Why should Christians care that this Sunday, April 27, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day? Isn’t that something we have been over enough since 1945? It is a Jewish thing, after all. It was a huge tragedy, but we can’t do anything more about it now. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So just leave it at that. Let the Jews and the Israelis have their memorial, and we’ll get on with our lives.
Except I can’t leave it at that. This is not just a Jewish thing. It is a human thing.
I have written before, and will write again, about the Biblical truth that all those who have a testimony of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) are just as much Israelites as Jews. That alone should be enough for Christians to care. As the very Jewish Apostle Paul so clearly stated, the Jews are the natural branches of this olive tree called Israel, and we non-Jews are grafted in from among the nations by the grace of God. We grafted-in branches dare not boast against that root; it’s what supports us. We cut it off, and cut ourselves off from it, at our own great peril (Romans 11:11-18).
Lest there be any doubt, take five minutes right now and consider this video:
“Jesus has often been wrongly associated with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. In reality, he is to be identified with those who were the victims. As a Jew, if he were in Europe at the time, Jesus may well have suffered the same fate of the six million who perished in the concentration camps.
“Jewish teaching promotes the idea that the death of Jews in the Holocaust accomplished kiddish-ha-Shem, the sanctification of God’s name. How much more then, the Bible tells us, Jesus’ death was intended by God for Kiddush-ha-am, the sanctification of the people. Through him we can be made right with God.”
So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. – Hebrews 13:12
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a very, very human thing. In truth, it has happened more than once. We merely remember the greatest modern example, which happens to be the best documented.
And still we are in danger of forgetting.
And still we are in danger of letting it happen again –
– in Europe
– in Syria
– in Rwanda
– in Cambodia
– in Chile
– in China
– in Ukraine
– in Armenia
– and in America.
Surely it can’t happen here, you say. But I say, yes, it has, and it will again. If a madman can kill three innocent people in Kansas City just because he thinks they are Jews, then it can happen here. As a historian who has looked at these things from many angles, I can assure you no one is immune, not even good Christians. Nearly 400 years ago, our Puritan ancestors launched a war of annihilation against the Pequot Nation of Connecticut. Hundreds of Pequot died, others were enslaved, and the survivors were scattered, not to become a nation again until 350 years later.
How could Christian people do this? It began innocently enough. They looked upon their Native American neighbors as less enlightened than themselves, as bereft of the blessings of Christian enlightenment. When the Pequot did not recognize their supposed inferiority and become disciples of English Puritanism, they became instead obstacles in the path of civilization. That is how it always happens.
The Pequot story is the story of so many others, including the Jews. It is the Jews that concern us now, for the Holocaust remembers the systematic attempt at wiping the memory of Jews from off the planet. In 1947, even as the horrors of the Holocaust were becoming known, and Jews struggled to bring Israel into existence as a nation, producer Daryl Zanuck, director Elia Kazan, and actor Gregory Peck collaborated on a film that embraced the issue head on. The result was Gentleman’s Agreement, a movie that unmasked anti-Semitism in America. Gentleman’s Agreement won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, not because it documented blatant neo-Nazi racist rants, but because it demonstrated how nice, normal people, even nice Jewish people, stoked the furnace of anti-Semitism by unthinking word, actions, and non-actions belying a deep-seated programming that indicated Jews were somehow not quite as good as Christians. In the film, Peck’s character, a journalist, pretended to be Jewish so that he could experience anti-Semitism first-hand. The revelation of his true identity as a Gentile shocked everyone, including Miss Wales, his Jewish secretary. Addressing her dismay, Peck’s character said this:
“What’s so upsetting about that, Miss Wales? There is some difference between Jews and Christians? Look at me hard. I’m the same man I was yesterday. That’s true, isn’t it? Why should you be so astonished, Miss Wales? Still can’t believe anybody would give up the glory of being a Christian for even eight weeks? That’s what’s eating you, isn’t it? If I tell you that’s anti-Semitism, your feeling of being Christian is better than being Jewish, you’ll say I’m heckling you again, I’m twisting your words around, or it’s just facing facts, as someone else said to me yesterday. Face me. Look at me. Same face, same eyes, same nose, same suit, same everything. Here. Take my hand. Feel it! Same flesh as yours, isn’t it? No different today than yesterday. The only thing that’s different is the word Christian.”
An unspoken message of Gentleman’s Agreement is that it is not a far stretch to move from the attitude of “not quite as good” to “less than human”, and from there to, “worthy of elimination”. Indeed, yes, it can happen here. It can happen anywhere. And the greatest tragedy is that Christians, who should embrace Jews as fellow believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are all too often the ones who let the evil proceed unabated.