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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

German Pastor Declares Himself an Anti-Semite


The Wiesenthal Center called for the pastor to be sacked after learning about the comments.

NEW YORK CITY— A pastor for the Lutheran Church in Bremen, Germany who boasted that he is an anti-Semite has prompted the Simon Wiesenthal Center to call for his dismissal.

The pastor, Volker Keller, who is a member of the Bremen city government council responsible for the integration of Muslims for the northern German city, sent an email to this Jerusalem Post correspondent, announcing his embrace of anti-Semitism.

He wrote: “Yesterday evening the anti-Semite Arn Strohmeyer delivered a lecture to me…Best wishes to Israel, Yours truly, Volker Keller, Antisemite.”

The trigger for Keller’s email appears to be a series of Jerusalem Post exposes on Strohmeyer’s alleged modern anti-Semitic views and the city of Bremen’s public funding for, according to critics, hate-mongering events in the Citizens’ House Weserterrassen targeting the Jewish state.

Volker Keller refused to answer multiple Post queries. Renke Brahms, the executive cleric for the Bremen Protestant Church, wrote to the Post by email that the church ”distances itself from every form of anti-Semitism and clearly supports the existence of Israel…

Pastor Keller sent a ‘sarcastic email’ and wanted to express that he is not an anti-Semite and feels wrongly defamed. The choice of this form was an extraordinary misunderstanding and is from our perspective, as well as Mr. Keller’s, a completely inappropriate reaction. We have made this clear to Mr. Keller that in his function he is not allowed to write such emails.”

Forgive me for being skeptical but why can't we see Pr. Keller say that?

Not 100% sure, but I think this is Pastor Keller's church
It is unclear why Keller feels defamed. Keller, who used his business church email to send his embrace of Jew-hatred note, co-founded an NGO called “Nord-Bremer Citizens against War.”

According to a Friday article in Die Taz daily in Bremen, the activists from Keller’s group participated in demonstrations in front of supermarkets in 2011 calling for the boycott of Israeli products. Strohmeyer, the obscure anti-Israel writer, can be seen in a photograph at the gathering near protesters showing orange slices dripping with blood under the slogan "Boycott Israel’s fruit." Keller declined to say if he supports a boycott of Israeli products. 

Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the human rights NGO the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post by telephone: "This man [Mr. Keller] had no problem in communicating in an anti-Semitic way and should apologize personally for his quote. And short of hearing directly from him, we have no reason to believe that he doesn’t hold the views... he should be fired. This person with his state of mind should not have anything to do with integrating people in Germany’s democratic culture."

However, Cooper added that if Keller issues an apology to the parishioners of the church and the Jewish community for “expressing this non-Christian sentiment,” he should be allowed to retain his job.

Keller has refused to issue a public apology to the Jewish and Christian communities in Bremen. Brahms declined to respond to Cooper’s criticism.

Carsten Splitt, a spokesman for the EKD, an umbrella body for German Lutheran, Reformed and United churches, said he forwarded the Post queries to the former head of the EKD, Nikolaus Schneider, but Schneider said he did not wish to comment. Splitt added that Schneider “does not know Mr. Keller and it is a matter for the Bremen Church.”

Because of Keller’s role in the city administration, the anti-Semitism row has also raised eyebrows. Bremen is a main hub for anti-Israel hatred in Germany and a leader in boycott actions against Jewish products. Andre St├Ądler, a spokesman for Bremen’s Mayor Carsten Sieling, did not immediately respond to a Post query.

Last year, Schneider and the German Protestant establishment grappled with the classic religious  "anti-Semitism of the church’ founder Martin Luther."

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will take place in 2017.

“Luther’s view of Judaism and his invective against Jews contradict our understanding today of what it means to believe in one God who has revealed himself in Jesus, the Jew,” wrote the Church in a statement.

Brahms declined to answer Post queries about the continuity of religious anti-Semitism with the alleged contemporary anti-Semitism of Keller.

With the rhetoric that existed in the 15th and 16th centuries about Jews, it should not be too surprising that Luther was an anti-Semite. Not surprising, but disappointing and disquieting. I have come to believe that a true believer in Jesus Christ cannot be antisemitic but non-believers are often predisposed to it. Nevertheless, we all have blind-spots and I suspect this was one for Luther. I can only hope that he recanted that attitude late in life.

We can also hope that this is the case for Pastor Keller. It doesn't have to be, given the sorry state of the Christian Church in Germany, I suspect there are many Christian Churches in Germany with pastors who have no relationship with Jesus Christ whatsoever.

I once took a Lutheran woman, a German immigrant to Canada, to a Christmas play at my church. She was completely mystified by all the references to Jesus. She knew there was God, but, "who is this Jesus?", was exactly what she asked.