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DavidDvorkin's Journal
DavidDvorkin's Journal
March 24, 2023

Drumming for Jesus and Genocide

My mother was born in 1914 in a village in Lithuania. She emigrated to England as a teenager, in time to avoid the horrors that would be visited upon Lithuanian Jews not too many years later. Her mother and many other family members were not so lucky; they were still there in 1939 when World War Two began.

When the Nazis’ Endlösung der Judenfrage, Final Solution to the Jewish Question—i.e., the Holocaust—reached Lithuania along with the invading German troops, the locals, told by the Germans that they were free to murder their Jewish neighbors, responded with such enthusiasm that even some of the German officers were disturbed. To the locals, this wasn’t something new, and they had never needed anyone’s permission to slaughter Jews. Jews had lived in terror there for centuries.

Lithuanians, at least in those days, practiced the tradition of Easter drumming—loud, round–the–clock drumming from Easter Friday to Easter Sunday, to commemorate the Crucifixion and (or so my mother was told) to help awaken Jesus on the third day. By itself, this sounds simply annoying and silly. However, during those long hours, the local Christians, filled with grief for their dear Lord and anger against those they blamed for killing him, worked themselves into an even greater frenzy of antisemitism than usual. Sometimes, they acted on their fury. The Jews huddled in their houses, terrified, hoping that this Easter would pass without an outbreak of mass murder. Any Jew unfortunate enough to be caught outside had a good chance of meeting a violent death. My mother always remembered the ominous drums and the long weekend of fear.

I think about this every year when, even in this supposedly civilized and enlightened country, people post “He is risen!” on social media. I imagine the drums and the seething atmosphere of hatred and violence. To me, it’s all one and the same: Christianity equals murder.

“Oh, no!” some Christians will protest, resorting immediately to their own version of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. “Those weren’t real Christians! Jesus preached love. Also, Hitler was an atheist, so there.”

No, Hitler was a Christian, and his life, far more than that of the mythical Jesus, shows us what Christianity has really been throughout its long and evil history. Of course there are good Christians, many of them extraordinarily good, but that is only to say that there are good people, many of them extraordinarily good, who are also Christians. They are good despite being Christians, not because of it.

Almost from its beginning, the church preached—indeed, commanded—murder: murder of pagans, murder of Christians of the wrong flavor, but most especially murder of Jews. Christians have always been happy to do as the church commanded, at least when it comes to murder. To be fair, calumnies against Jews and mass murder of Jews predate Christianity, but the church raised both to a new level and spread them throughout the world. The church also added a vicious twist to Jew hatred. It told the faithful that by hating and killing Jews, they were avenging the death of their Savior; they were being good Christians.

But what about all those sweet, goopy things the fictional character named Jesus is supposed to have said? Isn’t that the true nature of Christianity? No, the true nature of Christianity is what the great mass of Christians have been doing for thousands of years, which very much includes hating and murdering Jews. Words, however pretty, don’t matter at all when they are ignored. Words are nothing. Deeds are what count.

Those deeds, the centuries of ostracizing and killing, culminated in the Holocaust, the greatest pogrom of all, one carried out with twentieth–century technology and organized with German efficiency but also participated in by vast numbers of non–Germans using whatever tools, modern or primitive, they could find. We think of the Holocaust as something uniquely evil and apart from history, but that’s a mistake. It’s very much a part of history—European Christian history.

So it is that when billboards and social media posts proclaim “He is risen!” I see past the smug Christian moral posturing and self–congratulatory back–patting, the arrogance and sense of superiority posing as humility. I think of those bloody centuries and hear the primitive drumming and sense the bloodlust that is the foundation of it all.

Profile Information

Name: David Dvorkin
Gender: Male
Current location: Denver, Colorado
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 19,473

About DavidDvorkin

Former aerospace engineer, software developer, and technical writer. Longtime novelist. Now retired from the first three and writing novels full time.
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