"Good News" after Auschwitz? Christian Faith in a Post-Holocaust World, Edited and Introduced by Carol Rittner and John K. Roth

Article excerpt

Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2001. 215 pp. $39.95.

Do an institution and a faith that have been infested almost from their beginning and for centuries since with a sense of their superiority over the Synagogue and a hostility towards the faith of Jews have anything left to speak that can be called "good news?" What options do people have whom the Holocaust has so radically alerted to that infestation but who refuse simply to abandon the Christian faith and leave the Church, knowing that doing so, or merely lamenting the sin of Christianity, preserves the status quo of Christian anti-Judaism? What commandment comes to them out of the horrors of Auschwitz which, if left unheeded, turns what the "faith of our fathers" has to proclaim into renewed assaults on Jews and Judaism?

The fourteen contributors to this book, all claiming to be Christian, know that questions like these irrevocably challenge Christian faith as well as their own personal witness as followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They are convinced that the Holocaust is not an adiaphoron, a matter of no direct significance to the substance of Christian theology and faith. All are steeped in the history of the Church's anti-Judaism, of the Western world's antisemitism, and of how both have aided and abetted the Shoah. And however aware they are of the challenge of Auschwitz also to the faith of Jews, they are even more aware of how utterly deeply the Holocaust and all that prepared for it has compromised, if not irreparably distorted, Christianity itself and the Church as such.

Six overarching loci direct the explorations and proposals of this book. First, Christians need to be honest about and remorseful for the anti-Jewish history of Christianity and the Church. Second, the Jewish origins of the Christian faith and the Jewish identity of Jesus need to be clearly acknowledged, studied with much greater care, and willingly affirmed. Images or understandings of Jesus need to be presented that are free of anti-Judaism. All this in a context that upholds the unbroken vitality of the Jewish people and their traditions. Third, liturgies and scriptural interpretations that promote the infestations named earlier need to be identified and replaced. Fourth, the conviction that is at the heart of Christian faith and practice needs to be prominently upheld, namely the great commandment to love the neighbor inclusively and hospitably because, as Martin Buber renders the Hebrew: he/she is like you. Fifth, the awareness that faithfulness to God entails human responsibility needs to be intensified. And, finally, a determined commitment is required that the darkness of injustice, evil, and death will not overcome the light of justice, goodness, and life itself (pp. 190-191).

The authors confess, some explicitly, others more implicitly, their own complicity in Christian anti-Judaism by acknowledging that they had learned and subsequently made use of the methods and conclusions of dominant biblical exegesis. But they also acknowledge that, as a result of long, arduous, painful but finally very fruitful work with Jewish thinkers, they have learned to be self-critical and to develop new methods and new theologies. …