity preaches faith-righteousness. The teaching of the old covenant a religion of fear, the gospel of the new covenant a religion of love;. . .“
Heschel’s spot on observation traces back to a 2nd Century Christian leader named Marcion who believed the God of the Jewish people as found in their Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament) and the God revealed in writings about Jesus Christ were two completely different gods. Although Marcion was declared a heretic by the emerging Christian Church, his heresy is arguably the primary reason Christian Bibles today are divided into two distinct sections called the Old and New Testaments.
Is the God of the Bible not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel?
Is Jesus Christ not Israel’s promised Messiah?
Was the Bible not written by Jews, in Jewish places, about a Jewish King?
Is the Gospel not a throughly Jewish story?
I imagine some are thinking Christians today have learned the lessons of history and just want to tell people how God loves them and died for the sins of the world. Friends, our generation is not the first to hear, proclaim or share the glorious truth of John 3:16.
Pause and reflect on these thoughts about 20th Century Europe:
“Austria and Germany, at the time that they led the world to slaughter its Jews, were the countries of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Schubert, of Goethe, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Kant. It may be tempting to say of other killers in other genocides that they were nothing but uncivilized barbarians. It cannot be said of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Even during the midst of the Holocaust, many of the most highly educated of the day were among its most enthusiastic supporters, including German philosopher Martin Heidigger, American poet Ezra Pound, and French novelist Céline.” - Matas
Additionally, at this point, Europe had been the theological center of Christianity for hundreds of years.
In his infamous tract, Concerning the Jews and Their Lies, Martin Luther wrote, “. . . their synagogues should be set on fire . . . this should be done for the honor of God . . . their homes should be destroyed . . . they should be deprived of their prayer books . . . their Talmud teaches idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy . . . their rabbis must be forbidden under the threat of death to teach anyone . . . passports and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to Jews . . . let us drive them out of our country for all time.”
"The Encyclopedia Judaica rightly comments about Luther’s tract: Short of the Auschwitz oven and extermination, the whole Nazi Holocaust is pre-outlined here." - Merrill Bolender
All that said, Jews were not the only targets during the Holocaust.
“Nazis killed innocents everywhere they went. The death camps and death squads the Nazis organized for Jews killed Romas, homosexuals, the mentally and physically disabled, trade unionists, communists, and other political opponents as well. The killing of the disabled in Germany preceded the killing of Jews.” - Matas
As Christians today, we need to ask ourselves: What in the Gospel we proclaim clearly says, “Never again” to:
People who identify as LGBTQ+?
The mentally and physically disabled?
Those we disagree with politically?
Maybe the Gospel is being rejected because people are hearing:
Put the nation, land and people of Israel back in the Gospel. Don’t leave out the Jewishness of the Good News of the Jewish Messiah.