The Slippery Slope starts with Words

The silence was ear deafening. One by one candles were lit by the tender hands of the female Rabbi. As the mourners kaddish filled the room said by numerous Jewish and Interreligious voices the grief formed a strong bond of commitment binding together the gathered people of different walks of life and faith.

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The slippery slope starts with words.” David Harris, Chief Executive and CEO of AJC, reminded in a calm and even more so intense voice of how the path leading to the Holocaust began long before the Kristallnacht on Nov 9, 1938. The big auditorium of the German General Consulate was filled to the brink as AJC together with the German Consul General David Gill and Ruth Zimbler, a 90 year old Kristallnacht survivor, commemorated together this despicable and tragic moment in German history.

I shivered in my seat as the events past and present simultaneously went through my mind. Kristallnacht began way before 1938. But in my mind they suddenly appeared isochronal. Wiping away the 80 year divide with one blink of an eye and a simple, but ever so wise statement.

The slippery slope starts with words.

Most beginnings are quiet. Almost silent or with few words change will begin to unfold. No one back in the spring of 1912 as Hitler was stranded in a Men´s home in Vienna had ever thought this drop-out and postcard painter would later become the greatest criminal and murderer of over 6 million people. Back then, his audience was small as he voiced his thoughts about race and inferiority of the Jews. Hitler then was still the underestimated outsider. The underdog. A existence he later very successfully used to climb to the highest political ranks as he spread disaster of almost the whole world.

My eyes were fixated to the lit memorial candles as if I tried to hold on to hope despite disaster past and present. But the sentence had a tight grip to my thoughts as I could feel my heartbeat increase even though I was sitting.

The slippery slope starts with words.”

As my head was spinning my thoughts were pulled to Germany of January 1933. It was in the office of the Reich President that Hindenburg expressed is great satisfaction that the political right had at last united against all the liberal and democratic forces. As Hitler himself swore he would act in the good of the whole nation, Hindenburg gave this political newcomer his blessings. In one voice, as it is stated through different sources, the call of Hitler as new Reichs Chancellor was underpinned with a single sentence: “And now, gentlemen, forward with God.”

As a woman of God, a faith leader and a German this heresy and abuse of faith is deeply hurtful. Even then, many, even Hindenburg, hadn’t suspected that they were already on a slippery slope leading to disaster, murder and destruction.

The slippery slope starts with words.”

May this sentence remind us of the power of words, which can develop the beautiful and more so the disastrous. “The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to the previous year — including bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature found on college campuses.” (1) Words of hate and anti-Semitism lead to the deadliest attack towards Jews in the US in Pittsburgh as eleven innocent believers were murdered by a white supremacist. We know by now that the perpetrator Robert Bowers was encouraged and fed by anti-Semitic words and thoughts expressed by numerous sources.

The dehumanizing words presently used in politics are leading to a never before experienced rise in hate crimes. Murders like the one of the Pittsburgh Eleven, the two African-American in Kentucky, and “smaller” despicable acts in numerous shapes and sizes against women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized people are changing the shape and form of a free and accepting US-society.

In Germany it once began with small words and ideas uttered in back yards, at ordinary tables and in small groups. They infected others and spread hate like a deadly cancer in German society.

I sighed as my eyes fixated the candles. Never again. If the world is again on the path of a slippery slope, it will be our responsibility to hold against this trend as courageous as we are able to. As God commands us: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)


(1) NY Times

A Daily Life of War and Peace

The tires of my small car hummed over the asphalt as I drove the well-known highway at 6 am towards the church in Chelsea. As my left hand rested on the stirring wheel, the other hand held a strong cup of coffee. My eyes glanced along the high rise buildings as they flew by. The uncountable number of lit windows announced a new day against a dark sky as I was on my way to prepare a Interfaith Breakfast for Women Religious Leaders in my congregation. I sighed as a warm feeling of peace and joy flooded my tired mind. In a broken world it was a special blessing to draw near to likeminded leaders, who were pursuing a calling for peace and justice at the Big Apple.

