There is a temptation in our culture to simply roll our eyes when a celebrity or politician says something outrageous. “Oh, there he goes again …” we might say. Or maybe we grimace at the controversy and look away, not wanting to give it any legitimacy or additional oxygen.
But there are times when we must look the ugliness square in the face and call it out for what it is. Our faith and our moral conscience demand it. This is one of those times.
Kanye West has made a series of statements that are dripping with vile, hateful antisemitism. His remarks are not some kind of throw-away comment that can easily be dismissed; they reveal a troubled soul desperately in need of help.
Equally troubling, however, was the scene that played out on a Los Angeles overpass where his supporters raised their arms in a Nazi salute and unfurled banners that said “Kanye is right about the Jews.”
No. No. No. Kanye is wrong about “the Jews.”
At another pivotal moment in our history that tested the soul of our nation, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., cautioned us that “the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” So let us be perfectly clear: there is no place in America, or within the vastness of God’s heart, for hatred of our Jewish neighbors.
We are living through a tense chapter fin America’s story, when antisemitism has reached a fever pitch. It is up to all of us – but especially our leaders and our cultural icons – to ensure that all of God’s children are valued and protected, and to never give shelter to bigotry and hatred.
A year ago this month, this Cathedral dedicated a carving of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and we vowed to help carry his legacy into the 21st Century. Wiesel warned us against the dangers of complacency and indifference, of thinking that anti-Semitism is only a problem for the Jewish people:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation,” he said. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Antisemitism is a problem for all of us. In moments like these, we side with our Jewish brothers and sisters. We side with compassion, not hatred. We side with open hearts, not arms raised in an ugly salute. We side with God, the lover and creator of all.
The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr.
Canon Missioner and Minister of Equity & Inclusion
Washington National Cathedral