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August 02, 1974 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-08-02

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Stirring Plea for a Just Interfaith Society

Human Reconciliation' Between Jews, Christians
Urged in Eckardt Excoriation of Anti-Semitic Guilt

Reckoning of Christianity's behalf of Jews under perse- of the English word lacks
guilt for the persecution of cution. Indeed, much of the preciseness. In the Random
Jews has always been tem- incentive behind his opposi- House Dictionary, the sole
pered by recognition of the tion to Nazism and his ef- definition of `antisemitic' is
nobility of the hasidei umot forts to bring about Ameri- `a person who is hostile to
ha-olam — the saintly among can intervention in the war Jews.' I would only suggest
the nations of the world. with Germany was his con- adding to the qualifying
Prof. A. Roy Eckardt and cern for the plight of the words, 'because they are
his wife Alice are major in Jews of Europe. If, as I have Jews.' That Arabs are re-
that category. Their services long held, Niebuhr underesti- putedly a Semitic people les-
in defense of Jewish rights, mated the unique force of sens in no way the power of
in opposing anti-Semitism, as Christianity in making pos- antisemitism among them.
leaders in non-Jewish ranks sible the metastasis of anti- A German word that is not
in behalf of Israel, mark a semitism in the Western readily subject to semantic
chapter of unmatched dedi- world (and, from there, to gameplaying is Judenfein-
cation to assure justice for the Middle East), neverthe- fschaft, enmity toward Jews."
the Jew.
less he remained from start
Emphasizing that he is not
Not only are the Eckardt's to finish a stalwart foe of alone "in writing and speak-
leaders in the ranks of the antisemitism, as of other ing of Christian guilt," Dr.
Christian ha sidim: they, forms of human prejudice Eckardt appended this foot-
themselves, take pride in and exploitation.
those who labor as defenders
"One peculiarity I can
"Niebuhr's sympathy for
of freedom for Israel and the collective integrity and claim is, perhaps, unfortun-
fairness to Jewry, as evi- well-being of the Jewish ate: My repeated emphasis
denced in Dr. Eckardt's hav- people was bolstered by a upon the fact of Christian
ing dedicated his new book, general principle within his guilt and my manners of
"Your People, My People — overall theological-moral pos- presentation sometimes seem
The Meeting of Jews and ition: In our less-than-perfect to prompt hearers (as in a
Christian s" (Quadrangle
world, individual peoples — recent instance in Detroit) to
Press), to two fellow-hasidei and
small peoples especially accuse me of self-flaggela-
umot, Dorothy and James — require political sover- tion, rather than to take ser-
eignty as protection against iously the requirement of
More: while deploring that those who would harass, op- penitence."
"such 'liberal Christian' his- press, or destroy them, just
The "Christian guilt" is de-
torians as Kenneth Scott Lat- as they need freedom if they fined extensively, and the
ourette managed almost tot- are to attain fullness of life. Eckardt "penitence" includes
ally to avoid the truth," Dr. Of equal relevance here was the following:
Eckardt welcomes to the Niebuhr's unrelenting opposi-
"Every instance of Chris-
ranks of the fair-minded a tion to the kind of Christian tian antisemitism in postbib-
group of friends, noting: pacifism that leaves Jews, Heal history is directly or in-
"Now, thankfully, we have among others, the victims of directly traveable to the
the formidable work of Alan tyrants and other oppressors. events or reputed events re-
T. Davies, Willehad P. Eck- It was entirely logical that, corded in the New Testa-
ert, Edward H. Flannery, early in his career, Reinhold ment. The foundation of
Eva Fleischner, Franklin H. Niebuhr became a Christian Christian anti-Semitism and
Littell, John M. Oessterreich- Zionist — defined strictly as the church's contribution to
er, James Parkes, John T. a Christian who supports the the Nazi Holocaust were laid
Pawlikowski, Frederick M. political freedom of Jews. 1900 years ago; the line from
Schweitzer, Karl Thieme and Niebuhr was an ardent cham- the New Testament through
other Christian scholars."
pion of a Jewish state in the centuries of Christian
Sadly, it was necessary for Palistine and later of the contempt for Jews to the gas
Eckardt to add: "But, of State of Israel. To him, Zion- ovens and crematoria is un-
course, these efforts have ism constituted one respon- broken."
come only subsequent to sible and viable answer to in-
The lengthy analyses serve
Christendom's long historical justices against Jews within
preparation for the Holo- and beyond Christendom, a to substantiate the Eckart
caust of the Jews. The Nazis concrete implementation of position.
simply gave practical appli- the survival rights of any
In his review of the recent
cation to the theological and people (for all its tempta- ecumenical discussions on
moral findings of the church, tions, the collective will-to- deicide and the vatical Dec-
with the aid of technology not survive is an authentic value laration on the Jes, Eckardt
previously a v a i l a b l e to within the divine "order of analyzes through the state-
creation"), and a compelling ments by Cardinal Bea. He is
The names just quoted are recognition of the historic critical. He states:
not the only ones recorded and moral claims of Jews to
"At the point where Bea
by Eckardt as philo-Semites. their homeland. Niebuhr con- opposes 'presumed collective
Discussing the detrimental tended that binationalism for guilt,' he is prepared to fos-
work of the Unitarian-Univer- Palistine was impractical. It ter the age-old accusation of
salist Fred Gladstone Brat- must be emphasized, how- continuing Jewish 'cultability
ever, that his insistence upon
ton, Eckardt comments:
because of the 'rejection' of
"There is no insinuation the collective integrity of the gospel. What, after all, is
here that Unitarian-Univer- peoples extended fully to the the moral difference between
salists must be anti-Zionists; rights of the Palestinian the idea of collective guilt
we think of such great sym- Arabs."
and the reputed "guilt" of
pathizers for Israel as John
An introductory statement unnumbered indivdual Jews?
Haynes Holmes and Carl
by Dr. Eckardt must be A final rebuke •to the Jewish
Hermann Voss."
people is masked in the best
And there is one other quoted for a clarification of intentions: "Even after the
name: that of the very great his approach to anti-Semi- condemnation of Jesus, God
theologian, the late, one-time tism. He explains his spell- did not in any way reject the
Detroiter, Reinhold Niebuhr. ing:
people he had chosen. On the
Dr. Eckardt's reference to
contrary, he continued to of-
Niebuhr is so vital to the dis-
"The usage `antisemitism' fer them the Gospel of salva-
cussion of Christian-Jewish appears throughout this book. tion."
relations that it merits the I agree with James Parkes
"Could there be a more
following quotation:
that 'anti-Semitism' is in-
"Among Jews Reinhold correct and misleading; it formidable instance than that
Niebuhr will always be re- wrongly implies a movement recounted above of a consti-
membered for his courageous against an implied 'Semi- tutional incapacity among
battle against Nazism and tism.' On the meaning of the great numbers of Christians
for his untiring endeavors in term `antisemitism,' the root to achieve empathy with
Jews? Even in these years
56 Friday, August 2, 1974
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS after the Holocaust, few



