Should Jews break bread on Yom Kippur?

Israel/Palestine
on 67 Comments

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Where should Jews of Conscience be on Yom Kippur?  Should we fast as we are commanded to on this day of confession and judgment?

The most soul obstructing place for Jews to observe Yom Kippur is in our lavish synagogues.  When fasting masks injustice it is false piety, a barrier to God.

Unaccountability and pretense is the norm in synagogues across the nation.  The most pressing issue facing Jewish life – the willfully ignorant and terribly belligerent attitude toward Palestinians to whom we owe justice as justice was once owed to us – remains unspoken.

In synagogues on Yom Kippur the oppression of Palestinians is unspeakable.

What is the confession Jews need to make on Yom Kippur?  Simply put and without equivocation:  What we as Jews have done to you, the Palestinian people, is wrong.  What we as Jews are doing to you, the Palestinian people, is wrong.

Jews are not alone in our vehement ignorance.  By our side are our new found friends, enabling Christians, erstwhile lovers of the Jews after more than a millennium of hate.  Today we are joined at the empire hip.

This form of Jewish-Christian rapprochement means that the most soul obstructing place for Christians to observe Christmas and Easter is in their lavish churches.  Like synagogue for Jews, Christians attending church fulfill their religious obligation by remaining willfully ignorant and terribly belligerent toward Palestinians to whom they owe justice as they once owed justice to Jews.

Some Christians of Conscience have finally arrived at a mature and, for them, revolutionary reflection about Jews.  Even more revolutionary, Christians of Conscience have arrived at this reflection in dialogue with Jews of Conscience.

Christians of Conscience differentiate between myths of Jewish conspiracies and the reality of what Jews are doing to Palestinians.  They come to this distinction belatedly but their arrival is important.  Arriving together, a new stage of the Jewish-Christian journey is at hand.

The dual confession that Christians need to make is incredibly difficult.  First is their crime against the Jewish people.  Second is their crime against the Palestinian people.

The startling feature about Christians is how they are able to deal with the endless hypocrisy of Christian history and still attend Christian worship.  Jews are different.  Once religious hypocrisy enters the Jewish realm, it’s over.  Jews leave Judaism, never to return.

For most Jews of Conscience exile from synagogue is beside the point.  When the subject of worship and God is broached, Jews of Conscience flee the scene.

Nonetheless, Yom Kippur remains the day of days.  The Jewish calendar haunts Jews who haven’t set foot in a synagogue for decades. By refusing to pay lip service to Yom Kippur, Jews of Conscience display their primal colors.

As has often been the case in Jewish history, Jews need to mourn and move on.  Jews of Conscience might have been able to benefit from Christians of Conscience and how they reacted when their ethical tradition came to an end.  But since that end occurred more or less in the 4th century when Christianity became the religion of the empire, many Christians have never experienced a vibrant ethical tradition.

Ironically, Christians look to Jews for guidance.  At least, they did.  Now we seek them out.  But it’s too late.  Our Arks are empty.

There’s no use looking to Islam for help.  Like Jews and Christians, Muslims have little left of their ethical tradition.  The interfaith dialogue that seeks to incorporate Islam is a ruse. Who will benefit if the Muslim clergy end up like the rabbis, priests and ministers Jews and Christians are stuck with?

Some say that our religions have been hijacked by neo-conservatives and extremists.  This holds open the possibility of a return to a sense of innocence and redemption if right thinking can be restored.  Unfortunately, our religions haven’t been hijacked.  They’ve been squandered.

What to do at the end?  On Yom Kippur, Jews of Conscience should marvel at how close people of conscience from every faith and secular orientation are to one another.  We should appreciate and embrace those we find around our ethical table.

Instead of fasting on Yom Kippur, perhaps we should break bread with those we journey with.  After all, the Biblical injunction against false sacrifice as idolatry, always linked to injustice, remains.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

Other posts by .


Posted In:

67 Responses

  1. Danaa
    September 13, 2013, 11:27 am

    Many good points in this essay, except there is this:

    “But since that end occurred more or less in the 4th century when Christianity became the religion of the empire, many Christians have never experienced a vibrant ethical tradition”

    This kind of statement about Christianity and christians can only come from a place of deep ignorance and dismissiveness of a rather rich and varied ethical history. An unwarranteed generalization, ignoring the many revivals and attempts to return Christianity to its place of origin where humility, service to fellow men, and seeking a state of grace were the ruling principles. St Francis of Assissi comes to mind, among others, too numerous to name.

    And then to brush aside the rise of Protestanism that explicitly sought to overthrow the empire of popes and other church goblins is really a strange over-sight. Ultimately, I believe that, in their American manifestation, it is the universalist ethical traditions of protestanism that gave rise to the so-called “Jewish values” in the first place. the entire concept of Tikkun Olam is borrowed from the best of Protestant traditions , in that a very minor, universalist-sounding value in jewish tradition, was elevated in its American version to a major principle. Then Jews, even those of conscience, have the temerity sometimes to shove it back in the faces of Christians as if to say – see’ we were first, as always.

    I never fail to note, with some amazement – how willfully ignorant jewish people, even the best, most conscientious and learned of them – are of Christians’ history, development and traditions. Probably Ellis doesn’t even realize how deeply offensive this throw-away statement is, that I quoted above. No matter how well intentioned, Jews still approach Christians and Christianity from a place of perceived superiority coupled with indignance over injustices committed against them over millenia of rule, basically by overlords. Jews do expect christians to forever pay penance on behalf of a religion that some of them parted ways with over 500 years ago, for the reason that the catholicism became a religion of Empire rather than of the people. Yet even when it comes to Catholic christianity, let’s face it, there were many Mother Thresa’s that religion produced – not nearly enough and not where most needed – but there were quite a few over the centuries. Where were those in the jewish tradition (yes, i know one can name Albert Schwitzer, though there’s that little “hitch”)?

    i present that, at its foundation, it is the sin of supreme arrogance that jews, including those of conscience, must repent at Yom kippur. Every year, and this year more than others. Far more so than the average well meaning christian, it is this sin that led directly to the disgraceful abhorrent sins of supreme injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people; a sin ongoing that Jews, not Christians, have to atone for. Alone in their torment, as their so-called “ethical” edifice crumbles all around them. An edifice that perhaps, despite centuries’ worth of work from good people, great rabbis some, has now come to be seen as nothing more than a house of cards. That vaunted “Tikkun Olam” was just so many words, wasn’t it?

