Posted by: smstrouse | July 7, 2016

The Christ-Likeness of Elie Weisel

elie-wieselI don’t know what the person who wrote this comment after the article meant: “I do not agree with his religious beliefs, but he has certainly lived what he speaks about and that is how respect is earned.”

I’m not criticizing; he or she obviously has respect for Elie Wiesel. The commentator could be either a Christian disagreeing with Wiesel’s Judaism or an atheist in opposition to any expression of religion at all. I don’t know; it really doesn’t matter.

What got me thinking was how Wiesel transcended religious labels and calls us to a common humanity and a common wisdom. Many of the quotes I’ve been reading since his death last week have resonated with my own understanding of Christianity.

Now, don’t be alarmed. I’m not calling Elie Wiesel an “anonymous Christian” or somehow denigrating Judaism. What I’m saying is that in my understanding, Christ is bigger than the historical Jesus. In fact, we might even have other names for “it”: Buddha nature, the Tao, the Universe. So themes of grace, hope, suffering, resurrection, incarnation, light, love – which I find in abundance in my Christian tradition – can be found in others’ as well. Such as in these:

We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

People say occasionally that there must be light at the end of the tunnel, but I believe in those times there was light in the tunnel. The strange way there was courage in the ghetto, and there was hope, human hope, in the death camps. Simply an anonymous prisoner giving a piece of his bread to someone who was hungrier than he or she; a father shielding his child; a mother trying to hold back her tears so her children would not see her pain—that was courage.

I know and I speak from experience, that even in the midst of darkness, it is possible to create light and share warmth with one another; that even on the edge of the abyss, it is possible to dream exalted dreams of compassion; that it is possible to be free and strengthen the ideals of freedom, even within prison walls; that even in exile, friendship becomes an anchor.

I cannot cure everybody. I cannot help everybody. But to tell the lonely person that I am not far or different from that lonely person, that I am with him or her, that’s all I think we can do and we should do.

Every moment is a new beginning.

You don’t have to be a Christian to be Christ-like. Elie Wiesel embodied a wisdom for all of humanity.

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