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October 31, 2016 11:09 pm

500th Anniversary of Reformation Would be ‘Perfect Time’ for Protestants to Apologize for Luther’s Antisemitism, US Jewish Official Says

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A portrait of Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestant Reformation.

A portrait of Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestant Reformation. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation would be the “perfect time” for Protestant leaders to recognize and apologize for the “horrific antisemitism” of their movement’s founder Martin Luther, an official with a leading US-based Jewish human rights organization told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper — associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles — spoke with The Algemeiner the same day Pope Francis visited a Lutheran cathedral in Sweden in a show of inter-Christian unity at the start of year-long festivities marking the anniversary of when Luther famously posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

“It would be appropriate, especially when antisemitism is so rife in Europe for Protestant leaders and groups, like the World Council of Churches, to directly address the issue [of Luther’s antisemitism] in the overall context of what they’re celebrating in terms of this anniversary,” Cooper said.

Luther’s loathing of Jews, Cooper went on to say, “is a theological hatred that still reverberates among some people today.”

In an interview with The Algemeiner on Monday, David Michaels — B’nai B’rith International’s director of UN and Intercommunal Affairs — said, “A number of individual Lutheran church bodies and figures have taken steps over the years to acknowledge, grapple with and repudiate the antisemitism that Luther ultimately promoted. This vile and violent antisemitism — targeting both Jews and Judaism — was both an outgrowth of and a significant contribution to Christian anti-Jewish animus, especially in Europe, where its influence was still felt in the implementation of the Holocaust. However, its motifs, like a virus, have spread even beyond — they can be found in much of the Middle East today, in 2016, directed against Israel but also Jews generally. This reality requires committed Lutherans and other Christians to ensure that there is fitting recognition and rejection of Luther’s hateful beliefs about Jews, wherever these persist.”

Many Lutherans, Michaels noted, “are entirely unaware of the dark side to Luther’s theology, and of the need to vigilantly confront it.”

“It is so important, then, that all Lutheran bodies and figures of influence shine a light on the sin of antisemitism, both historic and contemporary — whether by educating clergy about its incompatibility with genuine faith, sermonizing against it or recognizing it even during events surrounding the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation,” he continued.

The biggest modern-day challenge, Michaels said, is identifying antisemitism “when this form of bigotry has taken new shapes — primarily the demonizing and delegitimizing of ‘Zionists’ and the world’s only Jewish state. While the Arab-Israeli conflict is complex and tragic, sadly even the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which has made positive past contributions to healing relations with Jews, adopted this year a simplistically condemnatory assessment of Israel and showed disinterest in Israeli Jews’ need and right to protect themselves against those driven by a viciously extremist ideology.”

Regarding the pope’s visit to Sweden on Monday, Michaels, said, “Engagement between Catholics and Lutherans is for those communities to manage. What is important is that all Christians, and all people of decency, never assume that antisemitism is merely a thing of the past — and always ensure that they have no part in tolerating it today.”

Cooper took the opportunity to call on the pope to condemn the recent UNESCO votes that “not only were an outrage against Jewish history, but also erased Christian history. We are very disappointed by his silence and we hope he will weigh in when it still counts.”

Last month, Christianity Today reported on calls that were being made to remove an antisemitic sculpture from the façade of a church in Wittenberg where Luther preached.

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  • Art Frank

    You’re a brain diseased Jew hating christian pieces of fecal matter. Crawl back under your rock, scumbag.

  • Bill Veris

    How many times have I heard Jews talk about anti Semitism? I mean do you people care about Arabs? Typical crocodile tear responses against legitimate concerns on my behalf. It’s impossibly ridiculous to be “pure evil” all the time and you pull all the heart strings and ignore what I said in my last reply. As I said last time, non Jews (like me) suffer as well. And now you are telling me personally where I ‘should’ and “shouldn’t be.” The more I bring up my concerns as a non Jew the more I realist you are anti Gentile — tested and proven like the duck analogy. Your comments reveal you to be a Gentile hater — can’t see there is a whole world outside Jewry. There are many people who are Gentile and we are proud of it! Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians and other Semites can be proud too. And talk about hatred against their Semitic nationalities just as much as you Jews do!
    Why can’t Lutheranism be left alone? Why should they apologize? I never see Jews do it, just as I see Jews like you who ignore my replies and ignore my plights as a non Jew. People like me would never have commented on this site if it wasn’t for a ridiculous apologetic demand! There are no anti Semites — but people filled with scorn over outrageous demands by a Jew and the right to respond harshly by it. Instead of demanding an apology, the smartest thing to do would be to address Martin Luther’s concerns and have an open and honest conversation. I’m ready to call you anti Gentile once again over this if you don’t like it. We have a right to fight back in conversation. Not being able to fight back in conversation against Jews is anti Gentile!

  • Bill Veris

    And that remark you gave, by the way is a diversion to wicked things it says about Gentiles in the Talmud. Is the diversion and admittance of guilt?

  • Bill Veris

    That’s a blood libel. And one has to ask why did Jews stay in Europe all those centuries? Why didn’t they go with there “more living cousins?” And why do Jews ask for money from America to fund Israel? And why are there still Jews living in Europe after all this time?

  • SteveC1

    Gven that we have “suffered” (to put it EXCEEDINGLY mildly) more than ANY other race or nationality in known history, yes – those who express feigned doubt of it will continue to receive all of the hatred and invective that they deserve and otherwise have coming to them. But it is NOT related in ANY way to their being of a different religion or “nationality,” as you put it – it is related ENTIRELY to their deluberate denial of factual world history as it pertains to Jews. PERIOD, end of story.