    As for Marc, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to look deep in his soul to find that place where the offending sentence came from, and having taken full measure of just how wrong it is, confess that which beget it, and no more. Therein, real conscience lies.

    Yom Kippur sermon over.

    • MRW
      September 13, 2013, 6:30 pm

      Who will benefit if the Muslim clergy end up like the rabbis, priests and ministers Jews and Christians are stuck with?

      The Muslim religion does not have clergy; it is unique in that.

    • W.Jones
      September 13, 2013, 8:34 pm

      I thought of St. Francis too. Marc is quite smart, so it is not ignorance of the saints or centuries of moral teachings, but it could be dismissiveness of the Christian ethical tradition.

      For him, when Christians were being persecuted in the 3rd century, they were ethical, but once the Roman empire allowed them and then approved of Christianity, Christianity’s teachings about morality practically disappeared.

      Obviously that does not make sense. It’s more likely a critic is looking at abuses by Christian political leaders and States in its 2000 year history and then re-painting the rest of the history with a broad brush as if those abuses are the main definition of the religion.

  2. Ludwig
    September 13, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Dude if you are hungry just admit you don’t have the fortitute to fast. But please don’t try to make big drawn out arguments for why you want a sandwhich. Sheesh.

  3. Ludwig
    September 13, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Why attack religious Jews on this day? This isn’t a good form of protest and it is offensive.

    • Woody Tanaka
      September 13, 2013, 4:16 pm

      There is no attack on religious Jews in this article. Open your eyes and read and don’t bury your head up your own behind in a pique of indignation and maybe you’d see that.

      • Naftush
        September 15, 2013, 6:02 am

        Well, if accusing them of personal and collective complicity in a massive crime by not devoting Yom Kippur to the plight of the ever-victimized Palestinians isn’t an attack, what is it?

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 16, 2013, 8:32 am

        It’s “accusing them of personal and collective complicity in a massive crime by not devoting Yom Kippur to the plight of the ever-victimized [nice bigotry, by the way] Palestinians.” An accusation is simply an accusation, not an attack. Moreover, it’s not even an accusation against “religious Jews,” but merely that subset who act in this manner deemed worthy of accusation.

  4. keren4L
    September 13, 2013, 3:23 pm

    Responding to Danaa – Historically speaking, whether you like it or not, Marc is correct. There have been, without question, flares, brilliant flares even (Bonheoffer and members of The White Rose Society immediately jump to mind), of the ethical and the prophetic since Christianity capitulated to Empire. However, in terms of a consistent and contiguous “vibrant ethical tradition,” “vibrant” being the operative word, Christianity (or more precisely, Churchianity) has been/is lacking. Marc’s volleys aren’t isolated attacks on Christianity – they are attacks, and rightfully so, on all institutionalized religions, their obeisance to Empire, and the expedient abandonment of ethical traditions. Judaism does not escape unexamined or unscathed, nor does Islam – Marc’s criticism is aimed at empire-serving religions, not people of conscience.
    As for “willfully ignorant,” (in terms of Marc Ellis in relation to Christianity) you are, yourself, ignorant of his background and his work. In terms of “how willfully ignorant jewish people” are in relation to Christianity, and that Jews are guilty of “supreme arrogance”, you have just broad-brushed an entire religion – this is how stereotypes are created, nurtured, developed, and transformed into bigotry, racism and genocide.

    • MHughes976
      September 13, 2013, 4:46 pm

      Well, if ‘vibrant’ were to mean lively, containing vigorous dispute but some good ideas I think that the Church of England has some vibrations alongside plenty of complacency, cowardice and worse. I’m thinking of Hobbes, Locke, C.S. Lewis, my old tutor Richard Hare. Mill’s religion had become very attenuated but he was somewhere in the penumbra of British Protestantism. These are the writers who, along with a few atheists like Hume, formed me. As a teenager I read or tried to read the rather ponderous works of Archbishop William Temple, who is little remembered now. But his speech in House of Lords was one of the first statements in any parliamentary context (March 1943) of the severity of Jewish suffering during WW2. Despite the relationship of my religious gang with the British state, empire even, I think we haven’t over the centuries been morally inert, though we have often been wrong. I’m not suggesting that valid formative influences of equal intellectual rigour aren’t to be found in other religious traditions, of course.

      • RoHa
        September 15, 2013, 12:22 am

        Sure you want to lump Hobbes in with the CofE?

        I think you are quite right in saying “we haven’t over the centuries been morally inert”, and I think this goes for the Christian tradition in general. Of course, I claim that as a tradition largely adapted from Stoicism, but that does not make it any the less a vibrant tradition, and clearly one experienced by many Christians. It was not limited to Aquinas, Hooker, Suarez, and Grotius.

        ” my old tutor Richard Hare.”
        Studied Hare as an undergraduate. Met him just once later.

      • RoHa
        September 15, 2013, 1:30 am

        And sticking with British Protestantism, we should not forget Butler, who managed to be a fine moral philosopher in spite of being a CofE bishop, and Hutcheson, who was both a CofS minister and professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow.

    • W.Jones
      September 13, 2013, 8:28 pm

      However, in terms of a consistent and contiguous “vibrant ethical tradition,” “vibrant” being the operative word, Christianity (or more precisely, Churchianity) has been/is lacking.

