I am Christian. But my Jewish friend lost most of his family during Hitler’s Holocaust. He firmly believes, Hitler notwithstanding, that it was the basic principles and practice of Christianity that set the stage for the Holocaust. Is there anything I can say to him?
Thank you for reading and considering this question.
The first question you need to answer is whether your friend is dispassionately discussing history or emotionally explaining why he distrusts Christians and/or Christianity. The fact that you say, “Hitler notwithstanding,” suggests that he acknowledges that Hitler hated the Church only somewhat less than he hated Jews. The answer to that question will decide if and what you should say.
If this is a topic on which your friend is incapable of listening objectively (and we all have topics like this), then speaking is pointless. It seems that you and he are able to have a friendship, and we would suggest that this topic should be off the table. No good will come from discussing it. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into conversation.
If, however, the two of you are able to explore this topic dispassionately, then you will acknowledge that there is a great deal of truth in what he says. Christianity certainly inspired hatred of Jews over the centuries, and both the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations recognize this. Yet, what some Jews fail to acknowledge is that anti-Semitism pre-dated the Church and exists outside of it. Pharaoh and Haman were not Christians. Neither was Stalin. If your friend wants to live in today’s world rather than planting himself firmly in the past, he should recognize that, right now, most Christians are the source of support for Jews and Israel, not their enemies. Secular, liberal college campuses and the Moslem world are the rampant venues of anti-Semitism today.
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Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin