We see a Jewish mother providing her final “measure of devotion” to her daughter before the SS officer pulls the trigger and both fall into the common grave. Jews died, not because of anything they did but of who they were. If they were “guilty” of anything, it was because they were successful and rose to prominence in Germany, and so qualified to fill the role of “scapegoats” for a wicked regime.
How could such massive evil happen?
Evil is never far off, lying “at the door” so to speak, as God told Cain. But evil on such a grand scale is the culmination of a process that begins by granting power to others in relatively small and varied ways. Power is such that it seeks to grow and never of itself to recede or self correct. It tends towards evil and not good, for “goodness” inherently grants all men and women freedom to rule themselves, learn, and grow, and not be instrumentalities of others. Evil and power tend to rise and fall together.
Evil resists the personal freedom that derives from God’s gift of free will.
Free will at a minimum assures freedom to think and respond. Viktor Frankl observed in Auschwitz that no power on earth can deny us the freedom to respond to whatever comes against us. So while denying them life, not even the SS could deny the mother and child their dignity in dying, their hope, and love for each other. Evil takes much, but not everything. At a maximum, free will leads to freedom of speech, action, self rule, and growth. Free will does not go beyond this point. It does not offer freedom from the natural consequences of our actions, or death itself.
Freedom is a gift sometimes not appreciated and often squandered. “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom” wrote Tocqueville. We squander this gift and grant power to others when:
We choose to remain ignorant of the world about us; its threats, needs, and opportunities.
We refuse to influence for good the affairs of common interest; the transactions occurring “in all our gates” (a reference to Deut. 16:18)
We reject another gift from God namely, our natural wisdom or common sense, in favor of agendas by supposed “intelligentsia” hostile to natural law and blind to cause and effect.
We shun sacrifice, favor pleasure at the expense of work, and so become beggars at the mercy of others.
When do we say “Never again” and begin to resist?
“Never again” is the remembrance cry this day, a warning not just to the Jews but to all mankind. What does it mean for us? The Holocaust was the frightful culmination of unchecked power, and evil. It was not the first in recorded history, or the last in just the 20th century. Where must a decent people draw the line on the cancerous growth of power?
Our founding fathers were familiar with the despots of Europe and the curse of unchecked power. They also were familiar with the words of Christ: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave “ (Matt. 20:25-27)
Christ makes it clear: power that is unchecked benefits the powerful, not the weak. His words parallel what God told Samuel:“This will be the behavior of the king …” (1 Sam. 8:11) . In this narrative, God explained to Samuel that abdication of self rule will for certain lead to oppression, the character of the ruler notwithstanding. Aware of such wisdom, the founders built into our government system extensive checks and balances designed to limit the abuse of power. The ultimate check was the virtue of the American people, as when John Adams said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
So the founding fathers created a system which in theory would never allow tyranny to arise in the first place. But the American people have in recent years through neglect or poor choices, enabled the erosion of that system. We have also permitted the takeover of our schools and universities by interests hostile to those of our grandparents, and the Holy Bible.
A Christian may respond: “But God will take care of us if He so chooses. His will be done”.
What is His will? God continued to tell Samuel that when the people became oppressed and cry out to Him; “the Lord will not hear you in that day” (1 Sam. 8:18) God may want to respond but His transcendent purposes do not allow Him to. Israel weakened and in the course of time, divided, entered captivity, and dispersed throughout the earth.
People may commit all manner of sins, and upon repentance, be forgiven. But when people give up self rule, it is God’s will they suffer the consequences. Self rule makes a people strong. God cannot make a people strong if they reject the means He gives them to do so themselves.
What then is the message of Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, 2016 … for Americans?
My personal perspective is this: Individuals did not kill the Jewish mother and child. It was an all powerful state. We see the executioner who may or may not have doubts. He too was once a child and thought like a child. It is unlikely his mother taught him to hate others. But doubts cease to be relevant when one ceases to be an individual, ceases in effect to be fully human, and becomes instead an extension an all powerful state.
“Never again” is not a warning of something yet to come, some villain on the horizon. It is a call to ongoing resistance against a threat certain; a threat that divides, creates unrest, and concentrates power into the hands of the few. It is a warning against a process that leads to an inevitable result, rather than the end result itself. Should the end result arrive, it will be too late. It is a process that suppresses the individual and elevates the collective. In everything, it is a process hostile to the principles of God.
I recently commended a wonderful young lady for having served overseas to alleviate suffering in an orphanage. But I added that as America weakens, our influence to “do good” in the world weakens also. The images of suffering throughout the world, brought about by our absence, are almost unbearable to behold.
Her generation’s greatest gift to the world therefore would be to help restore America to a vision of it treasured by her grandparents. It may already be too late, but the wisdom of many is that the election of November 2016 will mark for certain the point of no return.