WHEN GOD AND MAN FAILED: Non-Jewish Views of the Holocaust by Harry James--Ed. Cargas

WHEN GOD AND MAN FAILED: Non-Jewish Views of the Holocaust

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Priests, ministers, and professors of religion measure--and agonize over--the theological fallout of the Holocaust. What, they ask, does or should the ""war against the Jews"" mean to Christians? The answers they come up with, if not always profound or satisfying, are uniformly honest and thought-provoking. In ""A Theodicy,"" John K. Roth speaks for many of his confreres when he ruefully confesses that a God who could let six million lives go to such horrendous waste ""cannot be totally benevolent."" That is, both the fact of the Holocaust and meditations on it by writers like Richard Rubenstein and Elie Wiesel put much of old-fashioned Christian theology out of business. Just what the theologians do in the future with this paralyzing insight is not clear, but for the moment it has evidently shattered all their triumphalism and a good deal of their self-confidence. The main question on the docket, however, is the degree of Christian responsibility for the Holocaust. All contributors agree that there's been an anti-Semitic strain in Christianity (e.g., in the gospel according to John) from the beginning, and that some parts of Christian tradition (the medieval papacy, the works of Luther) are rotten. Hence the Church at least helped create a climate favorable to--or not hostile to--the Endlosung. But does Christian guilt go deeper? Franklin Littell and others insist that because most of the Nazis (and their silent accomplices in Europe and elsewhere) were baptized Christians, the Holocaust was in a profound sense a Christian crime. None of the authors confronts the more obvious idea that the Holocaust proved how far Christianity, except as a purely social category, was a dead letter. In a few cases personal guilt feelings seem to have unhinged rational arguments (Roy Eckardt viewing the Holocaust as ""merely the final act of a unique drama,"" i.e., Christianity's century-long death wish for the Jews). But on the whole a balanced and pointed anthology, of interest to a wide spectrum of Christian and Jewish readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan