Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Walter Kaufmann: The Faith of a Heretic

From Kaufmann in Harper's Magazine, February 1959.
In an essay published in Germany in 1939--or rather in a book seized barely before publication by the Gestapo and destroyed except for about half-a-dozen copies--Leo Baeck, probably the, greatest rabbi of our time, said something profoundly relevant:
A good deal of church history is the history of all the things which neither hurt nor encroached upon this piety, all the outrages and all the baseness which this piety was able to tolerate with an assured and undisturbed soul and an untroubled faith. And a spirit is characterized not only by what it does but, no less, by what it permits. . . . The Christian religion, very much including Protestantism, has been able to maintain silence about so much that it is difficult to say what has been more pernicious in the course of time, the intolerance which committed the wrongs or the indifference which beheld them imperturbed.
This thought may diminish even one's affection for St. Francis, but not one's admiration for the prophets.
...in the course of time.

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