Waffen der Gerechtigkeit

Es war wie ein New Yorker Tag aus dem Bilderbuch mit einem strahlen blauen Himmel. Ein leichter Wind wehte wohltuend durch die Häuserschluchten und erfrischte mich beim Gehen trotz der hochsommerlichen Temperaturen. Sie die berühmte 5th Avenue, auf der es von Fußgängern und dichtem Verkehr immer nur so wuselte, war fast ausgestorben. Die meisten Luxusgeschäfte, in der die Reichen und Sternchen dieser Welt ihren Kaufgelüsten nachgingen, waren geschlossen. Manche waren immer noch seit dem Beginn der Unruhen vor einigen Wochen mit Sperrholzplatten vernagelt.

Während PRADA & Co. und deren kaufkräftige Kunden nun ins “pademie-sichere” Online-Geschäft migriert waren, ringt die USA mit diesem Dämon, der aus dem Ringen nach Profit, Konsum und Eigensucht geboren worden war: der Marginalisierung und Ausbeutung von Menschenleben und konkreten gesellschaftlichen Schichten.

Ich kehrte dem PRADA-Geschäft und seiner teuren Auslage den Rücken und konzentrierte mich auf den leuchtend gelben Schriftzug vor mir auf der 5th Avenue, der mir tröstend in großen Lettern BLACK LIVES MATTER entgegen strahlte.

BLACK LIVES MATTER, 5th Ave zw. 56. und 57. Street
BLACK LIVES MATTER, 5th Ave zw. 56. und 57. Street

Donnerstag vor einer Woche (9. Juli) hatten namhafte Vertreter New York Citys zusammen mit Bürgermeister Bill De Blasio vor Trump Tower diesen leuchtend gelben Schriftzug eigenhändig aufgezeichnet. Jeder Besucher und Bewohner dieses Luxusgebäudes auf einer der teuersten Straßen der Welt würde sich nun nicht mehr der “Black Lives Matter”-Bewegung und ihrem mahnenden Ruf gegen systemischen Rassismus entziehen können. Just nach Bekanntgabe des Plans sprach Präsident Trump via Twitter von einem Symbol des Hasses und einer Verunglimpfung der Luxusstraße. Eine Reaktion, die die Zeichenhandlung gegen ein ungerechtes kapitalistisches System nur noch mehr unterstrich.

Trump Tower, 5th Ave
Trump Tower, 5th Ave

Die Anbringung des Schriftzuges durch Vertreter New York Citys und Bürgermeister De Blasio erinnern mich an eine Reihe von Propheten, die die Botschaft Gottes durch ihre Handlungen sichtbar und erfahrbar werden ließen. So wird zum Beispiel von Jesaja berichtet, dass er drei Jahre nackt in Jerusalem herumgelaufen sei (Jes 20,3). Die Zeichenhandlungen der biblischen Propheten reichen von Haarescheeren (Ezechiel), über die Auferlegung eines Jochs (Jeremia) bis hin zur Heirat einer Prostituierten (Hosea) und Benennung von Söhnen mit Symbolnamen (Jesaja und Hosea).

Propheten waren dazu berufen, Gottes Botschaft zu den Menschen zu bringen und auf Ungerechtigkeiten in Gesellschaft und Politik hinzuweisen. So nahm der Prophet Amos kein Blatt vor den Mund als er auf die sozialen Zustände seiner Zeit hinwies und die Frauen der damaligen Oberschicht als “fette Kühe” bezeichnete, deren Familien aufgrund der Ausbeutung von niederen Gesellschaftsschichten zu ihrem Wohlstand und Reichtum gelangt waren:

Hört dies Wort, ihr fetten Kühe auf dem Berge Samarias, die ihr den Geringen Gewalt antut und schindet die Armen und sprecht zu euren Herren: Bringt her, lasst uns saufen! Gott der Herr hat geschworen bei seiner Heiligkeit: Siehe, es kommt die Zeit über euch, dass man euch herausziehen wird mit Angeln und, was von euch übrig bleibt, mit Fischhaken. Und ihr werdet zu den Mauerlücken hinausmüssen, eine jede vor sich hin, und zum Hermon weggeschleppt werden, spricht der Herr.

