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Pastor Whose Father Saved Hundreds of Jews Speaks Out About Outbreak of Antisemitism in America

Pastor Chris Edmonds lacks all the pretentiousness you’ve come to expect from Christian preachers with dramatic southern accents who seem to litter the news media in the most inappropriate of ways. The senior pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Maryville, Tenn., his biography tells you more about his love for his wife, children and “awesome” grandchildren than it does about his own professional accomplishments that include pastoral work with the Department of Defense and a project especially close to his heart, Roddie’s Code.

Pastor Chris is the son of Roddie Edmonds, the American master sergeant who stood up to his Nazi prison guards with the now-infamous words, “We are all Jews here.” It was a statement that saved the lives of 200 Jewish American servicemen and earned him the posthumous recognition of Righteous Among the Nations from Yad Vashem.

While he’s proud of his father’s recognition, Pastor Chris wants his father’s story to inspire others into everyday acts of righteousness. Recently we spoke about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in America and what it means to manifest Roddie’s Code in everyday life.

SG: "Never again" is a key theme within the Jewish world. To that end, many Jews devote time and resources to strengthening Holocaust education programs at the local, regional and national levels. What responsibility do Christians have to Holocaust education?

CE: We have a great responsibility to teach current and future generations. The lessons we learn about the evil and goodness of humanity during the horrors of the Holocaust are transforming.

As a Christian, I am very grateful to the many non-profits like Yad Vashem, The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, Facing History and Ourselves and many others who share powerful resources with schools and individuals across the world. And I am especially grateful for the thousands of public and private school teachers who faithfully lead students in Holocaust education. I recently spoke at my grandson's middle school and I was very moved by the interest of the students and the excellent instruction they received from their teachers. The students knew the truth and the truth was making a difference in their thinking and choices.

As a pastor, I hope our churches will do a better job of teaching the Holocaust. Great resources are readily available so it is simply a matter of training our teachers and making the time in our schedule.

SG: How can Christians effectively respond to the rising tide of antisemitism (bomb threats, increase in graffiti) here in America?

CE: We must speak up, stand up, and stand against it. There is a rising tide of prejudice, violence, and hatred toward our Jewish friends and it is horrible. We must stand strong with our Jewish brothers and sisters and Israel through our speech, influence, and actions. We must leave our comfort zones and go meet with our Jewish friends. We must get to know them and their families. We must ask them how we can help. We can learn where their cemeteries are located and visit them from time to time while keeping an eye out for vandalism. We can ask our law enforcement friends to do the same on their patrols. And we must tell the authorities if we hear about who may be involved.