Where Was God In The Holocaust?

Where Was God In The Holocaust? December 6, 2019

In the current season of the Netflix series, “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”, Jerry Seinfeld hosts outspoken atheist Ricky Gervais on the show. In this two-part episode, Gervais makes a joke that goes something like this:

“A man who survived the Holocaust dies and goes to Heaven. When he gets there he tells God a joke about the Holocaust and God says, “That wasn’t funny”, to which the man replies: “I guess you had to be there.”

And, as brilliant and layered as that joke may be [and I do admit it is quite profound in many ways], the essential point Gervais makes in the joke is that God skipped out on the Holocaust and did nothing to stop any of it.

It’s not an uncommon charge against the Almighty. But, as I was mulling over the joke in my head last night I realized that I had an answer for Ricky Gervais; one that may not satisfy him, but it did at least give me some perspective on the question: Where was God in the Holocaust?

For me, I think someone who actually spent time in a Nazi Concentration Camp during WW2 is best suited to answer Ricky’s question.

Perhaps someone like Corrie Ten Boom, for example. She and her sister, Betsie, spent time in 3 different Nazi Camps, including Scheveningen, Herzogenbusch, a political camp, and finally to the Ravensbrück, a women’s labor camp.

They were arrested and imprisoned there, not because they were Jews but because their family had protected, hidden and emancipated dozens of Jewish people who were fleeing the Holocaust, by opening up their home and providing a safe place where they could take shelter from the authorities who were after them.

For Corrie, God was not absent from those concentration camps. Far from it. To her, God was imprisoned there alongside her and the others who were held there against their will.  In fact, Corrie’s sister Betsie encouraged her whenever she was losing her faith that “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.”

Now, I get it. Ricky and others want God to intervene. They believe that if God is not useful for stopping the evils that men do, then God is of no use to men at all.

But, this does not change the fact that these evils are done by men and women like us, not by God: We kill others. We torture others. We ignore the poor. We turn a blind eye to suffering. We – and we alone – are the ones who “allow” suffering in our world.

God’s part is to meet us in this suffering. God’s promise is to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. God makes sure we do not suffer alone. He says “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

We make the suffering. God meets us in that suffering and comforts us through it.

I agree, there’s nothing funny about suffering, or torture, or concentration camps. There is nothing funny about  detention centers filled with children who have been separated from their parents; nothing funny about thousands of innocent civilians bombed to death by US Military drones in the Middle East; nothing funny about hundreds of thousands of homeless people sleeping in the cold.

But, to fully understand this, perhaps you’d have to be there.

I know God is there. But maybe God is wondering where we are?

**

Keith’s new book, “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” is available now on Amazon.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife have returned to El Paso, TX after 25 years, as part of their next adventure. They hope to start a new house church very soon.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • TS (unami)

    Ricky used to be funny, but his latest work has been low-bar and just stereotypically ugly… like other aging comedians who just turned bitter and mean…

    I can’t stand him now.

  • Nimblewill

    Obviously Ricky wasn’t there either or he wouldn’t be joking about it. If he wasn’t there how will he ever know whether or not God was?

  • Al Cruise

    “God makes sure we do not suffer alone” . I don’t entirely agree with this. Many have been tortured and killed in unimaginable acts of evil. I am sure many have cried out to God for mercy, only to experience more horror and emotional terror that ends only with death. You can theologically say “God makes sure we do not suffer alone” however there will be many who do not feel it.

  • LastManOnEarth

    Meh.

  • Herm

    We want God to save us from the consequences of our own choices, as one single species of mankind on earth. We fear most having no control over suffering victimization from collateral damage due to the destructive choices of others. We, mankind, want to be saved from the consequences of having become responsible to our knowledgeable awareness of, and influence over, good and evil. We want to be protected and provided for as perfectly nurtured pets of God, not as free children of Man and God.

    Reality of life on this earth, relative to all animal species except mankind, is truly Darwinian evolving through natural selection to survival of the fittest. But for the exception of mankind, there is no other species, that we know of, that demonstrates responsibility based on their knowledge of good and evil.

