Thursday, January 27, 2005


This from Margaret Killingray in the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity newsletter:

"Because Auschwitz was liberated 60 years ago [this] week, we are asked to remember how an urbane, civilised, Christian, European nation murdered intentionally, with planned and systematic efficiency, millions upon millions of men women and children. It is a haunting memory that raises many tormenting questions.

"But for Christians one important and significant question has to be why the large and influential churches of 1930s Germany, both protestant and Catholic, did not play a far more dramatic role in opposing the plainly evil programmes that were enacted. In an article in the Church Times in April 1995, Professor John Conway of the University of British Columbia, attempted to answer this question.

"He mentioned the pervasive sense of fear, the over-developed habit of social control that led to a deep reluctance to oppose authority. He showed that the churches were overwhelmingly swept up by the expectation of national renewal and deeply anti-Semitic.

"However, his main contention was that ‘the German churches did not possess the kinds of theology adequate to sustain any critical attack on the actions of their political rulers’. It may be wishful thinking to believe that the churches could have forced Hitler to act differently, but if only they had tried.

"That failure and other 20th century failures that have shamed Christians (Rwanda, racism in the USA, apartheid in South Africa) have made our witness that much more difficult. To ensure that such things are not repeated, we, the church of Christ, have a deep responsibility to make our voice heard and to stand up to inhumanity and racism from any kind of power, including the state.

"Above all, we need a profound understanding of the gospel. At the cross Jesus was crushed for our iniquities and there is no evil that humans can do that cannot be forgiven. However, those who have been forgiven in Christ are called to challenge wickedness in his name, and that can be very costly as those who did challenge Hitler found."

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