      There are 2000 years of saints living out the ethical tradition of Christianity. That’s who Christianity teaches one to look to, not earthly imperial rules who make bad mistakes.

      Christianity does not teach empire. Empires have used or abused Christian teachings though.

      Dana is on the right track. People have biases. Someone who likes Christianity might be willing to look at it on its own terms. Someone who doesn’t like Christianity is going to focus on negative features. They will say King X was a Christian of a Christian empire, so look at the bad thing Christianity did. Never mind that we have plenty of democratic presidents who did bad things, yet that does not make Democracy bad or bloody. And never mind that Christianity does not hold up the emperors as examples, but the saints serve as the examples. And what is it about them we are to focus on? On their kindness, faith, compassion etc.

    • American
      September 13, 2013, 11:12 pm

      Responding to keren4L

      I notice you describe yourself a Jew of Conscience. Well I am a sort of half-a**ed Christian, not extremely religious and not really interested in examining or comparing or raking over any of the religions so generally I dont get into these discussions.
      However Danaa is right and you are exhibiting exactly what she is referring to when you accuse of her of stereotyping and ignore your own and other Jews sterotyping of others. marc has worth while things to say but he also has a ‘thing’ about Christians ‘failing’ the Jews or Chrstianity prosecuting the Jews thru the centuries. Trust me, it comes thru in the descriptions and references dropped here and there even when then followed up with a ‘cant we all just come together and along’.
      This is how you reveal yourself, by saying….”this is how stereotypes are created, nurtured, developed, and transformed into bigotry, racism and genocide.”…..because you, like marc, think and constantly refer to Christanity -as a whole–as guilty of persecuting the Jews. I see Jews like you and marc and mj Rosenberg condemn Catholics, the Pope, every religious institution and church for being ‘complict’ in the holocaust by ignoring the Jewish plight if not actively aiding the holocaust. And whats more they typically go back centuries and centuries and lay most of the ancient Jews travails on the evil immoral Christians killing off the moral and innocent Jews.

      Do you seriously think anyone is so dense they dont ‘get the drift’ and understand where the following kind of ‘droppings’ come from:…..?

      Examples:

      ”But since that end occurred more or less in the 4th century when Christianity became the religion of the empire, many Christians have never experienced a vibrant ethical tradition”

      ”Christians attending church fulfill their religious obligation by remaining willfully ignorant and terribly belligerent toward Palestinians to whom they owe justice as they once owed justice to Jews.”

      ”Some Christians of Conscience have finally arrived at a mature and, for them, revolutionary reflection about Jews. Even more revolutionary, Christians of Conscience have arrived at this reflection in dialogue with Jews of Conscience.”

      ”The dual confession that Christians need to make is incredibly difficult. First is their crime against the Jewish people. Second is their crime against the Palestinian people.”

      Listen honey, you need to heal yourselves—Jews were never totally innocent in their troubles any more than Christians were ever totally guilty. I dont actually care how you think and dont expect such ingrained beliefs as you have to ever change–it doesnt actually harm anyone, except maybe yourselves , to cling to your Christians are to blame for the Jews suffering belief. Maybe it matters to those interfaith church professionals all involved in religious studies but it doesnt matter to most people.
      The only thing I wanted to do here is point out your hypocrisy, cause hypocrisy is much higher on my list of hates than people’s religions. We do see it– and I want those like you to understand that we see it.
      And for all of marc’s talk or good intentions, who in their right mind would want to waste their time ‘engaging’ in bringing Christians and Jews together when one party has already judged the other as wholesale guilty and morally inferior to the other more innocent and moral party.
      Perhaps the best response Christians can make to the attitudes and swipes at their religion we so constantly see is……’o.k. your feelings are your feelings, and since thats how you feel it’s best if you just go your own way and we’ll go our own way”.
      Since Judaism and Christianity parted eons ago maybe all the ‘religious’ and ‘of conscience’ should just leave it alone and quit picking at the scab.

      • jon s
        September 14, 2013, 3:30 pm

        American,
        “the Jewish plight if not actively aiding the holocaust. ”
        “Jews were never totally innocent in their troubles ”

        The Jews in the Holocaust were precisely that: totally innocent.

      • tree
        September 14, 2013, 11:30 pm

        The Jews in the Holocaust were precisely that: totally innocent.

        And so were the vast majority of Christians, and yet they are maligned and deemed guilty by certain “Jews of Conscience” and others who don’t mind stereotyping all Christians, while rightly denouncing the evil of stereotyping Jews. American is spot on in regards to hypocrisy on this issue.

        As an aside, no one group is ever “totally innocent”. There are evil individuals among every group, however that is no excuse for punishing and/or guilt-tripping an entire group.

      • American
        September 15, 2013, 12:14 am

        @ jon

        Quit using the holocaust as an answer to everything. Doesnt work.
        No sane person would suggest the Jews ‘brought it on themselves’.
        But if it makes you feel better I’ll rephrase it…..the Jews werent ‘always’ totally innocent throut history. There has never been any group of humans on earth that were ever ‘always’ innocent.

      • W.Jones
        September 15, 2013, 12:21 am

        Tree:

        Bingo.

      • RoHa
        September 15, 2013, 1:33 am

        Quite right, American. The fact that I concentrated on one piece of this egregious nonsense should not be taken as imputing any merit to the rest.

      • yrn
        September 15, 2013, 2:30 am

        “Listen honey, you need to heal yourselves—Jews were never totally innocent in their troubles any more than Christians were ever totally guilty. ”

        Well then show me an incident were 6 millions Christians were butchered, just because they were CHRISTIANS.
        Or a Nation That expelled All the Christians, just because they were CHRISTIANS.

        You should Heal yourself, that’s why persons like you who are judging or criticizing the Jews are NOT RELEVANT.

      • tree
        September 15, 2013, 3:22 am

        Non-sequitur, yrn.