Amos 4,1-3

Die prophetische Tradition die Wahrheit Gottes und dessen Wunsch nach einer gerechten Gesellschaft auszusprechen und nicht vor den Zentren der Macht noch deren Vertretern in Gesellschaft und Politik zurück zu schrecken, ist ebenso bei Jesus vorzufinden. Er scheute sich nicht vor Diskussionen mit Entscheidungsträgern und lies das Reich Gottes Realität werden, indem er Kranke heilte, Ausgestoßene Aufmerksamkeit und Straftätern eine Möglichkeit zur Rückkehr gewährte. Dabei wartete er nicht auf den Beschluss eines Gremiums noch seiner Jünger, sondern wendete sich denen am Rand der Gesellschaft Befindlichen zu. Den Schwächsten und Bedürftigen. Dies gab er auch seinen Jüngerinnen und Jüngern als Richtschnur für ihr eigenes Handeln auf.

Ich bin hungrig gewesen und ihr habt mir zu essen gegeben. Ich bin durstig gewesen und ihr habt mir zu trinken gegeben. Ich bin ein Fremder gewesen und ihr habt mich aufgenommen. Ich bin nackt gewesen und ihr habt mich gekleidet. Ich bin krank gewesen und ihr habt mich besucht. Ich bin im Gefängnis gewesen und ihr seid zu mir gekommen.

Mt 25,35-36

Weiterverfolgen können wir diese Tradition beim Apostel Paulus, der in seinem ersten Brief an die Korinther darauf hinwies, dass wir als Gemeinschaft ein Ganzes darstellen. Hierfür nutzte er das verständliche Bild des Leibes. Jeder hat sicherlich schon einmal erlebt, dass ein Körperteil erkrankt war und dadurch die ganze Person leiden musste. Diese Gesamtheit lässt sich ebenso auf gesellschaftliche Strukturen übertragen (1. Kor 12,26). Martin Luther King Jr. aktualisierte diesen Gedanken in einem fiktiven Brief des Apostels an amerikanische Christen, den er am 4. November 1956 neun Tage bevor der oberste amerikanische Gerichtshof die Segregation im Bustransport Alabamas als verfassungswidrig erklärte:

Der Missbrauch des Kapitalismus kann auch zu tragischer Ausbeutung führen. Dies ist in eurer Nation so oft passiert. Sie sagen mir, dass ein Zehntel der Bevölkerung mehr als vierzig Prozent des Reichtums kontrolliert. Oh Amerika, wie oft hast du den Massen das Nötigste genommen, um den [höheren] Klassen Luxus zu geben. Wenn ihr eine wahrhaft christliche Nation sein wollt, müsst ihr dieses Problem lösen. […] Ihr könnt im Rahmen der Demokratie arbeiten, um eine bessere Verteilung des Wohlstands zu erreichen. Ihr könnt eure mächtigen wirtschaftlichen Ressourcen nutzen, um die Armut vom Erdboden zu wischen. Gott hatte nie vor, dass eine Gruppe von Menschen in überflüssigem, übermäßigem Reichtum lebt, während andere in bitterer, tödlicher Armut leben. Gott beabsichtigt, dass alle seine Kinder die Grundbedürfnisse des Lebens haben, und er hat in diesem Universum “genug und teilbares” für diesen Zweck gegeben. Deshalb fordere ich euch auf, die Kluft zwischen bitterer Armut und überflüssigem Reichtum zu überwinden.” (1)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Pauls Letter to American Christians

Unglaubliche 64 Jahre später, ringt die USA immer noch um ein gerechtes gesellschaftliches System, das durchwoben ist von einer Benachteiligung gegenüber farbigen Bevölkerungsgruppen und anderen Minoritäten am Rande der Gesellschaft. Es bedarf daher vieler mutiger Personen, die in prophetischer Tradition gegen diese Ungerechtigkeiten aufsprechen und ihre Stimme für die erheben, die keine Stimme haben. So wie dies gegenwärtig durch die Bewegung “Black Lives Matter” geschieht. Ein biblische Erbe das Christinnen und Christen mutig annehmen sollten.

