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> After the evil review
Date: 20 October, 2003
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theological approaches to suffering from both religions are
assessed, but it becomes clear that there are no easy answers.'
The Bishop of Oxford's
book on post-Shoah Christianity and Judaism is a bracing and accessible
lesson on theology and the history of religion, says Charlotte Haines-Lyon
The Chagall painting of "White Crucifixion" on the cover,
and Harries' exposition, is worth the price of this book alone.
The French painter's depiction of the death of Christ, surrounded
by scenes of brutality against Jews, reminds us that the suffering
of Jews was also inflicted on the Christian God.
Harries starts with the Holocaust, or as he prefers to call it"the
Shoah", due to the offence cause by "Holocaust" meaning
a burnt offering.
The Shoah causes immense problems for Jews and Christians alike,
not least because of questions raised when so many people suffer
Different theological approaches to suffering from both religions
are assessed but it becomes clear that there are no easy answers,
although Rabbi Hugo Gryn comes closest by saying, "The question
in relation to Auschwitz is not where is God but where is man?"
As Harries catalogues the Christian pronouncements on Judaism over
the centuries - not least the heresy that Jews deserve suffering
because they are Christ killers - it becomes clear Gryn's question
is most pertinent.
Despite the Nazis shunning Christianity, their behaviour was underpinned
by Christian attitudes throughout history, that is to say that most
Christian teaching did not challenge persecution of the Jews.
And it is not just the anti-Semitism that caused problems but the
over emphasis "upon the duty of Christians to submit obediently
to the ruling powers." It is this legacy that the Bishop challenges
us to address.
If we can overcome the past (there is a fascinating chapter on the
rights and wrongs of forgiveness), then how are the two religions
to relate to each other today?
Harries argues: "Any religion worth its name will seek to have
a coherent and consistent view of the whole universe, including
the place of other religions within it."
Whilst addressing issues such as Israel, Jerusalem, evangelism and
the Messiah, Harries models the way forward; to listen and learn
from each other's religion, whilst maintaining our integrity.
It would have been useful to have more in-depth
analysis of the Israel/Palestine conflict, but this is not a political
book but a bracing, and accessible lesson on theology and history
Harries has provided an engaging and challenging book which is much
needed during this time of suspicion and anti-Semitism.
After the Evil: Christianity and Judaism
in the Shadow of the Holocaust, Richard Harries, Oxford University
Press £16.99 239pp