        If you are blaming ALL Christians for the actions of some, then you are no different from a Christian blaming all Jews for the actions of some. This was the point of both Danaa’s and American’s comments. Why is this such a hard concept for some people?

        on edit: Great thought provoking comment as usual, Danaa.

      • yrn
        September 15, 2013, 4:27 am

        tree

        No one is blaming ALL Christians and no one said it.
        You attempt to rephrase it is nonsense.

        You as many try to minimize the christian guilt in the last 2000 years.
        History has it’s own truth and it want help you.

      • Castellio
        September 15, 2013, 10:26 am

        yrn: You say you are not blaming all Christians, yet in the next breath you reaffirm their collective guilt.

        Do you believe the guilt extends to the friends, acquaintances, parents and children of those who were performed the specific crimes, and if so, for how many generations?

      • Don
        September 15, 2013, 1:32 pm

        The Armenians come to mind…
        link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Danaa
        September 15, 2013, 1:37 pm

        yrn, Ill bring you a few examples; the Huguenots and the Anabaptists. over 100,000 of the former were thought to have been massacred by mid 17th century and close to 0.5M had to flee France for more hospitable regions elsewhere in Europe. In the context of the times, these represented sizable proportions of the total inhabitants. the all-out persecution of anabaptisits during 16th and and 17th centuries where thousands were executed and entire communities exiled, is responsible for the mass migration of members to north America.

        During the same centuries in western Europe far smaller number of jews were thought to have died through pogroms, though several communities had to periodically relocate , and just like the huguenots found more hospitable places in eg, middle and eastern Europe.

        This BTW, is another thing that really bothers me in the way all too many Jewish people – learned and less so – tend to depict their own history in Europe through the middle ages and into the enlightenment days. History, to the layman, which yrn surely is, is rarely done in the context of highly intolerant and extremely turbulent times; Jews rarely choose to view themselves as another sect that at times prospered and at other times ran afoul of the politics, mores and ill winds sweeping through the European lands. Their history is nearly always singled out – at least in their own eyes – as something exceptional. when bad things happened to them, it is as if no bad things were happening to others, not jewish, all around them. And in so singling themselves out, they then turn to descendants of christians from manycenturies past and demand penance – pronto. In so doing they lump one and all with the same cloth – Catholics, Protestants, Anabaptists, CoE, what not, then throw in a smidgen of muslims for good measure. Makes a great goulash to wallow in, right?

        Lately i have been finding the deliberate misreading of history and the willful ignorance of certain ideas and deeds to be rather tiresome. Once there may have been an excuse. But now that Wikipedia and google are but a click away, that excuse is all washed up. And that goes for scholars and peasants alike.

        PS thanks tree.

        .

      • W.Jones
        September 15, 2013, 2:29 pm

        YRN,

        American is right when he says Christians were never totally guilty. Take the Holocaust. Many more Christians lived in Russia, America, and other Allied countries than in Axis ones, and they fought the Nazis and condemned the Holocaust.

        Germans were living under a brutal dictatorship, many of them went to camps themselves for opposing Hitler, and a majority of them never voted for him anyway.

      • seafoid
        September 15, 2013, 2:33 pm

        “Well then show me an incident were 6 millions Christians were butchered, just because they were CHRISTIANS.”

        Try the Thirty years war, Yrn .

      • seafoid
        September 15, 2013, 3:08 pm

        Also the Mongol invasions

      • American
        September 15, 2013, 3:20 pm

        @yrn

        I think ignorance like yours of anyone’s history but your own can only be attributed to the most extreme kind of narcissism..cant think of anythng else that would make a person deliberately ‘chose’ to be that ignorant.

        So what do you have to say about the fact that in the French Revolution, the Jews of France were emancipated and elevated.

        While……

        “The Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of a campaign, conducted by various Robespierre-era governments of France beginning with the start of the French Revolution in 1789, to eliminate any symbol that might be associated with the past, especially the monarchy.

        The program included the following policies:[56][57][58]

        the deportation of clergy and the condemnation of many of them to death,
        the closing, desecration and pillaging of churches, removal of the word “saint” from street names and other acts to banish Christian culture from the public sphere
        removal of statues, plates and other iconography from places of worship
        destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship
        the institution of revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and subsequently the Cult of the Supreme Being,
        the large scale destruction of religious monuments,
        the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education,
        forced marriages of the clergy,
        forced abjurement of priesthood, and
        the enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 making all nonjuring priests and all persons who harbored them liable to death on sight.
        The climax was reached with the celebration of the Goddess “Reason” in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November.
        Under threat of death, imprisonment, military conscription or loss of income, about 20,000 constitutional priests were forced to abdicate or hand over their letters of ordination and 6,000 – 9,000 were coerced to marry, many ceasing their ministerial duties.[59] Some of those who abdicated covertly ministered to the people.[59] By the end of the decade, approximately 30,000 priests were forced to leave France, and thousands who did not leave were executed.[60] Most of France was left without the services of a priest, deprived of/liberated from the sacraments and any nonjuring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana.[61]

        The March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their district’s quota of 300,000 enraged the populace, who took up arms as “The Catholic Army”, “Royal” being added later, and fought for “above all the reopening of their parish churches with their former priests.”[62] A massacre of 6,000 Vendée prisoners, many of them women, took place after the battle of Savenay, along with the drowning of 3,000 Vendée women at Pont-au-Baux and 5,000 Vendée priests, old men, women, and children killed by drowning at the Loire River at Nantes in what was called the “national bath” – tied in groups in barges and then sunk into the Loire.[63][64][65]

        With these massacres came formal orders for forced evacuation; also, a ‘scorched earth’ policy was initiated: farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned and villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combatant status, political affiliation, age or gender.[66] By July 1796, the estimated Vendean dead numbered between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000.[67][68][69] Some historians call these mass killings the first modern genocide, specifically because intent to exterminate the Catholic Vendeans was clearly stated.