After taking another sip of warm coffee I reached towards the radio and switched to CNN. A swell of agitated words flushed through the speakers into my thoughts as the commentator talked about mail posts being delivered to a number of officials and news institutions. They all were linked through a common thread of political hate and had transformed the daily mail into instrument of evil deeds. War had come to the doorsteps of normal life.

As the news reporter talked about a mail bomb being evacuated from Tribeca in a special containment truck on the Westside of New York, the northbound side of Henry Hudson Parkway suddenly was lit by lights and sirens in front of my eyes. A large truck surrounded by police cars sped by me on the other side of the road as the feeling of peace was washed away by this war like scenario. Hot tears of fear and anger filled my eyes as New York life was unexpectedly transformed into a sudden state of war.

I silently wept as I couldn’t bring this daily life at war and peace in New York together. As I felt the hot tears running down my cheeks, the feeling of despair was transformed into a unusual calmness. Consoling words echoed in my mind reminding me of the importance of struggling for peace in a broken world:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Mat 5:9-11 NRSV)

I gripped the stirring wheel with both hands as daylight lit the morning sky and my car plowed through the increasingly busy morning traffic. As Christians we shouldn’t give up seeking peace. For it would give the evil doers their wished for success. It was Martin Luther King Jr., who emphasized that the long arch of history bends towards justice. May we therefore not be discouraged as the evil knocks at the door of our daily life as we take up our call as peacemakers.

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Prayer for “A Daily life of War and Peace”

Lord of Life,

as evil knocks at the doorstep of our daily life

may you guide our thoughts and actions.

Remind us of the calling as your children, who seek peace.

As evil knocks at the doorstep of our daily life

may you help us to see that the kingdom of heaven can only grow by seeking peace.

Fill us with the reassurance that while we experience setbacks and people utter lies against us

that you are with us in this tribulation.

As evil knocks at the doorstep of our daily life

may you fill us with the confidence that the long arch of history bends toward justice.

Amen.

 

Beating the drums for God´s justice

I couldn’t set my eyes off the drum. Beautifully matured wood was covered with dark, well used leather that was tightened around the sturdy body by thick tightropes. This instrument was beaten by famous hands for God´s justice as disaster struck Germany, Europe and the whole world. It was no one less than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A prophet, who was amongst a number other theologians. A brave spokesperson of God´s calling, who opposed the Nazi regime and addressed the collective injustice this dictatorship brought over millions of people.

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While Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent a whole school year in New York in 1930/31, he became friendly with Richard and Frances Ern, who where members of Greenville Community Church in Scarsdale. Many a hours he spent with this special family, receiving love and a home away from his German home. After going on a road trip to Mexico with the families Oldsmobile, he brought to them a small drum.

As Rev. Dr. Edward H. Schreur showed this drum on the sunny Wednesday morning, I was struck with awe and admiration. It was within this congregation and the Ern family, Bonhoeffer was nurtured and filled with incredible love to give him the strength to return to Germany and to join the resistance against the Nazi-tyranny. His words and action made him to the most prominent spokesperson for God´s justice as the darkness of antisemitism and brutality was spread over Germany, Europe threatening the whole world. A great prophet in very dark times.

As he gave his life for God´s calling like numerous others, justice made its way and God´s kingdom grew. Bonhoeffer stood in a long tradition of prophets, from Moses, Deborah, Gideon, Elijah and Elisha and so many more, leading to Jesus as the mighty prophet in deed and word (Luke 24:19). Bonhoeffer was very aware of this calling and beat the drum of words and action for God´s justice up to the ultimate price.

Being called into discipleship, we may have to ask ourselves: Where and how do we beat the drum for God´s justice in our broken world as antisemitism, racism, and injustice are on the rise? It is may continuous prayer that you join us in this act of holy resistance beating the drum for God´s justice as we pray daily “thy kingdom come”.

 

Prayer “Beating the drum for God´s justice”

As we daily beat the drum for justice, dear Lord,

fill us with courage

fill us with strength.

As we daily beat the drum for justice, dear Lord,

give us encounters with You and Your Holy word

give us insights in Your plan for us.

As we daily beat the drum for justice, dear Lord,

help us to counter our fear of the price we pay for obedience to Your call

help us lift our feet when we would rather hide.

