Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Holocaust Remembrance Day
In Israel and a few other places in the world today, it has been Holocaust Remembrance Day.
As a Christian, and most especially as a Lutheran, I think it's important to remember the Holocaust. After all, the atrocities of the Holocaust were initiated in a nation that considered itself Christian, where Lutheranism was and is the official state religion.
How did such a nation countenance the madness of Hitler, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust?
Of course, one can point to the fact that Martin Luther, the founder of the Christian reform movement that bears his name, was antisemitic himself. In this, he reflected both the attitudes of many in fifteenth and sixteenth century Germany and the prevailing attitude within the Roman Catholic Church from which he broke. The Roman Church for centuries, in spite of the Biblical witness, which says that the sins of the whole human race put Jesus on the cross, claimed that Jesus' fellow Jews were responsible for His execution. Luther apparently believed this. (I am pleased that at the 1993 Churchwide Assembly, my Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, repented for and repudiated Luther's antisemitic writings. I was doubly pleased to have been a voting member of that assembly.)
Nonetheless, the simple answer to the question of how Germany or any other nation can countenance genocide is that every human being is born into the common condition of sin, alienation from God. We inherit this alienation from our parents. In Psalm 51, King David, a man after God's own heart, confesses that he was a sinner from his mother's womb.
Without daily submission to the God we know in Jesus Christ, we will surely cave into the acts that flow from the condition of sin. We will act inhumanely toward others and render ourselves something less than human beings created in the image of God. We will do things that are less than noble or loving. (Something which all of us can attest happens from personal experience. At least I can.)
Remembering the Holocaust reminds us of the inhumanity and the sin of which we all are capable and calls us to turn from sin, surrender to Christ, and ask God to imbue us with the power to live the life of love for Him and love for neighbor to which every human being is called.