Eine Person äußerte mir gegenüber letztens ihre Erleichterung, dass Deutschland nicht mit den amerikanischen Problemen des Rassismus behaftet sei. Das ist zu einfach gedacht. Rassismus ist eine gesellschaftliche Realität in Europa. Dabei darf nicht außer Acht gelassen werden, dass Antisemitismus als dessen häretischer Zwilling unglaubliches Leid über Deutschland, Europa und weite Teile der westlichen Welt gebracht hat. (2) Während ich sprachlos in den Telefonhörer starrte und die Worte der Person ungehört an mir herunter perlten, zogen mich meine Gedanken in die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus: Was wäre gewesen, wenn man damals mutig aufgestanden wäre als Christen und als Kirche und vor die damaligen Zentren der Macht als deutsches Pendant “Jüdisches Leben Ist Wertvoll” oder den Anglizismus “Jewish Lives Matter” geschrieben hätte? Stattdessen wählten die großen Kirchen den Weg in die Mittäterschaft und unterstützten das mörderischste Hasssystem der Welt in seiner menschenverachtenden Politik. Gerade deshalb geht es Christ*innen in Deutschland besonders an! Sie müssen sich verpflichtet fühlen zu dem Jahrtausende alten Ruf der Propheten, der gegen Ungerechtigkeit von Benachteiligten und Menschen an den Rändern unserer Gesellschaft aufspricht. Weil andere Minoritäten sich in sozialer und finanzieller Not befinden, könnte zum Beispiel auch andere Rufe laut werden, wie…

“Jewish Lives Matter”

oder “Sinti Lives Matter”

oder “Homeless Lives Matter”

oder “Female Lives Matter” und so viele mehr.

Ich träume von einer Kirche, die dem prophetischen Ruf Gottes folgt und tief in der Beauftragung Jesu Christi verwurzelt ist. Je mehr diesem Ruf folgen, umso größer wird das Reich Gottes bereits in dieser Welt. Ein Vorgeschmack auf den Himmel und wie Gott sich unsere Welt erhofft.


(1) Originaltext: “The misuse of Capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe “enough and to spare” for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.

in: Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight, 1998, S. 28.

(2) Auf diese Analogie hatte ich vor einiger Zeit in dem Artikel “Denk ich an Amerika”, Christ & Welt hingewiesen.

Stürmische Zeiten

Ausdauernd prasselte Regen auf die Dachfenster des Pfarrhauses während sich der Rhythmus der Regenbänder immer schneller wurde. Ich starrte nachdenklich aus dem Fenster und sah den ersten Ausläufern des tropischen Sturmtiefs zu, das im Laufe des Tages in rotierenden Regenbändern eine signifikante Menge an Niederschlag und bis zu 50 miles/h an Winden mit sich bringen sollte.

Seit Monaten fühle ich mich wie von einem großen, andauernden Sturm erfasst. Corona, Rassenunruhen, Polizeigewalt, Kampf gegen Armut und Hunger… Wie in einem immer währenden Zyklus kreisen diese Traumata wie gegenwärtig der tropische Sturm Fay über der Metropolregion New York und der gesamten USA. Es gibt Phasen, an denen meine Nerven sehr strapaziert sind. Nicht selten frage ich mich, ob meine Schlechtwetterkleidung als Pfarrerin, die vor allem aus einer tiefen Verwurzelung im Glauben besteht, ausreichend ist.