As we daily beat the drum for justice, dear Lord,

may thy kingdom come.

Amen.

 

 

The New Colossus revised

Four years ago we chose the US as our new home and left Germany. Our four kids were uprooted, family and friends left behind as we felt drawn to become part of the US as the largest immigrant nation of this world. What brought us here was not fleeing from a high crime rate in our homelands or to seek riches for ourselves, but the spirit of freedom, opportunity and equality we felt drawn to like many others, who are seeking a new life in this multinational  and -ethnic nation.

But the tide is turning quickly as this nation seems to undergo a massive political shift. While Germany learning from its Nazi history tried to become a welcoming nation during the 2015 refugee crisis, the US is closing its borders with its leader tweeting about rising criminality in Germany. If only one might check the facts! The criminality rate has gone down by 9.6 % and Germany is heavily trying to integrate the welcomed refugees.

What has happened to the Great Nation we sought as our new home only four years ago? The history of Germany teaches us wisely: We once had borders closed. Our leaders circulated fake facts. People were demised and humiliated, spat on because of their skin color and religion. Children ripped out of the hands of their parents, separated and traumatised. The Nazi regime orchestrating this and other uncountable evils lead to the greatest disaster of humanity. It is a very dangerous path to go down.

A lament of rewriting Emma Lazarus famous poem is the only thing that can slip from my lips as I look at the Statue of Liberty on the shores of New York.

„Hold back, ancient lands, your worried masses!“ cries she
With bitter thin lips. „Give me your money, your knowledge,
Your small numbers of rich yearning to act free,

The white upper class of your fruitless shore.
Send these, the powerful, richly abundant to me:
I lift my lamp only for them beside the golden door.“

If Miss Liberty would be able to move… the torch in her hand would fall out of her grip as she witnesses the destruction of the great American vision of freedom, opportunity and equality for all. The only thing she can do is silently weep in the captivity of her congealment.

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When Holocaust denial hits home in German Politics

Heavy traffic plowed through a busy street at 41st Street and Dyer Ave as I tried to find a clean spot to set my feet upon. The sidewalk was covered over and over with pigeon dirt. As I hurried along to get in time to a pastoral visit after Church, I felt like crying as the impossible dance between disgusting dirt expressed how I was feeling in the eye of a rapidly changing political climate in Germany.

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Over night the news broke of unbelievable words spoken out in public. A Holocaust denial par excellence beyond what I could have ever imagined. In a speech addressed to members of the “Young Alternative” in Thuringia (East Germany), Alexander Gauland, the party leader of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and party leader of the party in the German Bundestag, said that Hitler and National Socialism were just a “bird dirt” in 1,000 years of “successful” German history. (Link)

How could he ever say such words of pure denial? 6 Million Jews were brutally murdered, and 2 Million Roma, Sinti, as well as disabled people and “enemies” of the system found a brutal death. As a German pastor devoted to seek reconciliation for the crimes my nation committed, it sickens me to hear of this change of the political climate in Germany. And again, as many years ago, mostly those feeling underprivileged, locked out, and neglected turn to the far right and its terrible lies on humanity.

It cannot be expressed enough: EVERY life counts and every life lost through the Holocaust is one life, which can never be brought back again. Leaving behind a hurtful gap of a person, who was created in the image of God.

Shame, anger and fear accompanied every step forward as I made my way to the visit. No, German and international history is covered by the crimes of Hitler and National Socialism. If Gauland describes this as “bird dirt”, he maybe didn’t have in mind, how aggressive it can eat itself through any material being massively toxic. The crimes of Hitler and National Socialism are such huge piles of toxic waste  –  and I have committed large amounts of my involvement to warn about this life denying and dangerous ideology. Maybe Gauland needs a crash course in Holocaust education? I´d be up to challenge him at the Big Apple and shake him up from his Holocaust denial with strong Jewish and Interfaith partners at my side.

We know, where history leads with the infectious ideology of antisemitism. A nightmare, neglecting to see each person as a beautiful image of God – may we wake up from our daydreams as this nightmare is starting to creeping into our reality in Germany, the United States, and around the Globe.

