09 November 2014

Kristallnacht 2014 Choose THIS Day

This year's RCLi readings follow the story of the Exodus. We are near the end of church year, so it is unsurprising that
  1. we are near the end of the Exodus story.
  2. The readings are clearly selected to encourage good stewardship practices

Ah, but history has been moving on since 2,000 BCE (give or take.) And the horrible, blood stained, 20th century has marked the day in a particularly ugly way. In 1938, on this day, Hitler and his minions unleashed a major, vicious "pogromii" against German, Polish, and Austrian Jews. So many homes and shops were vandalized that streets and sidewalks were littered with broken glass. It is those shards of broken glass that gave a horrible night of looting, beating, murder, and rape its infamous name: Kristallnacht.

In the days immediately after Kristallnacht, the Germans waited. It is hard to know what the Germans might have done if, as they feared, France, England, USA, and other, "Civilized Nations" had reacted with sanctions, denunciations, or even war warnings. Except for the crunch of broken glass under the boots worn by SAiii and SS bullies, all was silence. The maxim at civil law is, "silence betokens consent." The Shoah had begun born in the cowardly silence.

In Christian churches this morning,we heard Joshua's call to the ancient Hebrews, "Choose this day, whom you will serve."

This week, an amazing 67% of eligible American voters did not bother to cast ballots. They chose indifference.

A budget is a moral document. How we spend our money tells us what we choose to consider essential. In stewardship campaign responses, and in our polity, we make (or cause representatives to make) choices. We choose, and sometimes we choose horrible evil. The choices of November 1938 reverberate through our world to this day.

That is the lesson of Kristallnacht for Christians. What we choose, how we embrace social justice, and moral action matters.

Vestriesiiii generally do not get to make major moral choices. In a sense, we are limited by the choices of history. We have the building, clergy, musicians, support staff, utilities, and expectations that often absorb more cash than our income as known line items in our budgets. Questions of funding ministry, charity, outreach, social justice are all limited by cashflow and what we might call the, "givens." It is "given" that we have an organist, a sexton, a priest, a diocese. (We Episcopalians, cannot function without a diocese. It is the Bishop who is always even when absent, the primary celebrant of the mass.)

But it should not be so. If parishes received the pledges Joshua expected, "first fruits," actual tithes, and real service, the "given" expenses would not be issues. Suddenly, we could fund the things we should. Suddenly, social justice ministries, which for Episcopalians probably involves both pickets and lawyers, would be on offer.

Not taking Joshua seriously; we are silent. We cannot look down on Chamberlin, Roosevelt, and the "League of Nations." True, they did nothing, true the silence gave the Shoah birth. But we by our silence, our inaction, our lack of commitment, contribute evil in our day.

Spirituality IS Stewardship. Silence is Consent. We choose. We face Joshua's warning: we are witnesses against ourselves.

Ask yourself! How would the world be different if on 10 November 1938 The Times; 10 Downing Street; Le Monde; The NY Times; Congress; Parliment; and the Assembly Nationale had received thousands of outrage telegrams? How would the world be different if each of us paid attention and then listened to St. Paul
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

This day, an anniversary of infamy, demands commitment, and repentance. Commit to faith, worship, and stewardship of course. But also commit to social justice, defense of the defenseless, charity, and proclamation - both of the Gospel and the name of evil.

Finally, this day, we need to repent, to name before God our silences, our contribution to evil both historic and current. We need to commit, "Never Again!"

This day, we must choose.

i The "Revised Common Lectionary" (RCL) is a standardized set of liturgical readings, Hebrew Bible, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel agreed to by Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches. As you might expect, it is a bit less than, "common." Various holy days and saint day remembrances force separate Anglican, Roman, Orthodox, and "other" tracks. None-the-less it is in general use among most non-Evangelical churches.
ii "Pogrom" 1 an organized massacre of helpless people; specifically : such a massacre of Jews From merriam-webster.com
iii The "SA" were Hitler's original bullies. They were in turn, massacred by the SS in a later purge. At the time they were more terrifying than the SS.
iiiiA vestry is the elected lay leaders of an Anglican parish. They function as a working leadership group, and legally as the directors of the parish's corporation.


Christal said...

Hi Dad, this is very well-written. We all grieve for loved ones lost on Kristallnacht. All we can do is decide today how we will live. The stats you quoted regarding those who did not cast a vote is apalling. I think this is my favorite post you've written this year.

JimB said...


Glad you liked it. I bask in the complement!


Anonymous said...

the author of Joshua has much in common with the NASDAP. he endorsed killing women children and noncombatants. I am wary of any reading of the text that does not acknowledge it as a manifesto of genocide. Modern people looking for lessons from Kristallnacht should hopefully become disgusted with the book of Joshua and its contents

JimB said...

I will concede that Joshua is a problem book for modern readers. Why then is it in the Hebrew Bible as Christians render it, and the Midrash?

I think the ancient Hebrews did some fairly common then but even then repugnant violence on their way to the conquest of their land of milk and honey.


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