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Never Forget vs. Never Offend

American philosopher George Santayana once observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

If you have ever taken a trip to Israel, you know that the Jewish people take this adage seriously.

In fact, one of the must see sites in any tour of Jerusalem is Yad Vashem – the museum complex dedicated to preserving the memory of those who lost their lives in Hitler’s Holocaust.

“And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a “yad vashem”)… that shall not be cut off.”

(Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5)

As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.

The murder of 6 million of their people has inspired a slogan in Israel – “Never forget!”

But, shocking as it may seem, there are those who would prefer that the world forget.

And no, we are not talking about crackpot Neo-Nazis out for a fun day of disturbing the peace in Skokie, Illinois.

You see, we live in a day of political correctness.

And as such, there are those who devote their every waking moment to the goal of making sure that each and every day the delicate sensibilities of selected pressure groups are not offended.

And if avoiding offense is the ultimate goal, well, certain things must be sacrificed along the way to achieve it.

Consider what has now been placed on the academic chopping block in Great Britain.

No lessons on the Holocaust

Freed prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland after the Second World War

Ignored by schools: freed prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp

Schools are dropping controversial subjects from history lessons – such as the Holocaust and the Crusades – because teachers do not want to cause offence, Government research has discovered.
Some teachers dropped the Holocaust completely from lessons because of fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-semitic reactions. One school avoided teaching the Crusades because its “balanced” handling of the topic would directly contradict what was taught in local mosques.

The report, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, said: “Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned.

“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes.

“In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship.”

The researchers gave the example of one history department in a secondary school in a northern city which decided not to teach the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting “anti-semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils”. Christian parents at another school complained about the way the Arab-Israeli conflict was taught.

“In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-semitic sentiment among some pupils, but the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (for 11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have directly challenged what was taught in some local mosques.”

The study said too many teachers “play safe”.

Personally, I find it ironic that educators are so concerned with offending sensibilities, especially on subjects that touch on spiritual themes.

When I was in college, one of the first lectures that greeted me was in a Psych 101 class where the professor announced, “If you are one of those born again Christian types, you might as well transfer out of here because I hate you people.”

But I soon learned an important aspect of the academic culture.

There was an amazing intolerance for Christianity in the class room.

But there was also an equally amazing tolerance of any other spiritual perspective but Christianity in the class room.

If you believed in worshiping citrus fruit, or that the key to eternal life was a personal relationship with Cosmic Muffin, that was considered deep and sacred.

Let slip that you believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and be prepared to be greeted with rolling eyes, disapproving sighs, an obscenity laden lecture from the campus Marxist and a general consensus that whoever let a Philistine like you into this fine institution should be sent to a re-education camp.


Because Jesus, taken seriously, is offensive.

That is, if you believe that all religious rivers flow to the same ocean.

Or that truth is merely a matter of perspective.

Or that morality is what feels good and best to you at a particular moment.

Or that Jesus is just one of many equally valid religious teachers.

As Jesus Himself put it:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:22)

Former ABC anchorman Ted Koppel was once quoted as saying, “Truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai aren’t the 10 Suggestions.”

But if your goal is to avoid offending anyone, at any cost, truth is the first casualty.

And so these days we face a challenge and a choice.

Do we follow the lead of the British educational system and cry out, “Never offend!”?

Or do we take a walk through the solemn halls of Yad Vashem and cry out, “Never forget!”?

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