Christians and the Holocaust
Christians and the Holocaust
I surely must be among the last people John Hagee would think to call to witness on his behalf. Hagee is the preacher who in the media is referred to as Senator McCain's pastor, the fellow who has brought almost as much grief to the presidential aspirations of the war hero as Jeremiah Wright has to the Senator from Illinois. Pastor Hagee has been attacked for his statements about the Roman Catholic Church and, more recently (in the media, if not historically), the Holocaust.
I won't go into the "whore of Babylon" reference to the Catholic Church. It is, the phrase, familiar to anyone who has studied church history and read the diatribes by Protestant reformers. It's a standard hate harangue from sixteenth century European ecclesiastics. On this score, I would only accuse Hagee of being woefully behind the times and refer him to a certain red letter verse, about judging them by their fruits. Let Pope John XXIII smile in agreement.
As for Hagee's decades old explanation of the Holocaust, I would raise an objection that will never surface in the media. But first, for accuracy's sake, please tune into a tape of the statement that has fueled the complaint. Just left click your mouse on this hyperlink: Hagee on the Holocaust on You Tube.
The talking heads on television refer to this performance as weird, crazy, offensive, and... well, just pick your own most dismissive judgment. In fact, Pastor Hagee is simply following a time-honored practice of fundamental Christian preachers attempting to divine the will of God in the course of human history. Sure, other non-fundamental preachers do the same thing, but not under the heading of "prophecy," or supporting conclusions as if the exact meaning of Bible verses... many of them from the Revelation of John (in which see Chapter 17, verse 5 vis a vis the epithet for the Catholic Church).
Students of the Bible, fundamental and non-fundamental, have over the centuries meditated on an earlier Jewish holocaust, the one reported in the Hebrew Scriptures. First the northern kingdom, Israel, in the 8th century B.C. was overrun by the Assyrians, and the brightest and best hauled off to a foreign land thousands of miles away, never to return. Then in 586 B.C. another Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, laid siege to Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom, Judah, destroyed it and again marched the elite across the desert to Babylon. Out of this holocaust emerged Isaiah's prophecies of hope, central to the Christian expectation of the messiah. The divine intent, Christians for two thousand years have speculated, was to provide the whole world with the knowledge and glory of Israel's God, who might otherwise have been the best kept secret of the Jews alone. Something like that, and few there are, due to the cushion of millennia, to claim the Jews were being insulted.
It's the holocaust of recent memory, however, that is Hagee's problem. On this score I would counsel Christians, to put it bluntly, to keep their mouths shut. Hagee's critics echo complaints heard earlier when Pope John Paul II offered a mass on the grounds of Auschwitz II, and raised a cross there. James Carroll, in his Constantine's Sword, takes this incident, the cross-raising and its backlash from Jews, as the starting point for a study of two thousand years of twisted relations between the church and Jews. This book is a must-read for anyone who would understand the justified fear and contempt of Jews toward any Christian who would dare to interpret for his own purposes their history. Simply put, Carroll offers terrible evidence that the Holocaust was the consequence of nearly two thousand years of Christian persecution of the people of Israel.
So, preacher, listen, sympathize, and seek to understand the Holocaust; but, when it comes to the pulpit, keep your mouth shut.
And I have a better reason than humility and shame to give this advice. A Gospel reason, a golden rule... you know, about treating others the way you want to be treated. Few things anger me more than when someone, uninvited, takes an unhappy event from my biography, quotes it back to me, and then proceeds to explain to me why I should be glad that it took place the way it did. Readers of this website should understand. That it's okay for me to say about my forced retirement that it all happened for the best; but don't you dare tell me the powers-that-were were doing me a favor.
Scores of examples leap to mind. But I'll spare you. Just take inventory of your own life and times, your troubles, your setbacks, and gauge what your reaction would be should a well-meaning friend appropriate those untoward events by way of explaining to you why you should be, after all is said and done, happy.
Pastor Hagee has it wrong, but for reasons other than anything contemporary American media fathom. He's not a bigot. He just followed a less than red-letter line of thought.
When he should have heeded his Friend's advice, according to which silence would be golden.