        McPhee, Peter Review of Reynald Secher, A French Genocide: The Vendée H-France Review Vol. 4

        AS FOR the Nazis and the Jews—-the Christians you blame for your holocaust were always next on Hitler’s menu he just got to you first.
        Did Christian leaders try not to antagonize Hitler for fear he would jump start round ups and persecution of Christians also?—-maybe–but if so thats a far cry from ‘aiding’ Hitler—and there is also evidence that Chruch leaders ‘covertly’ aided Jews and worked against Hitler. If the Pope or Christian leaders were faced with protecting their own flocks from the nazis or putting them on the chopping block for the Jews which should they have chosen – which was their first responsibilty to save or protect?

        Sharkey, Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler’s Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity, New York Times, 13 January 2002
        The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches, Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Winter 2001, publishing evidence compiled by the O.S.S. for the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946
        Griffin, Roger Fascism’s relation to religion in Blamires, Cyprian, World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1, p. 10, ABC-CLIO, 2006: “There is no doubt that in the long run Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Himmler intended to eradicate Christianity just as ruthlessly as any other rival ideology, even if in the short term they had to be content to make compromises with it.”
        Mosse, George Lachmann, Nazi culture: intellectual, cultural and social life in the Third Reich, p. 240, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2003: “Had the Nazis won the war their ecclesiastical policies would have gone beyond those of the German Christians, to the utter destruction of both the Protestant and the Catholic Church.”
        Bendersky, Joseph W., A concise history of Nazi Germany, p. 147, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007: “Consequently, it was Hitler’s long rang goal to eliminate the churches once he had consolidated control over his European empire.”
        Shirer, William L., Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, p. p 240, Simon and Schuster, 1990: “And even fewer paused to reflect that under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann and Himmler, who were backed by Hitler, the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists.”
        Fischel, Jack R., Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust, p. 123, Scarecrow Press, 2010: “The objective was to either destroy Christianity and restore the German gods of antiquity or to turn Jesus into an Aryan.”
        Dill, Marshall, Germany: a modern history, p. 365, University of Michigan Press, 1970: “It seems no exaggeration to insist that the greatest challenge the Nazis had to face was their effort to eradicate Christianity in Germany or at least to subjugate it to their general world outlook.”
        Wheaton, Eliot Barculo The Nazi revolution, 1933–1935: prelude to calamity:with a background survey of the Weimar era, p. 290, 363, Doubleday 1968: The Nazis sought to “to eradicate Christianity in Germany root and branch.”
        Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses During the Nazi-Regime, Michael Berenbaum
        Hesse, Hans (2001). Persecution and resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi regime, 1933–1945. Berghahn Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-3-86108-750-2. Retrieved 6 April 2011.

      • American
        September 15, 2013, 3:50 pm

        @ yrn

        I have to say too that if it wasnt all so tragic it would be almost ironic and comical.
        Here you are blaming a group, the Christians, who the Jews hated and blamed and fought with all along thruout centures , way before the 1940′s holocaust–and yet you are saying that these particular religious enemies ,who you had no use for and despised should have been ..*The Ones To Save You*….even if they had to sacrifce themselves and their own to do it.
        How come you dont blame those Zionist you joined up with for not saving the Jews—they were there doing deals with the nazis and culling thur the rich and healthly and skilled Jews for Palestine and leaving the old and poor on their own.
        I would bet that the nazis would have been delighted to sell every Jew in Europe they rounded up to the Zionist—delivered them straight to the ports to be sailed away on ships to Palestine—save themselves the trouble and cost of attending to the Jewsh problem and have gotten richer in the bargin. So how come there was no world wide effort by the Zionist to ‘buy’ ALL the Jews away from Hitler? I am sure people everywhere of any religion besides just Jews would have contributed to that solution.

  5. pabelmont
    September 13, 2013, 3:43 pm

    “Unfortunately, our religions haven’t been hijacked. They’ve been squandered.” This is the statement of a person who believes there was (ethical) value in each religion at one time or another.

    Christians and Jews of all countries, unite! You’ve nothing to lose but the chains of the false religions (and social manipulative systems) that have in each case replaced the ethical elements in both religions.

    Now we know what “redemption” might mean — recovery of that which was squandered. But be wary of the priests, the rabbis, and the imams.

  6. seafoid
    September 13, 2013, 5:41 pm

    Religions need to get real and start thinking about the environment .

    In the meantime, have a laugh

    link to northernsun.com

    • just
      September 13, 2013, 6:12 pm

      lol!

      I’m partial to more than a few– especially the no preaching one.

      (although, the sushi fish comes in a close second, as does the Darwin and Peace, of course!)

      • seafoid
        September 13, 2013, 6:28 pm

        They really went to town on the theme. I love the lawyer one.

    • MRW
      September 13, 2013, 6:33 pm

      As soon as the Age of Aquarius actually hits (Woman/Man holding a barrel of water on her/his shoulder), the fish iconography—the Age of Pisces and the Pope’s fish-head hat—will be over with.

  7. just
    September 13, 2013, 7:51 pm

    “There’s no use looking to Islam for help.”

    I find this statement wholly unhelpful in the new age & rage against Islam, and the rampant Islamophobia promoted by the West. Interfaith and inter- human dialogue is what is necessary–looking toward similarities rather than differences………… I don’t regularly disparage any religion or belief system or lack thereof, and I do have respect for all– but what “God” or belief system advocates oppressing others or killing them? Our new use of the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” (Social Darwinism) comes closest, I guess. But, what does “fit” mean?

    It’s fallible humans who twist everything into whatever knot is most comfortable for their tribe.

  8. W.Jones
    September 13, 2013, 8:03 pm

    “enabling Christians, erstwhile lovers of the Jews after more than a millennium of hate.”

