David P. Gushee, "Learning from the Christian Rescuers: Lessons for the Churches," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 548 (November 1996): The Holocaust: Remembering for the Future, pp. 138-155

Abstract by Jerry Darring


The study of rescuers is the study of a tiny minority. About one in five rescuers cites religious motivations as one of the reasons why they rescued Jews, and they provide us with eight lessons that might help the churches improve the quality of their moral practice.

1) We need to free Christian faith of antisemitism, and more than that, we should foster a positive appreciation and love for Judaism. 2) We should rediscover the centrality of character in the genesis of human behavior, and emphasize character formation rather than decision making. We should also promote social or public virtues such as tenderheartedness and mercifulness, justice and fairness, courage and fortitude, and love for the stranger and the persecuted. 3) We must seek to nurture morally fruitful Christian communities that would be ready at all times to act on behalf of the victimized, the powerless, the hungry, the homeless, and the stranger. 4) We must promote a piety that does justice, one that begins with a faith characterized by compassion and an orientation to others' needs. 5) We must recover the constructive moral power of the Bible, especially since the Bible has been misused so often to serve morally destructive purposes. The central biblical teachings enjoining compassion and love for all people, including the stranger, must return to the forefront of Christian preaching and teaching. 6) We must nurture serious Christian theological conviction without simultaneously encouraging intolerance, especially religious intolerance. 7) We must shape an appropriate Christian patriotism which does not lead towards polarization. 8) We must identify and train competent Christian moral leaders, men and women who are prepared to suffer and die in the service of Christian moral fidelity.

"What is required of the churches after the Holocaust is neither the mass production of just any kind of Christian and Christianity nor the stripping down and abandonment of Christian faith altogether. Instead, it is the production and reproduction of a quality of Christian person and Christian faith that is both true to the Founder and morally constructive in a world such as this" (154-155).