In 1974 at an amazing conference was held at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York. Christians and Jews gathered to confront the question, “Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era?” Catholic theologians like Rosemary Ruether and Gregory Baum, and Jewish writers such as Emil Fackenheim and Elie Wiesel participated. The responses were later published in a volume that I read in while I was in graduate school at Maryknoll, New York.
The first time I read Orthodox rabbi Irving Greenberg’s essay, “Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity, and Modernity after the Holocaust,” I was shocked. It was one of those pieces of writing that reorient one in the world.
Two statements from Greenberg’s essay come to me in light of current events. Here’s the first: “No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children.” “Burning children” here refers to the children who were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. What might be some theological statements to utter in the presence of such agonized children? Perhaps an assertion like, “Jesus died for their sins.” Or, “It was all part of God’s inscrutable plan.” You can judge for yourself as to the credibility of such statements. Read the rest of this entry »