  • Nick Durrer

    It’s as usual and as it happen before. The chosen ones have not learned anything and like to end up in trouble again. And, of course they blame again somebody else for it. When will they ever emancipate out of that so that the rest of the world actually like to accommodate them without reservation? If they are chosen, they should also be more intelligent without having to take refuge in one way or another, and be able to show some leadership in many good things. There are actually a good number of them who are already like that and they never complain about anti-Semitism.

  • Bill Veris

    Jews have some nerve… Why was it ok for Martin to bash Catholics but not Jews? How come Jews don’t care about Catholics?

  • WeNeedPeaceNow

    Let’s talk modern no? How about jews apologize for hijacking the American people’s government and taking them into more wars for Israel?

  • Karel Dumont

    Will these people EVER stop whining?? I suppose that they thrive on it and that keeps them going. What a joke!

  • Primarius Krone

    Demanding apologies?

    You first, Jews!

  • Webb Trollstien

    Jews, the eternal victims. Never their fault that everyone dislikes them.

  • Art Frank

    Too late. The millions of christians today carry on the hatred that has been passed down by their forebearers who were brainwashed by the likes of luther as well as the criminal organization caled the roman catholic church. Many Jew hating quotes from the so-called apostles and degenerate popes were considered the truth by the great unwashed in europe. .

    • Bill Veris

      And what about the hatred of non Jews in the Talmud?

  • Bishadi

    How can people of today be held accountable for what happened before the birth of any a single here today? The article is as nutty as blaming Eve for sin.

    • Webb Trollstien

      It’s called getting jewed, it only makes sense to Jews. They are eternal victims after all.

  • sean

    Protestants should apologize? Being a non-catholic Christian does not make me responsible for ML. Should I demand all Jews apologize for communism? I don’t think so.

  • kurtstull

    I’ve been a believer in God ever since as a very young boy I asked my parents where I and they and everything else came from. I grew up in a Presbyterian church, and read the Bible for myself since I was a kid. The only reason I knew I was a Protestant was because all the kids in the neighborhood were Roman Catholic. Until I went to a certain Bible study as an adult, I never even heard about Luther, and I soon discovered that he was no great theologian. Luther never meant much at all to me, and for what it is worth, no man, man-made church/sect, or central authority ever meant anything to me, as I saw early on from reading the Scriptures that the Establishment’s ultimate priority is not to search and learn and know and love the truth, but to preserve itself and those in power, Christ be crucified. As far as I am concerned, Luther’s antisemitism showed him to be an idiot, or rather, someone whose low intellect is overruled by his ignorant and childish emotions. Disagree with me if you like, but I have no connection to him. My connection to God is through His word and His Spirit. I won’t be celebrating Luther on this anniversary, openly or in my heart. People who worship men are pathetic. But if any Christians would hear my voice, I would with great heaviness of soul tell them how tragic it is that through bad theology we have lost our brotherhood with our brethren the Jews, and I would gladly prove it to them from the New Testament, where you could also read it for yourselves if you cared to study it and search it out. You may be surprised to know that very very few Christians actually read the Bible with any diligence, or objectivity, or with their eyes wide open. I have much more hope for you, as you are generally more intelligent or intellectually driven, and more serious about your religion, although I do not know if that extends to reading and studying the Tanahk above all else. Oh well, I hope someday we will talk.

  • For the true hater of Jews, the anti-Semite, the 500 years anniversary, would be a perfect time for RENEWING the protestant anti-Semitism.
    I I watch what their activities in the USA, in the UK and the EU, then I know that I am right.
    In the past 2000 years Christians never missed an opportunity for expressing hatred against Jews: with defamation, demonization, pogroms and the Holocaust.
    The very same with the Islamic ideology: since 1400 years.

  • Biyn Christian

    Don’t ask them to apologize, an apology can be superficial – especially after 500 years! Words can be cheap. Ask them to support Israel and the Jews with articles that refute ignorance, antagonism,and the denial of Jewish roots in Israel. Evidence abounds! An example – ‘Ancient Muslim inscription proves Jewish ties to Temple Mount’ November 1, 2016

  • Kwitcherbellyakin

    The Turks will apologize to the Armenians before the Lutheran Church itself does. I doubt today’s active anti-Semitism would admit it is Church related. Even if, down deep, they know it is.

    • Bill Veris

      What race or nationality are you?

  • SteveC1

    “500th Anniversary of Reformation Would be ‘Perfect Time’ for Protestants to Apologize for Luther’s Antisemitism, US Jewish Official Says”

    – So would today. Or tomorrow. Or yesterday. Not likely to happen no matter when it is (or was) wished for.

    • Bill Veris

      Regard that comment as anti Gentile.

      • SteveC1

        So? Plenty of OTHER people have ideas just as bizarre as yours is. Protestants and Lutherans are NOT all gentiles…

        • Bill Veris

          It’s always about the Jews isn’t it? Jews go on about being a small minority etc so how could they control the West? Defending the indefensible. Nothing bizarre about anti Gentile hate.

  • watsa46

    Still about replacement theology!

  • Efram Paul

    Good luck with that. Some denominations will be glad to make such a statement. But many others, including the Lutherans, agree with that nefarious part of Luther’s character.

  • crinedel

    If Jews have to beg Christians to do the simple, right thing–and it is such a simple thing–then the outcome is meaningless. Well, worse than meaningless–it is phony and insincere. And Christians will think they have done their duty and are now free to condemn Jews, Judaism and Israel out of love.