Søren Kierkegaard wies in seiner Auslegung von Mt 11,30 auf die besondere Kraft des Glaubens hin, der in angeblich unmöglichen und aussichtslosen Situationen die Perspektive nicht verliert. In der Bibelstelle betont Jesus, dass sein Joch sanft ist und seine Last leicht. Während viele diese Aussage als ein Paradoxon bezeichnen würden, weißt Kierkegaard auf das Vorbild des Kreuzes hin, die alle menschliche Logik auf den Kopf stellt und aus dem angeblichen Scheitern den Sieg Gottes macht.

Klugheit erreicht oft in Zeiten der Not ihre Grenzen. In diesem Moment sehe ich aus meiner eigenen Erfahrung, dass die Kraft des Glaubens beginnt. Kierkegaard schreibt:

Wenn die Klugheit in der dunklen Nacht des Leidens keine Handbreit vor sich sehen kann, da kann der Glaube auf Gott sehen; denn der Glaube sieht am besten im Dunkeln.

Søren Kierkegaard, Zwölf Reden, Halle 1886.

Gerade in dieser dichten und schwierigen Zeit des Auslandspfarramtes erlebe ich genau dies: Ich spüre die richtungsweisende Kraft des Glaubens in dieser dunklen Zeit, die mir andauernd zuspricht, die Hoffnung nicht zu verlieren und weiter in dem voranzuschreiten, was für uns Christen zentral ist: Unseren Nächsten zu lieben wie uns selbst.

Dies bedeutet in stürmischen Zeiten wie diesen im Auslandspfarramt neben den klassischen Tätigkeiten wie Gottesdienst, Seelsorge und Gemeindearbeit mich noch stärker für die Speisung einer stetig wachsenden Zahl von Bedürftigen zu widmen, einem deutlichen Aussprechen gegen Rassismus und Antisemitismus, aber auch der Polizeiseelsorge zu engagieren. Und hätte ich, mit Paulus gesprochen, meinen Glauben nicht, so wäre ich nichts.

Stürmische Zeiten bringen uns an die Grenzen unserer Kräfte, aber sie zeigen uns auch in bewegender Weise die Wichtigkeit des Glaubens auf, der im Dunkeln am besten sieht.

Reckoning with the Past

The meeting room filled quickly as members of the American Jewish Committee and Interfaith Partners gathered on the cold Sunday afternoon. Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, had summoned this meeting of the AJC Interreligious Affairs Commission on “Christian Responses to the Antisemitism Epidemic.”

As all attending made themselves comfortable, helping themselves to some refreshments and looking through the well prepared material supplied, the room buzzed with warm welcomes and kind introductions. As Rabbi Marans began the meeting, the buzzing group transformed into a quickly concentrating diverse group of Jewish and Interfaith friends, who had gathered to discuss the unsettling rise of Antisemitism and how Christians could respond to this terrible development.

The Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA, and author of the book Baptists, Jews, and the Holocaust, spoke about the topic how is own denomination had dealt with Antisemitism and Holocaust through the centuries sharing the experience of persecution in Europe. He talked about the significance of friendship, sacrificial solidarity, and how important it was to learn from missed opportunities for future actions.

Reckoning with the past is a important task we need to actively embrace. As a German citizen I am entitled to say this, because my nation’s past has led to so much death and suffering. This should never ever happen again. As Antisemitism is on the rise, it is urgently time to account for these deadly actions of Nazi Germany and to fulfill our obligations arising from them for the whole world community. In my opinion, we Germans have the holy duty to warn others about the lessons we have learned through the broken history of Nazi Germany. Any kind of slight beginning, any historical analogy needs to be outlined and first steps towards such destruction quickly hindered.

As Rabbi Marans kindly invited me to share a small statement on how Christians may respond to the rise of Antisemitism, I took a leap of faith in those present as I spoke about the broken past of my nation, family, and fears for the presence and future. I am sharing it here in my blog laying my trust in you, dear reader, that we may become partners in remembrance and reconciliation.

