Daily Riches: How Government and Religion Can Endanger a People (Eric Gritsch)

“By 1543, Luther was … utterly frustrated by the Jews’ refusal to convert to Christianity: ‘A Jewish heart is as hard as a stick, a stone, as iron, as a devil.’ Luther did not, however, hold Jews responsible for the death of Christ. As he wrote in a hymn, ‘We dare not blame … the band of Jews; ours is the shame.’ And he felt that at least a few Jews might be won for Christ. Yet rabbinic teaching was madness and blindness that blasphemed Christ, Mary, and the Holy Trinity. Luther could not ‘have any fellowship or patience with obstinate [Jewish] blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.’ Blasphemy was a civil crime. To allow it to continue, Luther feared, meant Christians would share in the guilt for it. Thus, Luther now proposed seven measures of ‘sharp mercy’ that German princes could take against Jews: (1) burn their schools and synagogues; (2) transfer Jews to community settlements; (3) confiscate all Jewish literature, which was blasphemous; (4) prohibit rabbis to teach, on pain of death; (5) deny Jews safe-conduct, so as to prevent the spread of Judaism; (6) appropriate their wealth and use it to support converts and to prevent the lewd practice of usury; (7) assign Jews to manual labor as a form of penance. Luther advised clergy, their congregations, and all government officials to help carry out these measures. Since most Jews had been expelled from Germany before 1536, Luther’s counsel was implemented by few officials. Yet a harsh anti-Jewish measure in 1543 mentioned Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies. Both Luther’s friends and his foes criticized him for proposing these measures. His best friends begged him to stop his anti-Jewish raving, but Luther continued his attacks in other treatises. He repeated as true the worst anti-Semitic charges from medieval literature. Jews killed Christian babies; they murdered Christ over and over again by stabbing Eucharistic hosts; they poisoned wells. Luther now thought what he had accused Catholics of thinking in 1523: Jews were dogs. ‘We are at fault for not slaying them,’ he fumed shortly before his death. … Luther was not an anti-Semite in the racist sense. His arguments against Jews were theological, not biological. Not until a French cultural anthropologist in the nineteenth century held that humankind consisted of ‘Semites’ and ‘Aryans,’ were Semites considered inferior. Alfonse de Gobineau’s views were quickly adopted by European intellectuals and politicians, and Jews became the scapegoats of a snobbish colonialist society in England, France, and Germany. The rest is history—including the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his regime. National Socialists used Luther to support their racist anti-Semitism, calling him a genuine German who had hated non-Nordic races.” Eric Gritsch

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you imagine something like this happening today, as it did then? Here is the U.S., as it did in Germany?
  • Would people in your church or religious tradition know how to correct these racist views from a Biblical point of view? Would you?
  • Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and many others stood up against the Nazi’s in their day–risking their citizenship, income, career, family and lives. Will you have the courage to do that if a similar test occurs in your day?

Abba, strengthen me, not only as I clasp my hands in prayer against the disorder of the world, but as I speak unpopular truth and stand with hated victims.

For More: Preaching In Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich by Dean Stroud

_________________________________________________

Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. I appreciate it! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

Daily Riches: Where God Goes … And Where God May Be Found (Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and Eugene Peterson)

“But it is not said of Jesus that he reached down from on high to pull us up from slavery, but that he became a slave with us. God’s compassion is a compassion that reveals itself in servanthood. Jesus became subject to the same powers and influences that dominate us, and suffered our fears, uncertainties and anxieties with us. …He gave up a privileged position, a position of majesty and power, and assumed fully and without reservation a condition of total dependency. Paul’s hymn of Christ does not ask us to look upward, away from our condition, but to look in our midst and discover God there. …In the Gospel stories of Jesus’ healings, we sense how close God wants to be with those who suffer. But now we see the price God is willing to pay for this intimacy. It is the price of ultimate servanthood, the price of becoming a slave, completely dependent on strange, cruel, alien forces. …Jesus moves, as Karl Barth says, from ‘the heights to the depth, from victory to defeat, from riches to poverty, from triumph to suffering, from life to death.’ Jesus’ whole life and mission involved accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God’s love. Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.” Henri Nouwen

“God had looked upon the poor of the world and had himself come to help. Now he was there, not as the Almighty One, but in the seclusion of humanity. Wherever there are sinners, the weak, the sorrowful, the poor in the world, that is where God goes. Here he lets himself be found by everyone.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14 (Eugene Peterson)

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Consider this. Jesus made himself “completely dependent on strange, cruel, alien forces” in order to serve you.
  • Does your compassion (like that of Jesus) transcend sympathy and pity and involve “servanthood?”
  • Do you think it’s realistic to talk of going “directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there?” (In many ways Nouwen’s life shows what he must have had in mind.)

Abba, may you be found by everyone.

For More: Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen

_________________________________________________
Thanks so much for reading and sharing this blog! – Bill