A few years ago I learned about a news documentary program on PBS called “Frontline.” It’s PBS’s version of Dateline and 20/20, only there are no commercials and they are not as restricted in their content since they take less commercial money. Over the past few years I have seen some of the most interesting and provocative stories. They tackle everything from religion, politics, sports, and everything in between (I was dissappointed that last week’s episode about Wal*Mart’s use of Chinese imports was post-poned due to pope coverage).
Last night Mary Beth and I watched an episode titled, “Inside the Camps.” In place of a new program, they aired a British documentary that showed footage of the Allied forces liberating several of the Nazi concentration camps. I suppose it wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before (I can still remember seeing the dead and mangled corpses in my 9th grade World History class), but the sheer horror of that era brings me to a place that I’ve never been before. Most people know that I am probably generally skeptical of a Christian’s involvement in the military, especially in times of war. However, that view is especially to hold consisently in view of WWII. To think of a nation standing by idly as these things were happening is absolutely repuslive. Many people like to naively look back at this war and think that the idealistic Americans rushed to the assitance of the world, but we have to be reminded that we weren’t involved until the Japanese came into our neighborhood and bombed our nation. We’ve always been idealistic, haven’t we? What if we had gotten involved earlier? Could some of the incredible carnage been stopped? How many were killed during this time? 7 . . . 8 million? 3 to 4 million alone in Aushwitz. Those numbers are beyond my comprehension.
Enter a theological dilimna. If there was ever a time that God should have intervened in the events of this world dramatically, immediately, and swiftly, it should have been during this timeframe. If I can look down upon nations for standing on the sidelines, what of the God who has the power to make it all stop? What of Him? This is a true faith dilemna that if you haven’t at least wrestled with your faith isn’t as strong as it could be.
Another dilemna. What of all the Jews? I come from a faith tradition that would probably condemn them because of their nonfaith in Jesus Christ – something I feel is necessary. But these people are God’s chosen race! How sad these years must have been! The only joy that God could have possibly seen is in the salvation of them who were being holocuasted. A God that stands aside and lets the Holocaust happen, only to Holocaust them in the afterlife is not the God that I see in Scripture. These were people of faith (the Lutherans included here we often fortget). Their God was Yahweh. The God that I know was at his greatest grief during this time, and he was at his greatest righteousness as he welcomed them from thier incredible suffering into eternal peace in the kingdom.
As the pluralism of this world multiplies, Christians must reevaluate our understanding of Jesus’ claim to be “the way, the truth and the life.” What does this mean? Does it mean that no one of any other faith is ever saved? Our quick “yes,” should be slower and more reflective. The Bible has never been black and white, and we should not allow this complex issue to become.
As the final survivors of the Holocaust slowly pass from this earth, humanity needs to hear their stories. We must never forget the darkest time of humanity, lest that darkness be eclipsed by a more brutal dictator in the future.