Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine has outraged many Jews and others for suggesting in her updated memoir that some Holocaust victims "were balancing their karma" and may have been paying for sins from a former life.
The comments made in "What If …," which was first published in 2013, are being assailed by one rabbi as a "terrible error," according to KCAL-TV
. MacLaine has long been known for her belief in reincarnation, the supernatural and UFOs, but her statements about Holocaust victims are some of her most controversial, said the television station.
MacLaine's updated memoir suggested that Holocaust victims might have been Roman soldiers who might have killed Christians or Crusaders.
"What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee," MacLaine wrote, according to London's Daily Mail.
MacLaine's Crusader comment foreshadowed President Barack Obama's comparison at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5 of atrocities committed by ISIS to those of Christians
"in the name of Christ."
"And lest we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Obama said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
"The first impressions are that these comments will offend and bemuse many Jews – and many other people, too," a spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which was established in the United Kingdom in 1994 to campaign against anti-Semitism, told the Daily Mail.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told KCAL-TV that MacLaine, sister of another Oscar winning actor in Warren Beatty, is mistaken in her understanding of karma and how it could justify the Holocaust.
"I think she made a terrible error," Cooper said. "I think she’s wrong. Whenever anyone comes forward with a sort of one-size-fits-all explanation about it, I think the alarm bells go off."
The Daily Mail wrote that MacLaine's book has previously raised eyebrows for suggesting that acclaimed cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from ALS, "'created the disease that has crippled him in order to learn to be dependent on caregivers and the kindness of strangers so that he could free his entire mind to the pursuit of knowledge."
MacLaine portrayed Lady Grantham's American mother in the popular "Downton Abbey," television drama on ITV there most recently.
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