Though I walk through the valley of death

Voices rose around me. Grieving people from all walks of life spoke in one voice. Jews, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Roman Catholics joined in the ancient Psalm 23 and filled the dense air of the meeting room with hope beyond grief.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me besides the still waters.

In the midst of preparations for the high holidays of Pesach and Easter, members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Consuls from numerous countries, clergy, and friends had gathered in Midtown Manhattan to show solidarity with the Jewish Community by sharing the grief about the assassination of Mireille Knoll. The French Holocaust survivor had been brutally murdered on March 23rd in her apartment in Paris and is the newest victim of antisemitism.

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The 85-year old, who suffered Parkinson’s disease, was stabbed to death by two Jihadists. A senseless and brutal end to a life that had been ever so burdensome through the suffering of the Holocaust. Mrs. Mireille Knoll had barely escaped with her life as a ten year old in the Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris in July 1942. Thousands of Jewish women, men, and children had been locked into the Vélodrome d’Hiver to be deported to concentration camps in the East. She returned to France after its liberation and married Mr. Knoll, a Auschwitz survivor. The couple was blessed with two sons. But after the nightmares of the Holocaust she had not been granted a peaceful death, but violence and hatred ended a life too quickly.

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name´s sake.

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

My heart sank as I spoke the old biblical words, which are my Baptismal verses. Yes, Europe is facing one of the greatest challenges since World War II. Antisemitism, racism, exclusion of those, who are different is on the rise. This senseless and brutal death was its newest expression.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

In their history Jews had to face uncounted enemies. It is like a red thread woven through the countless centuries of the ancient nation. Prosecution, death and murder accompanied their struggle for freedom. In many ways their history and the way they are treated is like a litmus test showing the state of nations and societies. “We have been dealt with like the bird in the cage of a mine. As soon as the bird stopped singing, the miner knew he would need to leave it to safe his life. We are done with being the bird”, David Harris, the AJC Chief Executive Officer, emphasized at the commemoration. What a powerful picture to choose.

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As a Lutheran growing up in the safety of a small, closely knit community in Germany, I never had to suffer abuse or prosecution. I had never been excluded due to skin color, religion, or heritage. I can’t grasp, how terrible it might feel having to endure this generation after generation. Or being forced to grapple with the murder of loved ones. But as a German, bearing the weight of my ancestors and my nations crimes, I am committed to stand up against antisemitism, race, and hate. And many others partaking in the commemoration and beyond are as well, emphasizing the common ground of “Loving neighbor and self”. A glimpse of hope in times of trouble.

It is my constant prayer that these signs of hope will develop into a shield against the evil forces of hatred as more and more pull together as they feel their responsibility for peace. Governments and religions. Representatives and individuals.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

May the memory of Mireille Knoll forever be a blessing.

May Europe wake up through her senseless murder before it is too late.

Bulletproof Backpacks

The sun was shining bright as we waited for the school bus to turn around the small curve to the drive way of our parsonage. Our two younger kids had been playing hide and seek. As they tired out, my younger child took my hand and looked at me. I knew from the way she looked at me and paused her breath, that she was wanting to say something important.

“Mommy?”, a big charming smile was on her lips, “You know, I´m going to go to fifth grade in summer. And I´d love to have a new school bag. Like my older brothers and sisters.” The smile got bigger and she blinked at me in the most charming way. As I was about to say something, the bus turned around the corner and my youngest child took her sturdy German schoolbag and quickly ran to the bright yellow school bus.

In Germany school kids are gifted a “Schulranzen”, a very stable and high quality schoolbag. This bag is a companion for the first four school years. When entering German Middle School, they will change this bag for a more fashionable, but less sturdy one.

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“What a pity for the lovely blue and pink companion.” I sighed, but understood. My youngest child would be transitioning to the next step of her life. So here I went, on the search for a new bag. Requirements and needs are different to Germany, with less weight to carry every day and the student not having to take food along for long school days.  As I googled different sites about the needs, feedback on different products and opinions of other parents, I was flabbergasted as I was referred to bulletproof backpacks for school kids.

