Anthony J. Sciolino is a retired New York State Family Court judge and a graduate of Columbia University and Cornell Law School. He holds a master’s degree in theology from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry and is an ordained Roman Catholic permanent deacon. We highly recommend his book, The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences. The quotes below are from his book.
The Holocaust, a.k.a. Shoah (“catastrophe”), was the systematic, state-organized persecution and murder of six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, by Nazi Germany and its European collaborators. Also targeted were five million members of other groups — homosexuals, Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Poles and other Slavic people, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, people with mental and physical disabilities, communists, socialists, and other political and religious dissidents.
With poison gas, bullets, noose, knives, combustion engine exhaust, clubs, fists, disease, starvation, death marches, and overwork, the perpetrators slaughtered two-thirds of Europe’s Jews and one-third of world Jewry. . .
For many years, I have been troubled by one of those moral and spiritual questions: How could one of the worst catastrophes in human history have started in one of the most Christian countries of Christian Europe, birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation?1
Something that has been left out of history classes about World War II in America is the information that would provide the answer to Judge Sciolino’s question. When we, people who were raised in Christian homes, read about Nazi Germany in our textbooks, we never viewed the Germans this way:
. . . as baptized, taxpaying members of an established Christian church. They were raised in homes, schools, and churches where the Christian Bible was read and taught, where commemorations of the birth and death of Jesus marked the high points of the year, where Christian prayers and hymns were familiar parts of daily life.2
Judge Sciolino’s journey and research led to conclusions that are extremely important and relevant to what’s happening in America today:
History is the study of human behavior and the human spirit, even when both have been profoundly corrupted. The Holocaust is an extreme example of what can happen when prejudice and intolerance run amok, when some people dehumanize and target other people.3
One of the lessons of history is that religion can be a source of good or evil. Absolutist claims of religion, therefore, ought to be open to scrutiny, including claims that certain dicta be accepted “on faith.” When it comes to issues of moral ambiguity, after all, religion ought to be part of the solution, not the problem. “God is greater than religion,” wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. “Faith is greater than dogma.” In other words, God should not be confused with religion. It is rank human presumptuousness and arrogance to claim that God, who is beyond human comprehension, is the exclusive property of any one faith tradition—to the exclusion of others.4
For those who have been reading the Real Yeshua Blog for a while or following our work at the Biblical Heritage Center, you will be very familiar with what our research has concluded was the cornerstone message of Jesus’ teachings and movement:
From Jesus’ point of view, all humans have one obligation to God -- love Him with all of their hearts, souls and minds – and the only way to fulfill that obligation is by -- loving their neighbors as themselves.
Doing what Christians did to other humans in Nazi Germany would have been incomprehensible to Jesus and his followers. However, they would have immediately recognized that not all Christians and other Germans were like those above. Judge Sciolino includes some of their stories in his book too:
In the face of unimaginable horror, people of conscience modeled respect for human life and empathic behavior. Making the moral choice, they engaged in acts of kindness, large and small, reaching out to suffering people surely among “the least of (Jesus’s) brethren.” Clergy, religious, and laypeople were among the over 23,788 people who risked their lives to rescue Jews, as recognized as Righteous Gentiles by the Israeli government at Yad Vashem (The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem).5
Christians have the potential to transform the conflicts taking place in America today into opportunities to make life safer, better, more fulfilled and happier than ever before in history by doing what the Real Yeshua taught. The first step is making transparency a primary value and own up to the good and evil things Christians have done in the past – often in the name of God.
Sharing this type of information and helping people more accurately understand the teachings of Jesus (Yeshua) are two of our top priorities at the Biblical Heritage Center. If our mission is something that you consider important and valuable, join in and help us reach more people by doing the following:
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1 The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences by Anthony J. Sciolino © 2012 iUniverse, Bloomington, IN; p. xix
2 The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences; p. xiii.
3 The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences; p. xxii.
4 The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences; p. 221.
5 The Holocaust, The Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences; p. 194.