Jesus at Auschwitz

Jesus at Auschwitz July 22, 2014

Dear Rabbi, What do you think of the new Jews for Jesus video about Jesus in Auschwitz?

I hadn’t seen this video or even heard about it until now, and ignoring it is probably the best thing we can do. But, I try to answer the questions that come to me, so here goes…

The video seems to make four points: (1) that Jesus is a Jew, (2) that had Jesus lived under Nazi occupation he would have been rounded up and sent to a death camp, (3) that at the death camp he would have been sent to the gas chambers, and (4) that somehow knowing this should make Jews believe in Jesus as our messiah. The first two ideas are true, the third is false, and the fourth makes no sense to me at all.

There is no question that Jesus was a Jew, and as such would have been rounded up by the Nazis and their willing collaborators. The Jesus who faces the Nazis in the video, however, is strong. He is carrying a heavy cross without any difficulty (clearly the filmmaker hasn’t read the Bible), and even helps a little boy who has fallen down to stand up. A Jew like this is too healthy for the Nazis to waste. Jesus would be sent to a slave labor camp, and killed only when he was no longer able to work.

The real problem I have with this video is theological: If I am going to believe in a personal God, I want one who will crush the Nazis rather than meekly march into the gas chambers.

If I were making this film, when the SS officer condemns Jesus to the gas chambers I would have the camera zoom in on Jesus’ face and have him show just a slight smile of contempt. Then, in a voice reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s 1971 Dirty Harry character, I would have Jesus say, “I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking, ‘is this Jew the same as all the other Jews?’ Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all the excitement. But being that I am the Son of God, the most powerful being in the universe, and will torture you in Hell for all eternity, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

I don’t want a God who dies on the cross at the hand of Rome or in the concentration camps at the hand of Nazi Germany. I want a supernatural Dirty Harry who slaughters the bad guys rather than gets slaughtered by them. Not counting the Book of Revelations where Jesus gets to do what his Dad does in the Hebrew Bible, the God of the New Testament is fairly ineffectual. The whole “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) thing is so not for me. If I’m going to believe in a Son of God, give me Thor rather than Jesus.

Of course I don’t believe in a personal God, let along one with kids, but as a Jew I still want the perfection of this world, and surrendering to the Nazis when you have the power to destroy them just doesn’t give me that. So if this video is supposed to make Jews want to become Christians I think it will fail.

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