Stepping Outside into the Storm
Updated: Nov 14
As a child, I remember reading stories about the Underground Railroad and imagining what it would have been like to help enslaved people find freedom, wondering where the secret hiding place would have been located on our property. What would it have felt like to light the lamp on our family’s porch, signaling safety and assistance to those searching for freedom.
I remember being in Sunday School, listening to the harrowing stories of brave Christians of all ages who laid down their lives for Jesus. Some faced the lions in the Roman colosseum and others were confronted by the cronies of 20th century fascist regimes. I committed in my little heart to never deny Jesus, even if I were threatened by the barrel of a machine gun or a prison sentence. I knew I needed to make the decision before the persecution became my reality so I wouldn't waver when the time came.
When I got a little older, I remember studying the Holocaust in 7th grade in Mr. Thompson's class, reading The Diary of Anne Frank, and contemplating how Anne was my age when she scribed her daily experiences of hiding in an attic. I remember watching a grainy, black and white film in class that showed the surreal image of an earth-mover dumping boney, malnourished Jewish bodies into a pit. I grappled with the horror of the gas chambers and mass graves for not just a few, but millions. How could one’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality make you fodder for an oven? It all seemed so far away, images relegated to a time "long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away."
As a teenager, I discovered Corrie Ten Boom’s powerful story as told in The Hiding Place. I was moved by the Dutch resistance secretly working against the Nazis and the ten Boom family’s bold decision to hide Jewish folks in their home. Sadly, also reading how this decision ended up costing most of her family their lives. I remember feeling again like I wanted to be someone who would fight for justice on behalf of others, hoping I would have the courage when the time came.
Excerpt from Anne Frank's diary for the date October 10, 1942: "This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But now I am afraid I usually look quite different." Amsterdam, the Netherlands. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/gallery/anne-frank-photographs
In 2015, I had the honor of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I walked through the building so slowly, riveted by every story and making sure I studied every face and and read every name of those whose stories were brought to life on its exquisitely curated walls. I wanted to honor those resistance fighters who laid down their lives so others could live. Then, walking outside and beholding the grove of trees that honor the righteous Gentiles who stood up for the Jewish people at key moments in history (called The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations). At that moment on that sunny afternoon in Israel, the only honor I could give was my time and rapt attention, so that is what I gave.
I had this thought, walking upon the museum grounds, "If I ever got a tattoo, I'd get a Jewish star, to forever connect my heart and life to this people. 'Never again!' I will do my part to make sure this extermination never happens again."
As I’ve gotten older and perhaps a bit more weathered and aware of the flaws in my own soul, I’ve sometimes wondered if I would have made the righteous decision in 1855 or 70 A.D. or 1941. Would I have acted with compassion and courage in the face of evil? Or, would I have caved to the pressures of society, found comfort in my status quo life, distracting myself with whatever the "Netflix" of the day was, choosing the safety of anonymity, quietly trying to ride out the storm.
Well, my friends, the tempest of anti-semitism is raging, and not just in a land divinely located between a river and a sea, but on university campuses and on the streets of our cities. Protests are one thing. I serve in a non-profit that leads protests. People have a right to voice their concerns and speak their minds. The right to freely gather and to free speech, even speech with which I vehemently disagree, is protected under our U.S. Constitution's 1st Amendment. But protests whose soundtrack devolves into a type of chanting that vocalizes a hunger for genocide is something else entirely. "Protests" that cause our Jewish brothers and sisters to lock themselves into a library at The Cooper Union because they fear for their own safety. My friends, this should not be.
The winds are howling so loudly that I cannot ignore the cacophony any longer. So, I'm stepping outside into the deluge of rain and gusts of wind to make my voice heard. I will not be quiet. The One who created the Heavens and the Earth has given me the authority through the blood of His Son to speak truth to this storm. My goal is not to shout above the storm, but to quench it. Peacemaking is my mandate and His Word, spoken in humility and love, is my brandished weapon. His joy is my strength. The gospel of peace shods my feet. His salvation guards my mind, His righteousness, my torso. His faith, my shield. And His truth, securely fastened around my waist, keeps everything else in place.
I will not choose comfort over Truth or bow to social favor over righteousness. The time is now. If we don’t stand up, who will? If we don't say, "Peace, be still," who can?
Will you join me?
Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.
If you’re looking for simple ways to stand against anti-Semitism, here are some ideas:
Pray for Jews around the world, the nation of Israel, and for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122, Isaiah 62). Pray against the ancient principalities, powers, and dark forces who are fanning the flames of anti-semitism on college campuses and in cities around the globe (we war not against flesh and blood). Pray for the Israel-Hamas war to not expand into WW3 and for it to come quickly to an end with as little loss of life as possible for both Jews and Palestinians.
Reach out to Jewish friends, neighbors, and synagogues. Let them know you care for them. Ask if there’s anything you can do for them during this time.
Show up to prayer gatherings and/or public actions that support the Jewish people.
If you hear an anti-Semitic remark or joke, speak up.
Sign this Statement of Support from STL for Israel. It addresses some of the complexities of the current situation in Israel and Palestine. You don’t have to be a St. Louisan to sign it.
Please note: To stand against anti-semitism does not mean I stand against any other people group, whether that is ethnic or religious. I denounce racism in all its wicked manifestations. One can and should love both Jews and Palestinians (and Iranians and Russians and Americans...) through word, action, and prayer. Jesus has shown us how and He is our model. One day soon, every tribe, tongue and nation will be gathered before the Throne in perfect oneness, voices raised in glorious praise to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb (Rev. 7). I long for that day. Until then, we have work to do.
Jews and Gentiles standing together at STL for Israel prayer gathering on Oct. 22 in St. Louis, Missouri.