Reckoning with the past is the hurtful and necessary step to lead into a just future without Antisemitism, Racism, and Hate. It deeply hurt me on that Sunday afternoon and I had to hold myself together as the words poured out of my heart:

It is a great honor for me to speak today. In full disclosure: I am a German. My grandfather served under Hitler in the Nazi navy. He was half Sinti. I still can´t understand, why he supported and glorified this murderous regime. I remember countless discussions as I challenged his idealization of the Nazi era, which he painted in glorious colors over family gatherings. As I held strong against his words, my reaction was met with anger and emotional coldness as you can well imagine.

It is my holy duty as a descendant of those, who committed crimes under Hitler, and as a Christian through the Gospel to warn about the dangers of right-winged thoughts and antisemitism. Reliving the nightmares of Germany passed is one of my greatest fears…

But this passed Wednesday, Feb 5, we all held our breath as analogies to the beginning of a destructive regime resurfaced in Thuringia, Germany.
Thomas Kemmerich was elected as the new prime minister of the free state of Thuringia. His own party FDP barely made it into the state parliament. Through the help of the rightist party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and Merkel´s CDU he surprisingly came into this high office. It was as if a breath of Weimar was taking its grip of Germany.

In 1932, Adolf Hitler and his murderous regime came to power through the help of Hindenburg and numerous parties taking down the Weimar Republic. We do not have 1932, but the analogies are frightening: A antidemocratic party is trying to take a grip of the free state of Thuringia, with Weimar at its center. Yesterday, the newly elected prime minister stepped down due to pressure from numerous parties, protestant churches and public protests.

We need swift and courageous actions, because Weimar can be everywhere! Back then, almost unnoticeable hate crawled into everyday life through phrases and small actions of exclusion. As people got used to the dose of hate as part of the daily grind, the intensity increased numbing the human capacity to empathy and solidarity.

“Weimar can be everywhere!” is a warning we need to take seriously. The Jewish Bible calls us to love our neighbor and self. For Christians this is a fundamental principle we are called to. Wherever there are tendencies of right-winged ideology, antisemitism or racism, we have to stand strong and boldly with those, who need our help.

To combat this kind of hate, education is one of the most important keys. As a pastor teaching at the German School I educate the next generation about the holocaust. You may ask my son later, who attends my class together with eight other students. Education is the best antidote we have.

In addition, vital friendships across faiths play a important role. As a small German speaking congregation in New York resembling the larger German Protestant Churches, we reach out to other faith communities and we are blessed to have AJC as an important partner.

“Weimar can be everywhere!” might be true, but as we are setting signs of peace as the beloved community God, we are hindering history to repeat itself.

Thank you for AJC for calling us as the beloved community together that we may be a glimpse of hope for those targeted by antisemitism, racism and hate, those on the margin of our society!

Standing in Solidarity as One

My heart stopped a beat as news poured into my busy day. A synagogue attacked in my home country Germany. The Holocaust memorial I know well desecrated by anti-Semitic hate symbols. Fear poured over me like waves of hurtful remembrance of times we thought were long gone. The nightmare of history repeating itself increasingly haunts my mind.

As I shared this anxiety with a friend, she politely wanted to diffuse my fears through words ascribed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rimes.” No matter, if it rhymes or repeats in a new version – the reality is a increase of anti-Semitic and racist hate crimes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups across the U.S. has climbed from 954 in the year 2017 to staggering 1,020 in the subsequent year. In Germany the rise of right-winged extremism and hate has significantly risen from 2017 to 2018: a sum of 25.250 citizens have been involved in hate groups, right-winged political institutions and structures. This sum has risen by 100 in the following year according to the governmental organization protecting the German constitution (Verfassungsschutz) .

