LEST we Forget
Rev. Jane Page
April 15, 2007
LEST we Forget …. But how could we! There’s too much evidence. And yet – just this year, we’ve had reminders a plenty that not only is anti-semitism alive and well, but also downright denial of history by supposed scholars at “academic” conferences.
Last summer, actor and producer Mel Gibson was in the spotlight after his drunken tirade. You know – sometimes I think we pay too much attention to celebrities and their comments, etc. BUT – just as the despicable IMUS remarks have opened up a conversation that needed to happen in America this week, so did Gibson’s drunken anti-semitic tirade last summer. Now of course, Gibson, like many others “caught” in bad behavior, blamed his addiction and indicated that of course, he did not really harbor these feelings. But additional exploration of various statements he has made support that he might as well admit to being among the growing numbers who actually deny that the Holocaust happened – or at least that it happened on the scale that it did. Most of these folks use slick language as they discuss their views with the media – as did Gibson.
Listen to these remarks given to a reporter when she asked Gibson to go on the record and confirm that the Holocaust did actually happen. Gibson said:
“I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.”
His – “war is horrible” – explanation did not really answer her question. In another interview, he questioned that numbers that are generally reported as “a numbers game.”
So what – that’s just one person whose dad is openly anti-semitic and who says his dad never lied to him. But people do listen to folks like Mel Gibson. And some are just waiting for some encouragement to hate.
His movie, The Passion – provided a lot of that encouragement – although he did concede to take out scenes in which depicted Jewish leaders saying – “May his blood be on our hands.”
Then just this past December, we witnessed a gathering described in the media with these words:
The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust was a two-day conference that opened on December 11, 2006 in Tehran, Iran. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said the conference sought “neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust … [but] to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue.”
The attendees included the infamous David Duke, former congressman and presidential candidate as well as the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK. But it also included some ultra-orthodox rabbis which allowed the organizers to proclaim that they had included Jewish viewpoints as well.
I don’t need to share the counter-evidence with you folks sitting here today. You know it. And if you don’t, email me and I’ll share information that you can read which overwhelmingly validates that the goal of Hitler was to respond to “The Jewish Problem” by extermination of the Jewish population. And yes, there were other “undesirable” groups included on this hit list as well.
But there are those whose beliefs can cause them to totally disregard evidence. Just look at the efforts by many to have the teaching of evolution taken out of classrooms. And if we fail to take a stand for truth, many can be swept into aligning themselves on the side of hate – without even realizing that it’s happening. That’s what happened in Nazi Germany. Things were not going well. World War I was lost. The economy was not good. It must be someone’s fault. Folks who were generally good folks – didn’t need a whole lot of brainwashing to follow Hitler’s lead into blaming the Jews.
And it could happen again – and does happen.
For example, when I was doing my research for the sermon that I gave last week regarding resurrection stories – I came across some discussion about how Christian fundamentalists were very worked up over the Da Vinci Code and the following documentaries that have come out which include scholarly evidence (most of it done by Christian scholars) that question the Christian belief of the resurrection of Jesus. In one of the articles that I was reading, a frustrated believer said, — well it all comes out of Hollywood. And you know that most of the Hollywood producers are Jewish.
So anti-semitism is alive and well. And we must stand up against it.
Similarly and sadly, ethnic clensing is also very much still with us.
More than 2.5 million people in the Darfur region of western Sudan have been displaced from their homes and now live in abject poverty – with an average of 500 a day dying from violence, malnutrition and disease. They are all victims of ethnic cleansing, being undertaken with the support and approval of the Sudanese government, while the world watches.
Last year our Unitarian Universalist President Bill Sinkford was arrested. So was Rabbi Steve Gutow who is the executive director of the Jewish Council for public affairs. Now usually when clergy are arrested these days, it’s connected to such issues as embezzlement or child abuse – not things we can be proud of. But I think we can be proud of our leaders for getting arrested last year. Both of them were arrested while protesting in front of the Sudan Embassy in Washington, DC. Their actions may have been, in the Rabbi’s words, “ a little political theater designed to garner attention,” but it also serves to remind us that fighting for justice in Sudan is a responsibility of all of us. And, although there are no easy answers, we know from history what happens when the world shrugs its shoulders.
Unitarian Universalists have some high sounding principles that are listed on the back of your programs. We say that we covenant to affirm and promote such things as – -the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equjity, and caompassion in human relations; the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice, for all; and respect of the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Indeed we ARE part of a world community. The stock market in Japan has a definite effect on Wall Street. To exist – we must learn to co-exist. And to do that, we will need to diligently stand up for our principles – to stand up for love!
But we cannot do it in our own separate religious circles. Just as Bill Sinkford and Rabbi Steve Gutow stood with clergy from many faiths outside that Sudanese embassy – we need to stand together for righteousness. As Transylvanian Unitarian Francis David once said, “We do not have to believe alike, to love alike.”
And if we do work together, we can build a world like that prophesied by Isaiah and Amos. A world where we bind up the broken, where captives go free, where the oil of gladness dissolves all mourning; where we bring the good tidings to all the afflicted and all those who mourn, where we give garlands instead of ashes, a world where justice shall roll down like waters and peace like an everflowing stream
Oh – May it Be So!