    Isn’t this an oovergeneralization? Weren’t there significant periods of time and places in Europe that especially tolerated Jews? I believe there was a long period of tolerance in Poland at one point, if I’m not mistaken.

    “the most soul obstructing place for Christians to observe Christmas and Easter is in their lavish churches.”

    At most this can be true about some churches like Westboro Baptist, or places that preach certain politics. Alot of churches are apolitical in their sermons, and while they might be more, I doubt that it’s obstructing their souls to such a big degree to hear lessons on morality.

  9. W.Jones
    September 13, 2013, 8:14 pm

    The dual confession that Christians need to make is incredibly difficult. First is their crime against the Jewish people.

    Judaism and eastern Christianity do not teach guilt is passed down.

    Second is their crime against the Palestinian people.

    90% of Christians are unaware of it.

    The startling feature about Christians is how they are able to deal with the endless hypocrisy of Christian history and still attend Christian worship.

    Why should it be surprising, if America has hypocrisy with proclaiming civil rights and failing to uphold them, yet many Americans continue to believe in and proclaim them.

    Jews of Conscience might have been able to benefit from Christians of Conscience and how they reacted when their ethical tradition came to an end. But since that end occurred more or less in the 4th century when Christianity became the religion of the empire, many Christians have never experienced a vibrant ethical tradition.

    Even equating an ethical tradition with Christian Anarchism or being a “free spirit” does not mean the ethical tradition ended. There are plenty of examples of throughout centuries- St. Francis of Assisi who lived with animals, St. Herman of Alaska who made friends with bears, Mother Teresa, etc.

  10. just
    September 13, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Just recently we heard Mr. Obama speaking of American exceptionalism. Then we hear of religious/tribal exceptionalism. There is no exceptionalism that is worthy of the tears that so many others weep and the wounds that others bleed from while we pretend to be better than others while being “comfortably numb” ourselves.

    All of the privileged people of the world should fast for a long time, thirst for a long time, be oppressed for a long time — experience the privations that so many endure with untold patience. Only then will we understand what we have done and continue to do.

    By the way, anytime is a good time to “break bread”. It would be lovely if Israel would try to do so with their brothers and sisters and neighbors, for once.

  11. Inanna
    September 14, 2013, 12:29 am

    Did you deliberately set out to offend Arabs and Muslims with your comments in this post?

    Or are you perhaps revealing your own ignorance of the rich tradition of discussion between Islam, Christianity and Judaism that occurred in the East for centuries? Or perhaps talk to Eastern Christians and Jews to learn of their experiences and relationships across the faiths? It seems to me that you are so stuck in Amero- or Anglo-centric views that you don’t see what is happening elsewhere. Would that you would expand your view and cease the needless and offensive generalisations.

    • Walid
      September 14, 2013, 2:13 am

      Inanna, nothing offensive to Islam here. The rich tradition of multi-faith discussion you mentioned is absurd in light of the lack of one between Muslims themselves. When Sunnis continue issuing fatwas condoning the killing of Shias, it doesn’t say much about their ethical tradition. Marc didn’t say anything about Arabs that represent only 27% of the world’s Muslims. Ironic that those nasty fatwas are issued by the Arab portion. What Marc doesn’t know is that the Muslim clergy is already like the rabbis, priests and ministers.

      • aiman
        September 14, 2013, 10:25 am

        “What Marc doesn’t know is that the Muslim clergy is already like the rabbis, priests and ministers.”

        True, it’s a myth Muslims don’t have a clergy. Islam doesn’t have one, but like in all “religious institutions” the clergy have carved their own niche. Where there is business, there is corruption. And when a religion is seen as an institution, it makes it hard for the People of Conscience.

      • Inanna
        September 14, 2013, 9:29 pm

        Actually Walid, there is a lot here to be offended at by both Christian and Muslim Arabs. You misrepresent Sunnis when you tar all of them with those clerics who are willing to sell themselves out to political interests and create ridiculous fatwas to suit their purposes. There still are inter-faith discussions and contact by both laity and clergy between Arabs and Muslims. And I know this because I know personally several priests and monks as well as theology students who are involved in them. They occur not only in communities in the Middle East but also in the diaspora. Let’s leave it to the Orientalists to generalise about us – let’s not do it ourselves.

      • Walid
        September 15, 2013, 3:26 am

        “Let’s leave it to the Orientalists to generalise about us – let’s not do it ourselves.”

        Inanna, I’m aware and pleased about the ongoing inter-faith dialogues but I was going beyond those in asking that Muslims begin by dialoguing among themselves. In saying that we shouldn’t do it ourselves, I’m not sure if you’re disturbed by my generalizing about Muslims or if you’re asking me to sweep some stuff about them under the rug. There are of course good people among the Muslims, but they already know who or what they are so there is no need to be preoccupied with hurting their sensitivities although by not admitting to the uglies of the religion in fear of tarring ourselves serves only to cover up the wrongs of the bad Muslims. Here at MW we are constantly berating Zionists and Israelis and nobody is raising an objection because there are also good people in Israel, as we all know. Some of the not so valorous acts by Muslims are not necessarily called-up by clerics but by despotic rulers, but this does not make all the Muslims bad and I’m certainly not implying that. About the clerics, think back to some of those “inspiring” Friday sermons or to some kinky fatwas like the one of last week in Tunisia asking young girls to offer themselves for the pleasures of the rebel fighters in Syria as their contribution to the “jihad” or to another a few weeks before that from Saudia or thereabout declaring open season on Christian or non-fundy Muslim women in Syria for the good pleasure of the rebel fighters. Jews on this blog are forever discussing the good and the bad of Judaism and Zionism’s nefarious effects on it; we shouldn’t be embarrassed of doing likewise about Christanity and Islam as both have something akin to Zionism eating away at them.

