LETTERS: Fettman’s message worthy of agreement and challenge

Thanks for the excellent coverage of the visit of Leo Fettman, Holocaust survivor. As Christians, we can better learn to follow the crucified Jew, Jesus, by appreciating the courage in suffering of contemporary Jews. We need to be reminded that anti-Semitism is unspeakably evil.

I write to consider two of Fettman’s main points, with which I agree and disagree.

One, Fettman called for mutual respect. One might call that tolerance. I agree with Fettman-and with the early Mennonites who were the first modern Christians to declare it-that using violence to force faith is a farce. We deplore coercion against any religious or ethnic group, regardless whether we agree with their views.

I agree with Fettman that mutual respect contributes to a better world.

Two, Fettman states that ignorance leads to prejudice. Again, I agree. Later, Fettman argues that Jews and Christians worship the same God but start in different directions. Again, I agree.

But I disagree with the inference that these differences are only matters of direction and that the destination is the same.

When he states, “If I were to tell you that the Jewish religion is the only one, I would be a liar,” he seems to argue that Judaism is one of several religions that are equally true.

Certainly many who read the Hebrew Bible find the confession that “The Lord is God, the Lord alone” (Deut 6:4) much more exclusive.

Not all religions will lead us to God. Some Jews, many Christians, and almost all Muslims agree. We believe differently and that difference is very significant.

Fettman seems to suggest that making value judgments about other religions is intolerant, prejudicial, and contrary to common human values. Actually, I would argue that forthright dialogue about our differences is a better way to show mutual respect.

As a Christian, my respect for Muslims and Jews demands that I try to convince them that Jesus is the only way to God. Here it seems that Fettman and I disagree. The way for me to convince others must never be with violence, but with life and deeds-and with words, when necessary.

As a first step to shared understanding, I hope I can convince Leo Fettman to agree.

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