When I received the invitation to a Interfaith vigil in White Plains, Westchester on short notice, there was no holding back. As a descendant of a Nazi perpetrator and a German citizen I am committed to not hide in fear, but to stand strong against anti-Semitism, racism and other hateful actions against minorities. Yes, my grandfather fought as a marine in Hitler´s army. Yes, my home town had welcomed Julius Streicher and send innocent Jews into the Holocaust. Those opposing these hateful actions, went into hiding or out of fear. Numerous in contrary became part of a cheering crowd welcoming Hitler.

It is this legacy of remembrance, which drives me as I will not be silenced, driven into hiding because of fear or even changed to join a criminal group, which does not see all humans as the images of God.

The German Lutheran Theologian Martin Niemöller once put it into fitting words:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
” (1)

His question is vital and real for anyone of us. Systems of hate gradually and first silently build up. As they do not face backlash, they will spread their evil influence in a increasing manner. As the US is becoming a Nation, where minorities are becoming the majority (2), numerous Jews came up to thank me for my participation. This gratitude moved me to tears as I as a descendant of a Nazi grandfather shook hand after hand.

After the Interfaith Vigil, I stood at the Holocaust memorial with my colleague Jim O´Hanlon explaining the different mentioned places of horror, which are located in Germany. A lady interrupted our thoughtful exchange and shook our hands in gratitude while explaining that her grandfather had fled Germany due to the Nazi crimes. Her hand was warm and soft as she embraced mine for what felt like a long time. It felt as if she wanted to warm me through her friendly embrace.

I wish, our grandparents would have met in this warm fashion. I wish, my grandfather would have never been part of a Nazi regime that killed millions. As she spoke about her fears pondering if she should go into hiding, I looked firmly into her eyes.

No!

We will not be silenced by hate.

We will not hide driven by fear.

We will stand in solidarity as one with her and any other person, who is targeted by hate.

When they come for you, dear Jewish friend, we will stand strong and will speak justice in the name of the one God, in whose image we are made.

_____________________________________________

(1) Gerlach, Wolfgang. And the Witnesses were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Jews . Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, p. 47.

(2) Jim Wallis. Christ in Crisis. Why we need to reclaim Jesus. New York 2018, p. 57.

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.

2018-10-29 17.45.24

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

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.

2018-03-29 10.10.25

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.

2018-03-29 10.43.58

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.

A Subway “Halleluja”

My tired feet dragged me step by step to the shuttle train. Same procedure as ever for a pastor, living and working at two ends of her congregation. A normal New York story of long commutes, short nights and many challenges a large city and ministry brings.

While I swam with the faceless masses of fellow commuters my mind raced like mad. Outwardly calm, words sharp like razor knives echoed in my mind. What a irony while we were celebrating International Day of Peace in New York and all around the world! There are so many things wrong in our world – in every day life! I lamented and lamented in my thoughts while the book case in my hand got increasingly heavier.

As I dragged my way down the grey steps a familiar tune played by a trombone filled the stuffy subway air: Leonard Cohen´s “Halleluja” woke me up from my nightmarish thoughts of one-way-streets and dead ends. The song was like balm on my weary soul. It seemed as if I was told by God that it would be alright in one way or the other sometime.

I had to think of Leonard Cohen´s words when he once was approached by John McKenna in a interview about his famous song “Hallelujah”:

“Finally there’s no conflict between things, finally everything is reconciled but not where we live. This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that’s what I mean by Hallelujah. That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’ And you can’t reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation. […]

That’s what it’s all about. It says that none of this – you’re not going to be able to work this thing out – you’re not going to be able to set – this realm does not admit to revolution – there’s no solution to this mess. The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah! That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.” (1)

Leonhard Cohen´s song escorted me into the new hectic day in busy New York. Not everything would be fine and lots of things would stay a hurtful mystery to me. But in the mean time I would praise God. In the subway and beyond.


(https://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/rte.html )