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1.27.2005    |    Never Forget
On the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp: To any who think they have pat answers for evils such as the Holocaust, I commend this powerful statement in today's New York Times. It is titled "Always, Darkness Visible", by Aharon Appelfeld, an Auschwitz survivor. Some excerpts:
In the penal colony of Auschwitz, the Jew was not condemned because of his old or new beliefs, but because of the blood that flowed in his veins. In the Holocaust, biology determined a person's fate. In the Middle Ages, the Jew was killed for his beliefs. A Jew who chose to convert to Christianity or Islam was saved from his suffering. In the Holocaust, there was no choice. Observant Jews, liberal Jews, communist Jews and Jews who were sure they weren't Jews were crammed into the ghettos and camps. Their one and only offense: the Jewish blood in their veins...

Some entered hell as pious people and came out of it just as pious. That position deserves respect. But most survivors - myself, and especially the young - were outside the realm of faith, and from the first stages of the liberation, we were engaged with the question of how to go on living a life with meaning. The temptation to forget and be forgotten and to assimilate back into normal life lurked for every survivor. We can barely grasp and internalize the death of one child. How can we grasp the death of millions?...

God did not reveal himself in Auschwitz or in other camps. The survivors came out of hell wounded and humiliated. They were betrayed by the neighbors among whom they and their forefathers had lived. They were betrayed by Western culture, by the Germans, by the language and literature they admired so much. They were betrayed by the great beliefs: liberalism and progress. They were betrayed by their own bodies.

What to hold onto to live a meaningful life? It was clear to many that the denial of one's Judaism, which characterized the emancipated Jew, was no longer possible. After the Holocaust it was immoral.
So, both the faithful and the atheist may ask, "Where was God?" Faith clearly did not save the faithful. And, in the author's words of truth, the secularists among the victims "were betrayed by the great beliefs: liberalism and progress."

The Holocaust stands uniquely in the history of the so-called civilized West because it chose blood as its killing metaphor. You have one or more Jewish grandparent? You are Jewish. Doesn't matter if you were a believing Christian, Hindu, or atheist. As Mr. Appelfeld states, this was a (relatively) new approach to antisemitism. Relatively; it had some antecedants in the Spanish Inquisition, when bloodlines became a consideration, and it was not sufficient to merely have been a converso.

My point is straightforward: the world is the province of the Devil. Whether one believes in a literal person, Satan, or in the evil nature of men (my belief), God was most assuredly in the picture. He painted it, and our evil nature reflects God's greatest gift to us -- having been made in His image, with free will. No, God is not evil. One may not blame the Holocaust on God's presence, or absence.

We, depraved mankind, are the root cause. It is our fallen natures that resulted in the gas chambers and the ovens. So, when I write, "Never Forget", this is but a wan hope. Some of us will remember; I suspect that those who do will be those least likely to engage in such evils in the first place.

Mostly, the Holocaust has been forgotten, and, in certain areas of the world, even celebrated (at the same time many in that part of the world actively deny that it ever took place!). Not in any way to minimize the evils of the Holocaust, but mankind is always finding more efficient methods for killing our brothers. The Soviet gulags. The killing fields of Camobia under Pol Pot. The killings of millions of peasants and "intellectuals" under Chinese communist tyranny. The African near-genocides in Rwanda and Sudan. The list is virtually endless.

It's on us, that is, you and I, to rise above our fallen natures. The evidence is that it is not possible for most. The best any may hope for is to die to sin and be born again in Christ Jesus. For the rest, and until the end times when there will be an accounting, let us at least try to imagine how God would have us act towards our fellow man.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.