After living in the US for over three years, I have become accustomed to many things. But firearms, shootings, and the danger of being hurt through guns have alienated this beloved country. As a German, who is aware of the broken history and crimes of our nation, I have never held a real firearm in my hands and do not plan to do so. Reasonings like the second amendment seem difficult for me to understand as there is no real danger having to bear arms supporting the natural rights of self-defense and resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state. For me it seems more like the danger comes from within, when Americans harm Americans. Statistically 96 American citizens die everyday from fire arms.

“Well”, a kind security officer told me, “you will have to adapt to our culture. Fire arms are part of it. Get used to it.” As I scrolled through the website, my heart sank. What a tough world for kids in America to grow up in, having to live with the fear of being shot. A dangerous and brave new world beyond the one we have left behind. Countries like Great Britain have been able to change their laws as they faced the brutal consequences of school massacres like Dunblane in 1996. But in the US with so many students, teachers and staff loosing their lives, with so many going to the streets in protest, the firearm industry seems unbelievable powerful like Goliath as he bragged in front of his enemies about his strength and invincibility. As a Christian, I can only hope and it is my constant prayer, that this will end in a David-and-Goliath-story, where the weak and small will triumph over the mighty.

Facing the demons of past, present and future

My hands unearthed two huge books from the bottom of a parcel. The unexpected weight of the grey literature almost forced me to drop them. Anxiously, but nonetheless scared, I awaited these books in the last weeks. They would help me to face the demons of our troubled German past as well as my fears for the present and future of our increasingly divided society in the US and around the world.

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Hitlers “Mein Kampf” is the ugliest and most hurtful expression of racism and root of crimes against humanity. His evil writing had inspired a whole nation to commence unforeseen brutal actions, bringing death and suffering over generations of Jews and other marginalized people.

Ever since I can remember, the demons of the German past have haunted me. Now I am facing them, trying to explore the history and creation of racism throughout human history. It is this thread I am trying to uncover as part of my doctoral studies.

The critical edition of Hitlers “Mein Kampf” will be a important and hurtful read as I hope to be a small warning voice in a growing choir of likeminded. Hopefully my research, actions and words will help prevent such crimes ever to happen again.

As I opened the first page of the first volume, my hands were trembling. How will I react to encountering Hitlers ideas for the first time? Which discoveries will haunt my future nightmares? But I knew: Confronting these and other demons, which are rooted in the racial theory of hate and exclusion, is a first important step to hinder tragedies to come. In a politically dense situation like we are facing it in the United States and all around the world, it will be vital to see analogies and name them in order to cast them out.

 

When stubborn altar candles are witnesses for Christ

Sunday mornings always follow a beloved ritual: after preparing the sanctuary for the upcoming service, I welcome worshippers one by one as I make my way through the old sanctuary.  And as usual, I could already see the dismay of an elderly lady, who sat at the far right side in one of the last pews, as I moved towards her. After greeting her and exchanging small talk, she pulled me closer to herself. “Pastor!”, she said in a load, booming voice, “haven’t you seen the tall right altar candle? It´s crooked again!” As every Sunday I apologized to her and then moved quickly through the isle, up five steps to the altar, reaching up high to the stubborn candle and shifting it back into its place.

When I passed the elderly congregant, she nodded in approval and the service could begin. Hymn by hymn, prayer by prayer, reading by reading passed. And slowly but surely, the altar candle as most Sundays made it´s way back into it´s original position. Leaning in a self confident inwardly as if it were pointing towards the cross.

Seldom one Sunday passed without this kind of interactive ritual. After thoroughly looking at the candle holder and applying all kinds of remedies like paper and other material to keep the candle from slipping, I gave in to the stubborn altar candle. Submitting myself to the always present ritual of being adamantly reminded, correcting the candle and watching while it made it´s way back into the old position.

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It was one weekday afternoon that completely changed my view on this ritual. As I walked through the Sanctuary tired and weary from a incident, the beautiful silence of our church calmed my turbulent thoughts. I sat down in the front pew to find guidance in the daily scripture reading, but instead of giving me relief from the troubles around me, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was one I surely didn’t want to hear today. I sighed as I read about Jesus way to the cross.