Christians seem able to grasp
— even in intellectual terms,
not to mention the spiritual
— moral aspects — how all
the church's preachments
about the Christian gospel of
salvation can only be an act
of effrontery against the
Jewish people. As J. Coert
Rylaarsdam points out, the
Christian world has never
really overcome its assump-
tion that the only "good
Jews" are either dead ones
or Christians. Apparently,
God can only love Jews eith-
er "for the sake of the
Fathers" (Vatican Declara-
tion, following. Saint Paul) or
somehow "through the Son."
The largest single body of
the church — in company,
of course, with many other
Christian bodies — still dog-
matically refuses to allow, in
'Professor Rylaarsdam's apt
phrasing, "that God loves
the Jew for what he is now,"
for himself." This repudia-
tion is among the most fright-
ening evils in contemporary
Christendom. Here is an in-
ner spiritual disease that rots
away current Christian en-
deavors to be brotherly. For
we are confronted here with
more than an attack upon
humanity or even upon Jews.
The ultimate sin is to 'circum-
scribe, and thereby to blas-
pheme against, the divine

"For illustrative purposes
we may return to Augustin
Cardinal Bea's study, 'The
C h u r c h and the Jewish
People.' What does it mean
to attest, as the Cardinal
does, that Scripture is 'in-
spired by God' and is ac-
cordingly 'the Word of God'?
What does it mean to speak
of 'God's revelation handed
down to us by the Jewish
people in the writings of the
Old Testament'? At this
point, Bea turns to the Vati-
can Council's Dogmatic Con-
stitution on Divine Revela-
tion. The effect can only be
disastrous, simply because
that Constitution also tries to
have things both ways:
namely, to vindicate revela-
tionality and yet to transcend
christologically the so-called
Christian tour de force that
seeks refuge in propaedeu-
tics, the notion of the 'Old
Testament' as purely pre-
liminary and preparatory. As
the Dogmatic Constitution
has it, the principal pur-
pose to which the plan of the
Old Covenant was directed
was to prepare for the corn-
ing both of Christ, the univer-
sal Redeemer, and of the
messianic kingdom . . . '
Apart from the oblique in-
sult to the integrity of the
divine Covenant with Israel
and to the sacred Scripture
of the Jewish people, we are
met here by a flagrant denial
of major dimensions of that
Scripture, a flouting of bibli-
cal authority, and a refuta-
tion of the Constitution's tes-
timony elsewhere hat "the
books of both the Old and
New Testament in their en-
tirey . . . have God as their

