Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Papal stumble

Pope Benedict today in an audience had to supplement his remarks made at Auschwitz last weekend to explicitly acknowledge that Hitler ordered the deaths during World War II of 6 million Jews simply because they were Jews. Prominent Jews, including the chief rabbi of Rome, thought B16's remarks too theological. And they were right.

Benedict's original speech asked why "God was silent" in the Shoah and described the Nazis as "criminals," but he didn't acknowledge the hard truth of Hitler's popular support and the fact that it takes a whole lot of willing accomplices to kill 6 million people (along with the other 2 or so million that died in the camps). Anti-Semitism lay at the heart of both, which by no means was reserved to Germans of the mid-20th century.

Which brings us to another hard truth: We Christians have barely begun to scratch the surface of our religious anti-Judaism, though I think we have made strides toward eliminating the more race-based anti-Semitism that was at the heart of the Nazi genocide. But those racial theories would likely not have been possible without the historical anti-Judaism of Christianity, the roots of which can be found even in the scriptures, especially in the Gospel of John. And it continued right on through the Fathers of the church, the medieval theologians, and the Protestant reformers.

It has only been 40 years since Catholicism officially repudiated the idea that the Jewish people were responsible for Christ's death, and only 20 years or so since the Lutheran World Federation did the same. And we still have a the gigantic theological task of coming to a new understanding of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity that doesn't described Judaism as a failed and supplanted relationship with God.

And the pope--a German, a member (though unwilling) of both the Hitler Youth and the German Army, visiting the most notorious of death camps--has to do better than a theological musing on why God was silent. They were too many Christians aiding and abetting the silencing of God's people for that.


At 7:54 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

Not to mention the wacky relationship between evangelicals (especially those of the "left behind" persuasion) and Jews.


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