It was the unbelievable ironical words of one of the criminals, who was crucified together with the messiah, which sent shivers down my spine. ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’  His words seemed to me a symbol of complete resignation to the world, to God and the messiah.

Instead of waiting for a reply from Jesus, the second criminal answered to this grim question: ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

As the words of the second criminal unfolded in the biblical reading, my eyes went from the bible up to the right altar candle, which was still stubbornly leaning inwards to the cross.

The brave answer and confession of the criminal led to a wonderful eternal perspective as Jesus articulated a promise beyond the criminals guilt: ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’  By confessing his sins, the criminal had completely laid his faith and trust into the hands of God. And it seemed to me as if the candle was not able to do it differently, but to lean towards the cross.

The stubborn altar candle was a silent, but very persistent witness of the crucifixion. Now, Sunday after Sunday, I see the Gospel as it is enacted by these two candles, reminding us to lean on God. For we are not saved by humanly power, but by the grace of the cross through Jesus Christ.

 


Luk 23:26-39 (NRSV):

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Seeking Lutheran Identity in the 21st Century

The High line park near my Church was busy as always on a bright Sunday morning. Many people enjoyed the late fall sun before the icy winter would send cold winds through the New York street canyons.

A small scholar in black and white stood in front of a huge graffiti while Henry Taylor´s art work “The floaters” talked in bright colors about a relaxing day at a pool. The little Playmobil toy set a more earnest tone. Holding a scribes quill in one hand, “Little Luther” held the Holy Bible in a tight grip as it was glistening in the morning sun. The black letters spoke in a self-confident and brief way of a serious matter that is woven through Martin Luther´s Theology: “The End of the Books of the Old Testament … The New Testament translated by Doctor Martin Luther“. (1)

When I first received the small toy from Germany, I didn’t grasp it´s significance and how deeply embedded into lives this difficult theology can be. Generations of Theologians like Martin Luther and many others saw Judaism coming to an end with Jesus as the Messiah. (2) This misconception of salvation raises difficult questions for a Christian-Jewish dialogue: How can we reconnect even though generations before us have set us so far apart on the basis of these theological misconceptions? How can we rediscover the common ground of the Thora after turning against our Jewish brothers and sisters? What first seemed as neat toy for young and old, is becoming a increasing issue for me as I grow deeper into the Jewish-Christian Dialogue in New York City.

As part of the so called Generation Y, I have been raised with a dominant and strong picture of a perfect reformer, who lead Christianity into freedom from oppression. Who wouldn’t know the different, almost folk like tales, when Martin Luther threw the ink against the wall to scare away the devil? Or when he nailed the 95 thesis to the Church door in Wittenberg?

While emphasizing the German hero Martin Luther, most of the difficult facts have been successfully kept from us during our childhood. And like peeling an onion, layer by layer, the negative sides of the foremost “brilliant” reformer come to the surface. And this uncovering is causing a identity issue within Lutheranism:

Martin Luther´s strong anti-Judaism, which played a huge inspiring role in leading Nazi-Germany towards the crime of the Holocaust. His words might have been part of a larger societal crime, but neither his grief for the death of his daughter nor his senility can ever explain his false theological opinions. Or his political misconceptions, where Luther sacrificed the peasants to their oppressors in order to endure in the power struggles of Church, Lordship and the normal people.

Layer after layer the Lutheran Identity is challenged. We are now facing a long overdue and cleansing identity crisis within Lutheranism. The “great hero” of the Reformation is demasked as failing and sinful person. His own words may be a consolation to us in the midst of transformation: we all are sinners and saints.

The 500rd celebration of the Reformation might be the perfect time to reflect and to uncover the “real” Martin Luther learning from his theological brilliance AND his terrible theological failures. A great opportunity might be at hand to bring Luthers core discovery to its true significance: Transforming Lutheranism as a means of hope beyond failure, grace beyond sin.


(1) Playmobil has altered its 1st edition, deleting the “Ende” due to the difficult theological implication of the writing.

(2) Paul in contrast states that the Jews are saved – see Rom 11.