Auschwitz. Terror. Gas ovens. An efficient killing machine that murdered millions of people. Millions. The total numbers of those murdered in the Holocaust have been estimated at some 11 million, though recent discoveries have raised the toll to up to 20 million people.
More than half of them Jews, the rest priests, pastors, Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled, and other minorities – including homosexuals, not just Jews but Hitler’s own SS officers, all forced to wear a pink triangle to identify them as gay.
What indefensible horror and contempt.
How could this have happened? How could this have happened right in neighborhoods with citizens and church-goers and residents who wouldn’t dream of committing murder? How could law-abiding citizens smell the burning human flesh – not that they knew the smell of burning flesh, but something was producing that acrid smoke billowing out day after day right behind their back fence – how could they smell that constant, daily burning and not wonder what was going on? Wonder to the point of doing something about it?
That question has reverberated in our collective consciousness for 70 years.
Hitler of course is the mastermind behind the extermination of 11-20 million people; he caused it all, we like to think. But Hitler could not have accomplished his plan alone. He had to pave the way by blaming Jews (and others murdered) for all Germany’s troubles… which he did.
This “teaching of contempt” from pulpits and other public forums slowly and consistently taught congregations that not only is it okay to hate Jews, it’s your Christian’s duty. So little children yelled, “Christ-killer” to Jewish classmates on the playground. Supported by Moms and Dads. After all, Jews killed Christ and deserved what they got, so the teaching of contempt taught. Children were only doing what they heard at the dinner table, which is only what the adults heard in churches and public forums.
I wish I could blame this just on Hitler, because that would be so much more comfortable. Then it would be an aberration, less likely to happen again. We would be better able to protect ourselves and each other collectively, if we could narrow down its origination to a small group. But the lies preceding the Holocaust created apathy in the population, so they didn’t “see” what was going on until millions upon millions of bodies had been piled up and incinerated.Hitler didn’t turn the general population into Nazi soldiers, he didn’t have to. He just had to instill enough general animosity toward Jews that they would avert their eyes when he put his plan into effect.
We recognize the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The killing machine was stopped, the remaining prisoners freed. But the handful or survivors alive today express concern that even though the Nazis no longer rule, the contempt and anti-Semitism is seeing a resurgence. They watch the historic truth of the Holocaust being contained, the horrors and numbers diminished, and an increasing denial that it every even happened.
And they know it could happen again.
The problem was not Hitler and the Nazi machine; the problem was the general population that accepted a teaching of contempt. The problem was the general public’s apathy toward a group of people, so that they felt no obligation to protect them.
Does this sound familiar?
Any teaching that any group is worthy of our contempt, that any group is less viable than the rest, that any group is “sinful” and to be condemned, should be viewed with suspicion, and should be called out. To believe a baker has the right to deny a wedding cake to a gay couple is no different from denying a wedding cake to a Jewish couple. The underlying contempt is the same. (Those in contempt use the same Bible to condemn the “fag” [sorry] and the “Christ-killer.”) To put oneself in the place to judge who deserves a wedding cake and who deserves to live violates the same command “not to judge another man’s [God’s] servant.”.
“Love the sinner hate the sin” becomes in thought and deed the same as “Hate the sinner.” We can’t afford that again. People are murdered, excommunicated, driven to suicide, because of a teaching of contempt. Contempt of blacks enables killings and abuse; contempt of women enables a rape culture; dare I say contempt of children enables a sex-slave trade. Far too often the Bible is pulled out to justify it all. That is not Biblical truth, and it is not our place.
Is it time to stand up? Is it time to stop being silent while the horrors continue in our churches, school and communities – right behind our back fence?
Please. Think outside the box. Think outside the contempt. Press into Christ and listen for God’s heartbeat. You will not find contempt there, just perfect, unconditional love.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”