      • Inanna
        September 15, 2013, 5:54 am

        Yes, Walid, I’m aware of those clerics. Each religion has their kooks and fundies and extremists and I’m quite happy to denounce them. But to say as Ellis does that Christianity has not had a vibrant ethical tradition is patently ridiculous to those who have studied the history of Christianity in both the east and the west. There has also been a vibrant tradition of theological discussion and influence among Christianity, Islam and Judaism – we only have to look at Islamic influences in Maimonides’ work or St John the Damascene as well as the influences going the other way to Islam. This is something that is continuing in Islamic and Christian universities in the East. His ignorance of these conversations might be excused if he doesn’t read or speak Arabic but it’s still ignorance and still wrong of him to draw the types of conclusions he has. It s also ignorant of him to think that Catholicism and Protestantism is all there is to Christianity since it’s not. I find this article lazy.

  12. RoHa
    September 14, 2013, 2:07 am

    Professor Ellis has an amazing talent for filling his articles with total, unmitigated, bollocks, and this article is a particularly rich collection, but he has surpassed himself when he writes, ““But since that end occurred more or less in the 4th century when Christianity became the religion of the empire, many Christians have never experienced a vibrant ethical tradition”

    Christianity developed in a society that had the very rich, very vibrant, Hellenistic ethical traditions. Christian resources were totally inadequate to meet this challenge. They had the Jewish Bible, and the Christian scriptures, about which Paine’s judgement* is sufficient. So they took over the Hellenistic traditions (the Stoic tradition in particular) and developed them in Christian ways. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Enlightenment thinkers had begun the process of detaching Western ethics from Western religion and developing it and refining it further. The ethical tradition that most Western Christians experience is actually made up of Enlightenment ethics and common human decency, even though it is often given a Christian gloss and taught in Churches.

    And it is still very vibrant. Western media are full of arguments about a huge variety of ethical questions: the morality of military intervention, euthanasia, human rights, environmental ethics, moral treatment of animals, gay marriage, etc. These sort of issues come up as editorials in newspapers, soap-opera storylines, TV talk shows, and more.

    When Governments or social structures fail – as they all too often do – to live up to the ideals of Western ethics, their conduct is publicly condemned in moral terms.

    So, yes, most Christians, and certainly modern Western Christians, experience a vibrant ethical tradition. It isn’t a specifically Christian tradition, or even a religious tradition, but it is all the better for being freed from that dark burden of primitive societies.

    (*” Whenever we read the obscene stories, voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a Demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind, and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.”)

    • aiman
      September 14, 2013, 10:10 am

      “Professor Ellis has an amazing talent for filling his articles with total, unmitigated, bollocks, and this article is a particularly rich collection, but he has surpassed himself when he write….”

      I digress. Professor Ellis has written another great article.

      “Western media are full of arguments about a huge variety of ethical questions: the morality of military intervention, euthanasia, human rights, environmental ethics, moral treatment of animals, gay marriage, etc. These sort of issues come up as editorials in newspapers, soap-opera storylines, TV talk shows, and more.”

      I agree in part. On the other hand, you are giving too much preference to the “Hellenistic” etc. Wealth and technology under the umbrella of liberality offer good civic societies. The notion that there is diversity of views on the legality of war is itself not symptomatic of an ethical tradition. I believe any ethical human being would opposed warfare.

      There are scholarly texts (e.g. Talal Asad’s endeavours on the anthropology of secularism) and Terry Eagleton’s work that question some of the chest-thumping.

      • aiman
        September 14, 2013, 10:27 am

        Oops I meant disagree, not digress. Also how do you explain the fact that there is less racism in Chaucer than in post-Enlightenment thought? My point is simply, mindful of the great tradition of the European Enlightenment, that the “Hellenistic” hagiography is misleading.

      • gamal
        September 14, 2013, 3:43 pm

        “Also how do you explain the fact that there is less racism in Chaucer than in post-Enlightenment thought?”

        one could argue that there was no racism till the “enlightement”, or did racism exist before racial theories, a direct consequence of the enlightenment surely.

        “that the “Hellenistic” hagiography is misleading” again closely related to racial theories, all civilization must be white, a consequences of racial theory, white (ie Greeks), according to racial theory, had to be in at the beginning of civilization, in their innocence the Greeks thought they had learned from the Blacks, but you know they were gullible, the exuberant childhood of whiteness, see Luce et al, even though they invented rationality, and humanism and everything of value, just such a shame about linear B, if we ignore the implications, eternal Greek superiority is unchallengeable, in the highly ideological performance that is Ancient history and archeology. Why on American racist sites one can learn of Aryan mathematics and other such wonders.

      • RoHa
        September 14, 2013, 10:38 pm

        “Also how do you explain the fact that there is less racism in Chaucer than in post-Enlightenment thought?”

        I don’t have to. My aim is to show what rubbish it is to say that Christians do not experience a moral tradition.

        Praising the moral advances of the Enlightenment is not the same as saying that they were perfect.

      • RoHa
        September 14, 2013, 10:49 pm

        What are you going on about, gamal?

        I am not claiming that all civilization or ethical thought was invented by white people. I know perfectly well that the Greeks themselves learned a great deal from the Middle Eastern peoples and from the copper-coloured Egyptians. I also know a great deal about Asian civilization, and have lectured on Buddhist Philosophy and Confucian Ethics. (The latter is the ethical tradition I most admire.)

        I am claiming that the Christians adopted most of their ethical tradition from the Hellenistic schools, though they debased it with their religion.

      • Castellio
        September 15, 2013, 10:40 am

        It wouldn’t hurt to add that many of the primary persons who adopted the ethical traditions of the Hellenistic schools into a Christian tradition lived in Egypt and Syria.

      • W.Jones
        September 15, 2013, 2:00 pm

        “I am claiming that the Christians adopted most of their ethical tradition from the Hellenistic schools, though they debased it with their religion.”

