Faith after the Holocaust
The Holocaust and Christian faith
People often describe the Holocaust as the climax of 2,000 years of Christian mistreatment of Jews. Some invoke the Shoah as the ultimate reason for Jews not to believe in Jesus. Jewish believer Moishe Rosen challenges that view: The phrase ‘2,000 years of history leading up to the Holocaust’ is more than a reference to past prejudice and persecution. It is an indictment against Christianity that misrepresents Christ’s message and intent. Anyone who gives credence to such an accusation bestows upon Hitler the power to change theology.”1
The foundation for the Holocaust
Neither Jesus nor Christian ideals produced the Holocaust. Those murders were generated by the same perversion of human nature that the holy Scriptures depict, beginning in the Book of Genesis. Cain turned on his own brother and became the first murderer. And while the Jewish people have been singled out more often for genocide than any other people, we are by no means the only group of people to be methodically murdered. Consider the “ethnic cleansing,” the systematic rape and murder of the Bosnian people perpetrated in the 1990s. No, genocide neither began nor ended with Hitler and the Jewish people.
Some see the Holocaust not merely as an indictment against Christianity but against God. Many who suffered through the concentration camps either blame God or refuse to believe that he exists.
Grappling with God
Such people find themselves in a quandary, ever restless until they know in what or in whom they can place their faith. Will they dismiss God on the grounds that the Holocaust proves him cruel, incapable or non-existent and instead put their faith in humanity? If God is not to be trusted because he permits humans to be cruel, does it make more sense to trust humans when it is human beings-not God-who have proved to be inescapably, or at least repeatedly, corrupt?
Often those who say they don’t believe in God because of the terrible acts that have been committed actually try to punish God for what they see as his failure to prevent suffering. What can a person do to show his or her displeasure with God, other than refuse to acknowledge his existence? Yet it is we, not God, who suffer when we deny that he exists and that he cares.
The need for faith
Deep down, most of us realize that we need to have faith in someone or something more worthy of trust than ourselves. If God is “dead,” then so, too, is humanity. If we had only each other or ourselves to depend upon, we would soon be reduced to cynical misanthropes. How much better it is to have faith in the God of the Scriptures, who will see that ultimate justice prevails. Evil people who acted out their own hatred–not God, not Jesus–are to blame for the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Could it be that those who blame God or Jesus or Christianity simply can’t bear the awful reality that since history began, human beings from all walks of life have demonstrated the potential to commit any horror imaginable? Could it be that each person is capable of hatred and that we don’t want to face that truth about ourselves?
In Jesus’ name
Jesus called upon all he met, from every walk of life, to face their flawed nature and corrupt inclinations and repent of pride, prejudice and every other evil that can bear the fruit of violence. It is horrendous that of all names, his has been used to accomplish the exact opposite of everything he instructed. How can we allow this obvious perversion to color our response to his teachings and his claims? Could it be that blaming Jesus for the evils of the centuries is less painful than admitting the dark shadows that exist in every human heart?
There is no way we can undo the tragedy of the Holocaust. We have no control over what has already happened. We do, however, have the ability to prevent Hitler from continuing to reach us from beyond the grave.
Why should he have the power to prevent us from investigating who Yeshua is? He will only have that power if we give it to him.
- Moishe Rosen, “Am Yisrael Chai,” Issues 9:4 (1993), p. 2.
This article originally appeared in The Yeshua Challenge booklet, and has since been adapted.