author" • and are "without
error." By subjecting the so-
called Old Testament to
christocentrism, C a r d i n a l
Bea violates the revelational-
historical integrity of that lit-
Then there is this supple-
mentary firm assertion in the
context of the discussion re-
lating to Bea:
"For Christians committed
to the essential authenticity
of the biblical witness, the
one alternative to the demon-
izing of God is to attest that
it has not been God's re-
vealed will or purpose to
bring the greater part of or-
iginal Israel to acclaim Jesus
as the Christ. Israel's per-
sistance in faith, its alleg-
iance to Torah and Covenant,
is accepted and supported
within the providence of God,
in entire independence of the
Christian faith. As a pastor
from, the Netherlands has
said, 'The Lord goes his own
way with his own people.' "
Of major significance in the
Eckardt volume is the sec-
ond part, devoted to "Chris-
tians, Israel and the Middle
East Conflict." Alice Eck-
ardt is quoted: "Israel as a
nation is treated much the
same as the Jewish people
have been treated throughout
history." And Dr. Eckardt
proceeds to state: "This re-
minds us that those contem-
porary Christian attitudes
toward Israel which are hos-
tile must be understood in
continuity with the long tra-
dition of Christendom's anti-
paty toward Jews and perse-
cution of Jews."
Again, quoting Alice Eck-
ardt: "The vehemence with
which many Christians deny
the need for a Jewish state
due to antisemitism reflects
a refusal to admit the moral
indirection of Christian civil-
ization that is thereby im-
But the firmness of Father
Flannery's position, the views
of Dr. Littell, are given full
credit, while Dr. Eckardt
calls attention to the • men-
acing attitudes of the Uni-
tarian John Nicholls Booth,
whose anti-semitic and anti-
Israel articles were featured
when the Wayne State Uni-
versity's South End was con-
ducting its anti-Semitic cam-
paign. Dr. Eckardt condemns
the venomous anti-Israel pos-
itions of Rev. Edward L. R.
Elson (President Eisenhow-
er's religious guide) and Rev.
Francis B. Sayre, both of
Washington, for their preju-
dicial sermons against Israel
(quoting The Detroit Jewish
News April 7, 1972, and May
12, 1972).
The Zionist position formu-
lated by Dr. Eckardt is con-
tained, among other emphses,
in the following:
"Insofar as Christian de-
nigration of Israel cannot be
divorced from the influences
of Christian dogma and from
historic Christian hostilities
to Jews, the responsibility of

Israeli Jews, of the Jewish
world, and of Christians con-
cerned for Israel may be-
come clear. Responsible ac
tion will be determined IT2
judgements, findings, and in-
tuitions concerning the
changeability or nonchange-
ability of Christian ideology
and Christian behavior. It
was entirely predictable that
Christian denigration and per-
secution of Jews over so long
a history would be revivified
in adverse Christian policies
and behavior toward the
Zionist ideal and the reestab-
lishment of the State of Is-
rael. The anti-Zionist and
anti-Israeli stance of so many
nations and people appears
simply inexplicable apart
from the age-old influence of
anti-Judaism and anti-Semi-
tism within Western and
Eastern Christendom. There
is little in the story of dom-
inant Christian attitudes to-
ward Israel since 1948, and
especially during and since
1967, to warrant any hope
that the Christian world, and
the American church in par-
ticular, will change.
"We are met by the saddest
truth of all: It was terrible
enough when the Christian
world betrayed the Jewish
people in the Nazi Holocaust.
That we should give our con-
sent to efforts to produce a
second Holocaust is an act
beyond redemption, an un-
qualifiedly devilish act. Pre-
Holocaust Christianity holds
as full reign as ever.
"Some one must redress
the evil," is Dr. Eckardt's
basic plea. He calls for "hum-
an reconciliation."
"The ultimate issue," he
declares, "is whether the
confession that all our right-
eous deeds are like a politi-
cal garment' ,(Isaiah 64:7)
can be accompanied by an
openness to the grace that
transforms hum an lives.
Where the confession is hon-
est, the grace of God is al-
ready making its way. In-
deed, that grace moves to
purge away any lingering
dishonesty. It is exactly here
that human love and divine
love meet. Love penetrates
with the light of redemption
into the dark world of hum
depravity. Through deed:
vicarious suffering — neceb-
sarily cleansed and sustained
at every moment by the for-
giving grace of God — the
fateful power of guilt is at
last broken."
A much vaster area than
has been indicated is covered
in the Eckardt thesis. It de-
serves an immense audience
— Jewish readers who will
better learn from their own
position; and if the book is
accepted as a textbook in
Christian ranks the condem-
nations of anti-Semitism will
sink in and the lessons taught
will be learned. A vast
amount of good in achieving
true understanding between
the faiths will thereby be at-
tained genuinely so that the
guilt may be reduced. —P.S.

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