        This is rather funny for me to read, since I am an Orthodox Christian and Greeks are a major component of the religion. It’s like saying that Americans debased British philosophy or something when they developed their own philosophy.

      • RoHa
        September 15, 2013, 8:24 pm

        “It’s like saying that Americans debased British philosophy or something when they developed their own philosophy.”

        No it isn’t. Christian ethicists had to try to reconcile the deliverances of reason with the injunctions of the scriptures, and this was usually to the detriment of the former.

        Nothing remotely similar in the development of American philosophy. American philosophers just carried on in the same way as the British philosophers.

    • Castellio
      September 14, 2013, 3:12 pm

      I agree RoHa.

      One of the more interesting “vital” traditions is the pacifist and non-state supporting Taufer tradition (Mennonite, Hutterite, Amish, etc), an offshoot of the Protestant Reformation that was rigorously persecuted, and has remained pacifist and non-state supporting, and is very vital within its own expanding communities and the greater world.

      Anyone seriously involved in BDS or the practical support for the Palestinians is aware of their judicious use of resources and high ethical standards.

      They’ve endured, now, for roughly 500 years.

  13. Darcha
    September 14, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Looking at the comments here–the offended ones and the ones warning of offense–all only make clear that one’s facility at taking offense in questions of religion is inversely proportional to one’s understanding of religion. It applies across the board–Jew, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist: the ones taking offense are either just faking their belief, even if they are unaware of it themselves, or using it to cover prejudice and narrow-mindedness.

    • Inanna
      September 14, 2013, 9:37 pm

      Can you see the possiblity that you are blind to the offence caused? Or are you so certain in your judgement that you cannot even consider where the offended ones are coming from? Perhaps it’s you that has missed something here.

      • Darcha
        September 15, 2013, 3:14 pm

        Can you imagine the Dalai Lama taking offense at an insult to Buddhism??? Of course not. THAT’S a person with REAL religion, not a person holding on to shibboleths, hoping to find offense. You only prove the point I was making–in your blindness.

      • just
        September 15, 2013, 3:29 pm

        Wow, apparently judge and jury has joined us little people here at MW.

      • tree
        September 15, 2013, 5:04 pm

        But then again, the Dalai Lama wouldn’t be pretending to be morally superior to others and their understanding of their religions, nor would he endorse your comments here. So that makes you surely as blind as those you are criticizing, if not moreso .

        No offense intended…

  14. gamal
    September 14, 2013, 3:56 pm

    “the ones taking offense are either just faking their belief, even if they are unaware of it themselves, or using it to cover prejudice and narrow-mindedness”

    Truer words are rarely spoken. Once the great sage Richard Gere related one of the famous stories of Hakuin to the Dalai Lama, who obviously wouldnt have come across it, the “Is that so” story, Ghandi used to laugh when Muslims defamed Hinduism during congress meetings in British India, Bacha Khan, who only died a few years back was so impressed he started a non-violent Pathan group called the red shirts, they were famous for the forbearance under ferocious British torture and murder, Muslims have no ethics, ah “Is that so”.

    “A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near Hakuin. One day, without any warning, her parents discovered she was pregnant. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

    In great anger the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.
    After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the child needed.
    A year later the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.
    The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.
    Hakuin willingly yielded the child, saying only: “Is that so?”[3]

    as everyone knows Buddhism is better than Abrahamanism.

    • Inanna
      September 14, 2013, 9:44 pm

      Is that what you want the Palestinians to say? That’s what the Israelis want, for the Palestinians to say ‘Is that so?’ If you think the Israelis are going to be like that beautiful young Japanese girl and finally do the right thing, don’t hold your breath.

  15. seafoid
    September 14, 2013, 10:18 pm

    “The startling feature about Christians is how they are able to deal with the endless hypocrisy of Christian history and still attend Christian worship.”

    Thinking about the main groups in any society that are usually shafted – women, religious minorities, racial minorities, GLBT and national minorities- this is a standard enough debating point used against the majority . However, nobody chooses to be born Sunni or Christian or straight.

    Most of the Christians I know would have a poor enough understanding of the institutional and imperial history of the religion. And pick what they need from the services.

    I suppose no religion or nation has a glorious history- the question is how do we bring our traditions into the future in a sustainable fashion that doesn’t bring the house down on us.

    • ritzl
      September 15, 2013, 12:11 am

      Exactly, seafoid. Religion, as I choose to embrace it, is about getting better, growing, personally. Doing the right thing in my niche and lifetime. Not about debating guilt, even though there’s plenty of that to debate.

      I suppose no religion or nation has a glorious history- the question is how do we bring our traditions into the future in a sustainable fashion that doesn’t bring the house down on us.

      • Castellio
        September 15, 2013, 10:37 am

        The issue of guilt, collective or individual, is critical to ethical thought. The concept of individual conscience and belonging through choice of faith allowed the undermining of a strict belonging through kinship. Eventually, we recognized the extent of guilt as located in the individual performing the crime, not in the family (or society) to which that individual belonged. Generally, we have thought that “progress”.

        Israel openly punishes through kinship, and in the profiling at the root of the American drone program, the US punishes through kinship as well.

      • ritzl
        September 16, 2013, 9:48 pm

        Thanks Castellio. Guilt is part of the process. As you say, collective or individual, as imbued in either direction, and for the purpose of betterment. Sorry to be hasty.

  16. RJL
    September 16, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Ellis is a confused character. I’m not commenting on collective Christian responsibility, because that’s ridiculous. But, there were many “Christians” who butchered Jews during the Holocaust, or in previous pogroms, and some Christians who literally risked their lives sheltering Jews. Did either side truly understand their religion, to the exclusion of the other, or is any religion, at best, the personal belief system of that individual only. And Ellis is really misunderstanding Judaism by declaring Yom Kippur should only be about our “collective” torture of the Palestinians. Garbage from start to finish, Marc. Even you could do better.

Leave a Reply