This past week, I spoke in chapel. As usual, it was a nerve-wracking experience. Why? First, I am a Jew and a former Christian speaking in a Christian Lutheran chapel under the shadow of the cross. I have about 8-10 minutes to say something worthwhile. And, I feel like the insider/outsider stranger speaking.
I spoke about faith being a problematic and unsure endeavor. Faith means trusting in an invisible mysterious unpredictable being with an inconsistent record. It means trusting without knowing for sure, with the distinct possibility of being wrong. As much as I believe there is something going on, that there is meaning and a God behind all that is happening, I could just as easily be deluded.
After the Holocaust, how God is present in the world is problematic and we ought to be honest about it. Acting like nothing has happened and we can just turn the page and go on doing what was always done is problematic, a betrayal of the victims, and terribly unjust.
So, chapel is a troubled and anxious space for me. But I appreciate the honor of being asked, and the willingness of students and faculty to listen.
As always, I bolted out the side door right after the service, because I feel like an intruder into somebody else’s faith tradition and need to exit quickly.
So, why do it? Why speak in chapel if it produces so much anxiety? Because after all that has happened between Jews and Christians, between me and the Christian Church, after the Holocaust, it is important to have one Jew, maybe the only one ever in this place, to speak up with all due respect, and say again the ever important Jewish no and yes.