How Germans talk – some examples
As soon as one scratches beneath the surface of the concepts which underlie these statements, the religious die in which these prejudices are cast, stands revealed. What used to be thought religious remains effective and usable in secular society, minus its original religious foundation.
A theology divorced from living Judaism is not only dangerous to Jews, but confronts Christianity at its heart. This twilight period, in which a conventional but no longer living Christianity reigns, is long drawn out. What was once rooted in Christianity persists in it, at once worldly and pious.
Everyone would like to solve “the Jewish problem” at long last. Did they not openly describe it as a historical task to “purify” society by means of discrimination, defamation, deportation and murder? The “Jewish question” is, however, not a Jewish problem. It is the problem of why the majority community finds itself incapable of living together with a Jewish minority.
It used to be the case that a majority within our society was Christian. Even if they didn’t live as good Christians they at least had a Christian upbringing. Both theology and piety are open to secularization in their positive as well as their negative consequences. That is why we must make it clear that popular, racial, political, national, legal or scientific legitimation for antisemitism has found fruitful soil in which to grow in our land.
The restraints on opposition were in proportion to the deference towards ruling authority.
Theology and Church, Christian men and women, must critically examine their own theory and practice to see how they contribute to, or at least tolerate, antisemitism and indifference. Indifference, like its partner incompetence, kills.
And the Church, in common with legal and scientific institutions, industry, government and education must be aware of the painful question of how all these human institutions were absent precisely where their presence should have been felt. Why did they allow themselves to become the accomplices of a murderously efficient power?
Only a new beginning will do
The insights of the theological dialogue between Jews and Christians which the working group of Jews and Christians have conducted for the thirty years of the Kirchentag are of a critical nature. A major element in what is too often regarded as innocuous Jewish Christian dialogue is the critical examination of the contents of faith and of its consequences which, whether passively or actively, helped build the path to Auschwitz.I mean:
Christians and Church participate in these things only through and together with Israel, never in opposition to or without Israel. The Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, never broke with this people and their service of God. His path leads not away from Israel but towards Israel, for it is only along this path that the nations can find the God of Israel, that one can journey meaningfully through the breadth of scripture, drawing living inspiration from its account of the origin and aim of creation and history. Only on this path can one learn to make firm decisions for the implementation of justice, freedom, happiness, love and truth in human life and society.
Instead of this Christians and Church too often concern themselves with power and numbers, with dogma and escapism, blaming Israel for the death of God and regarding the history of Israel as finished. They pronounce judgment on Israel and boast that they are their bailiffs in history.
Are we to take the Jewish people with their vulnerable state, their human resources, the diverse expressions of their faith and life, as they truly are and as they understand themselves, or are we to fabricate our own image of them and thereby not only break the second commandment, but also cast aside God’s first address, namely Israel?
A new beginning between Jews and Christians is only just on the horizon. It is perpetually in danger of being destroyed:
An enlightened theology reviews the whole of history, whether ecclesiastical, political, economic or cultural, not through rose-colored glasses but ruthlessly. Only in this way can we construct a new path for the future which will degrade and deny neither humanity nor the house of God.
Translation of an address delivered before a gathering in the Old Synagogue at Essen, Germany, on June 4, 1991. Prof. Dr. Martin Stöhr is a former president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.