Shared by Dr. Jon Pahl, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
An Open Letter from Jewish and Christian Leaders on the Occasion of the Celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah
In the light that shines into our world through the events of Hanukkah and Christmas, we, Jewish and Christian colleagues, take this opportunity to express a word of caution and a word of hope.
As members of the Jewish and Christian communities we express our opposition to those post-election tendencies that appear to promote extreme nationalism, ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism and the demeaning of women and of gay, lesbian and transgendered people. We reject these attitudes that contradict not only the values upon which this country was founded but the basic tenets of our faith.
We are united in resisting the idolatry of empire as that resistance is powerfully expressed in the events of Hanukkah, recalling the Maccabean resistance to the totalitarian demands of the state in the second century BCE. We recall the complicity and silence of many Christians during the 1930s in Germany as ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism fueled the Holocaust, and we recall the centuries of anti-Semitism leading to it. Those among us who are Christians pledge ourselves never to repeat such complicity and silence, and we claim the heritage of Bonhoeffer and others who resisted fascism at that time.
Those of us who are Jews realize that our vow to “never again” allow what happened to us in the Holocaust happen again, now fear that the forces of hatred emerging in Western countries against Muslims have the potential to lead in a similarly disastrous direction.
We stand firmly with our Muslim sisters and brothers who have felt the lash of prejudice and discrimination in this country. We will not accept attempts to bypass the Constitution by imposing religious tests on immigrants.
We call on our fellow citizens to stand up against every attempt to erode the institutions of democracy, the press, religion, labor unions, political parties, the judicial system and the rule of law itself. Having made significant gains in efforts to protect the endangered environment, we will vigorously protest moves to withdraw from the international climate treaty, to weaken regulations on carbon emissions and undermine the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Even if the majority of our fellow citizens join the chorus claiming the moral supremacy of America, we will not. Should laws be passed calling for limiting the rights of the Muslim community, we will oppose this. Should Muslims be required to register, we will register as Muslims.
Should the Government move to deport eleven million undocumented aliens from the United States, we will resist.
It is our hope that the leaders of our country will make decisions designed to enhance the wellbeing, not only of our country, but of all of God’s creation. We call upon our leaders to be role models by embodying in their lives and in their speech the values of civility, reason, decency, inclusivity and compassion.
As Jews light the menorah of Hanukkah during the Festival of Lights, recalling their resistance to empire, and as Christians light the candles of Christmas season to celebrate the birth of Jesus who continued Isaiah’s message of “liberation of the oppressed,” we rededicate ourselves to working with each other and with all people of good will to shine a revealing light on oppression, violence and marginalization, and a guiding light that brings hope.