If God is Good … the Holocaust?

SIX MILLION LIVES

ONE AND A HALF MILLION JEWISH CHILDREN

90% OF ALL POLISH JEWS

TWO-THIRDS OF EUROPEAN JEWRY … ALL GONE

The numbers are staggering. The loss is unfathomable. The pictures … The pictures of the skeletal bodies even 70+ years later are enough to turn one’s stomach and clench one’s throat. However, it is the stories of my six friends who survived the horror (five of whom who are now gone) that I will never forget. And it is their stories that I always will share and repeat so that the horrors of 1933-1945 will never be forgotten. It is also the question of the hour that lingers in the air does it not?

IF GOD IS GOOD … THE HOLOCAUST?

How can we even imagine asking the question? How can we even imagine NOT asking the question? It needs to be asked and has been asked since the Russians crossed the railroad tracks and discovered the hell of Birkenau in January 1945.

I myself asked this question long before I entered this world I find myself in now when I wrote my first master’s thesis – “The Spiritual Significance of Literature Created During or Resulting from a Period of Suffering, 1933-1945” in 1996. It was supposed to be (and actually is academically) an examination of Holocaust literature and how it reflected individuals understanding of God from a perspective of theodicy (theology of suffering). However, and for me personally, it became a quest to understand how and why the church was apathetic then and often still is to the Jewish people’s deeper theological, emotional and spiritual needs.

Elie Wiesel asked this question all of his life and not simply in his unforgettable work Night that the world has grown uncomfortable hearing/reading … “Never shall I forget that night …” In Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel, he wrote some equally heart wrenching words:

And God? Where was He during those dark years? The Holocaust has had a great impact on religion. It does not really matter whether God is the impersonal God of the Reconstructionist or the personal God of the Hasid. We all speak about God in our hearts. We speak about the unknown, about that inner poetry which elevates certain moments of our existence. Where was this God then?

Jewish scholars today are still asking this question. Here are just three of the many books that sit on my shelf as a glaring indictment of the dearth/shortage of conservative Christian scholars who are not asking the question. The rare exceptions including the son of Holocaust survivors Michael Rydelnik and conservative turned “liberal” David Gushee; God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes (ed. Menachem Z. Rosensaft); The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology (ed. Steven T. Katz); and Holocaust Theology (ed. Dan Cohn-Sherbok) which has been updated but I prefer the older edition.

Therefore, we are going to ask the question(s) here in as much detail as is possible from Explore Messiah…? and Tzedakah Ministries’ conservative, evangelical perch. Because the questions need to be asked as you continue this journey, this exploration, this search for truth:

(1) Why did so many Christians help the Nazis?
(2) Why did so many Christians not fight the Nazis? and the most difficult one of all
(3) Where is my family who died in the Shoah?

And … I want to be honest with you that out of all the issues that Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? have and will discuss on this exploration that we are taking together, these are the ones that I have dreaded the most. To tackle the apathy of Christianity during the years of the Shoah is heartbreaking. To confront the apparent complicity of “professed” Christians is embarrassing. To explore with you the issue of universalism vs. exclusivism in regards to salvation is painful but any journey worth taking is often full of pain and inelegant moments.

Therefore, I am going to ask to explore all three of the topics in order this time. Unusual … I know but those of us who follow Messiah Jesus must face our demons as well. And remember at any time, we are ready to discuss these thoughts with you at the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board.

 

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