    Where did Corrie Ten Boom learn to actually carry her cross, possibly in everything she did, by doing for others as she would have others do for her, knowingly risking that she might suffer evil for her love of others?

    Having been a child of sincerely loving parents, and as a sincerely loving parent, I learned that I could not keep my children from suffering from the evil of others, without isolating them from others, all others. I thank my parents and God for giving me the freedom to experience reality (good and evil) as much as my body, heart, strength, mind, carnal and spirit, can bear. I thank my parents for teaching me the benefits for doing good for others, whether or not those others ever do good for me. I thank Jesus, the Christ, for teaching me that my heavenly Father understands and shares my feelings in all ways, at all times, and in all places. I thank God that, now, no matter where I am, constantly being subject to good and bad, the Spirit of truth is always there, living with me and in me, to faithfully guide me into all truth as I can bear.

    I am not a pet. I am a temporal physical child of Man, who all within have a responsibility to their knowledge of good and evil, while I love my merciful neighbor as myself. I am, also, now, an eternal spirit child of God, who all within love each other with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their strength, with all their mind as they would have others love them.

    God does intervene to lead each of mankind as much as each is receptive, even more than any of mankind’s adults and parents can intervene to lead their receptive children. The concept of how long it took for mankind to be able to accept a neocortex, sufficient to be personally responsible to our knowledge of good and evil still eludes mankind, but not the certain knowledge of constructive and destructive. All of members of mankind will die. All members of life will only grow stronger from risk and struggle. Life without risk and struggle atrophies. God has risked most for Man by allowing themselves to suffer through an understanding and sharing of Jesus’ feelings at his crucifixion, meted out by the demeaning evil of Man. God doesn’t sit back in royal ease, demanding taxes, worship and adoration from their pet minions in payment for continued safety and provisioning. God personally teaches each of receptive Man first hand how to live and die, how to enjoy/suffer good and evil, how to love themselves and others, how to live forever or not, and so much more necessary for eternal constructive/productive relationships. God is eternal and invites us to grow with them (brothers, sisters, Father, mother, ???) without end. God doesn’t remove the valley of death or enemies. God guides us through the valleys and stays with us before our enemies, that we fear no evil.

    John 14:17 (NIV2011)

    17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

    Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV2011)

    7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
    8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

    Scheveningen, Herzogenbusch, Ravensbrück, Gross-Rosen, Auschwitz, Stutthof and all other concentration camps had God ready to teach all, of any religion, who were receptive to the Spirit of truth how to live and how to die, as Jesus knows, for he lived and died on earth before us.

  • Linnea912

    Spot on, Keith. Well said.

  • Ivan Beggs

    You guys are really saying that God was giving humanity tough love by not doing anything effective about concentration camps, war, nor evil. If people don’t do enough then God lets others suffer. Meanwhile you experience a loving warm God concerned about your daily activities and thoughts. That is your model for the best parenting in the world.

  • James Elliott

    This is a thoughtful response to the serious question of God’s presence in times of suffering – one i’d like to keep. I remember a story that at a concentration camp, several prisoners were being hanged, including a child. Prisoners were forced to watch and one voice cried out, “Where is God?” A quiet response was that God was on the gallows with the victims. One of the ideas about the crucifixion of Christ was that he was suffering with us…taking on our pain… Perhaps it is something which can only be seen by faith?

  • Lina

    Crikey, Linnea, I might have mis-intepretered your earlier post. I perhaps don’t agree with you at all!

  • Linnea912

    Huh? How so? Didn’t you read the original article?

  • Lina

    I thought I had! I still agree with you on your original post (so no regrets there) but then I saw you agreeing to a post that I didn’t so realised we might not be “in the same team”. Nevertheless I still think you made a perfect point in the post that I probably commented on.

  • Phantom Phantom

    Which makes Keith’s argument weak. Gervais said, after he told the joke, that he finds it hard to believe a God who let the holocaust happen would be concerned where one of his believers left their car keys (I’m paraphrasing). I believe in God, but it’s fluffy answers like Keith’s that make non-believers run the other way.