First off: our Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip was incredible–it was a beautiful week of service and living Gospel cornerstones, growing in Christian community, and getting back to what really matters in life. I’m looking forward to reflecting on this trip and sharing our many, many pictures and videos, but first it is necessary to address an issue on campus:
After finishing up a meal with a student on Tuesday morning, I put my dirty dishes in the dish drop and turned around to find this poster. Welcome back to campus, indeed. It was a startling find, and one that has led to many emails, phone calls, and conversations ever since. The actual event was well-attended, and a true work of scholarship. However, if there’s one thing we can take from Dr. Heschel’s lecture, it is that words matter. It matters that they’re said in the first place, and it matters that they have a rippling effect across time and cultures. I look forward to a continued dialogue with the greater campus community on the issue of the words in this poster. In the meantime, here is a follow up email that was sent out yesterday:
To put it simply: the event was a best-case scenario. The desire that I stated in my prior email that Ms. Heschel would present a well-reasoned work of scholarship was met and exceeded. However, while I am glad for the high academic integrity with which Ms. Heschel presented her work, I feel that this fact only serves to put the title and advertising of the event into an even harsher perspective. To take such an obviously difficult topic of study and cheapen it with offensive insinuations is not only hurtful to the greater Christian community–who should very well know about this dark era of world history–but it takes the emphasis off of Ms. Heschel’s true thesis and onto scandal. The title on the posters had little to do with the actual point of the lecture, adding academic insult to spiritual injury.
I must also note that while Ms. Heschel ended her lecture by stating that she believes the work of the Nazi “theologians” to be a gross distortion of Christianity, she did not seem to be as well informed about Christian efforts against the Nazis–including the public statements against anti-Semitism made by German bishops as early as 1931, papal encyclicals in 1937 and 1939 against Nazi racism, the efforts of members of the German Confessing Church to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the forging of hundreds of thousands of baptismal certificates at Pope Pius XII’s command so that Jews could move to safety, and the multiple documents condemning anti-Semitism, the Shoah, and the anti-Semitic interpretations of the New Testament that these “theologians” taught.
In the past few days, I have entered into a number of encouraging dialogues with members of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, with the campus Diversity and Multiculturalism Office, and with several other faculty and staff of the college. I look forward to this being an opportunity for continued and open dialogue about religion and religion-centered language on the Keene State campus. If you or anyone you know would like to be involved in any ongoing dialogue, please let me know.
In closing, I would like to take a moment to recall the instruction of Blessed Pope John Paul II in his “Jubilee Apology”, that all Christians of good will take a moment to examine their conscience, consider the actions and inactions of our brother and sister Christians through time, and humbly repent and reconcile for “all those times in history when Christians departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel”. The Shoah was a horrible, horrible event that far too many Christians stood by and let happen. I remember–and I encourage all my brothers and sisters in Christ to remember as well–so that such a tragedy should never again befall the Jewish community or the world.
Campus Minister and Director
The Newman Center, Keene