life had never looked like this before: desperate, wanting, bleak.
at home, inflation was rising rapidly and work was hard to find. in the world, their country’s standing had dropped, and the government was hemorrhaging money, in deep debt to a foreign nation that was ideologically and militarily hostile to them. this was not their nation; it was not what they had foreseen when they embarked on the great experiment that had brought them together.
someone was responsible for this.
it was not them – surely not! but then who had done this to them?
but of course: it was the others. they weren’t true patriots, those people. they hadn’t built the country; they had come from somewhere else; they were taking advantage. it was their fault. they had brought this scourge upon the nation; they had ruined its prospects, and they should pay.
as these thoughts began to coagulate in the heart of a nation, a spokesperson for them emerged. he was unafraid to lay blame where it belonged: at the feet of the others. he was unafraid to confront the established powers, to rail against the foreign nations who had laid their country low. he would make their country great again! and so he whipped followers into a frenzy, incited violence, bullied the government elite.
they could handle him, they reasoned. they could temper his outbursts, manage his temper, keep him under control.
it was 1933, and the fledgling republic of germany, only 14 years old, sold their freedom for a chance at glory.
i used to wonder how adolf hitler managed to rally nearly an entire nation to murder.
that was before i knew how horrific it was, when all i knew was that they had planned to exterminate the jewish population of europe.
i didn’t realize the nazi government targeted not only jews, but disabled persons, homosexuals, political dissidents, jehovah’s witnesses, resistance fighters. they wore symbols in the camps to identify what they were there for.
i didn’t realize the nazis outfitted vans to be tiny traveling gas chambers, that they would drive around with elderly or disabled people in the back and release deadly vapors. their families would get a letter of condolence later, saying they had died of something innocuous, like pneumonia. but they had been murdered by the very air they breathed.
i didn’t realize they recruited men in poland to round up jewish men, take them out of the village, make them dig a giant pit, then shoot them where they stood. and i didn’t realize they stopped doing this, not out of any humanitarian consideration, not because it was murder, not because it was wrong, but because it wasted bullets.
i didn’t realize they made jewish leaders round up their own people to be taken from the ghettos, that jewish men ran the crematoria. it meant the germans could pass off the responsibility; after all, they had done it to themselves.
i didn’t realize the extermination camps were so close to towns that women complained of the smell. not of the murder, but of murder’s smell.
i didn’t realize this didn’t matter to the majority of the germans who were complicit. they were doing their jobs, they said. well, they were only responsible for making sure the trains ran on time; they didn’t know what – or who – the trains were carrying, and they hadn’t asked.
i didn’t realize the worst of humanity could be so camouflaged in the mundane, that silence can kill just as sure as a bullet, that hatred is embedded in our very bones.
from 1918 to 1933, germany had virtually no military, was deeply and irrecoverably in debt to the allied powers, and faced astronomically high inflation and unemployment. hitler targeted his rhetoric to those who would have suffered deeply from the defeat of world war i and the depression. he whipped up an ethnocentric fear of german jews, who had long since assimilated and so fought proudly in the war as germans, and african troops in the rhineland, who as colonial subjects of france, assisted in its occupation of western germany after the armistice was declared in 1918.
he would make them great again, he promised. he would restore them to their former glory.
if all or any of this sounds vaguely familiar to you, it should.
adolf hitler was a convicted criminal who gained political power through a democratic process and then legally destroyed it.
this election’s two major nominees are not convicted criminals, but both probably should be: donald trump for tax evasion and sexual assault, and hillary clinton for mishandling of classified material.
and yet we are about to hand one of them political power through a democratic process.
i would wonder what germany’s president hindenburg would have to say about that, but he died in 1934, and so he never learned the swath of devastation his capitulation to hitler in government, however reluctant, caused. in lieu of his opinion, i might ask neville chamberlain to enlighten us on what happens when you acquiesce to someone hellbent on wielding power.
“peace in our time,” he said triumphantly after ceding the sudetenland (part of czechoslovakia) to hitler in 1938. peace in chamberlain’s time would last only eleven months.
if character matters, then character matters.
and if character matters, and if we believe it matters in a president, then neither nominee of either major party should earn our votes.
a third-party vote is not a wasted vote.
a wasted vote is a vote not taken or a vote made carelessly. if we support our troops and seek to honor the sacrifices they have made since the dawn of our nation, then we will wield carefully the freedom they served and bled and died to obtain and protect.
she has spent her life fighting for children and families, you tell me. she is one of the most highly qualified americans to ever seek the presidential office.
he’s tough on immigration; he’ll maintain our second amendment rights. he’s pro-life, you say. he’ll make america great again; don’t you want that?
except what they’ve done, what they’ve said, what they’ve chosen not to say, tells us a different story. neither of them has been talking about being pro-life, for fetuses on his hand and black lives on hers, for more than a few months. and maybe this is true growth, but the ethics by which they’ve lived over the course of their public careers is evidence to the contrary.
you cannot be pro-life for some lives and not for others. either all lives matter or none of them do.
and all lives matter.
all lives matter because black lives matter.
all lives matter because white lives matter.
all lives matter because yellow lives matter, and brown lives matter, and red lives matter.
all lives matter because unborn lives matter.
all lives matter because elderly lives matter.
all lives matter because teen lives matter, and adult lives matter, and kid lives matter.
but for all lives to matter, Life itself had to die. cursed is every man who hangs on a tree, paul tells us, yet God-made-man took on that curse for us, even while we were in full-scale rebellion against Him.
His sacrifice makes us matter. your life matters because He died to make it so.
God exhorts His people in deuteronomy 30:15-20 to choose life, to choose obedience, to choose Him. Jesus, centuries later, refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, and after He says so, his disciples say, “this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
his disciples said that.
the people who followed Him.
we talk constantly about proclaiming the gospel even when it’s offensive, but what i think we forget is that the gospel will offend us, too. it will offend our sense of righteousness, of justice, of fairness. it will offend our sense of self and worth and love. it will confront our beliefs about ourselves and each other and God Himself. and it should, because despite our fervent belief, we are not special snowflakes. instead, we are discarded menstrual rags, and our best efforts at holiness fall woefully short of God’s immutable and perfect standard.
so what does it mean to choose life?
what does it mean to choose its Giver?
many of us would say abortion is wrong. but if it meant saving sixty million lives, would you try to convince a woman to abort her son?
we must concede that we have not advocated a comprehensive pro-life ethic. too many of us have been concerned with only american lives, with only unborn lives, with only our lives.
if i am for life, then i am against dehumanization.
i am against the dehumanization of unborn babies as masses of tissue.
i am against the dehumanization of mexican immigrants as rapists.
i am against the dehumanization of syrian refugees as terrorists.
i am against the dehumanization of black men as super predators.
i am against the dehumanization of women as sex objects.
i am against the dehumanization of hillary clinton as a she-devil.
i am against the dehumanization of donald trump as an orange twitter egg.
i am even against the dehumanization of isis as irredeemably evil. after all, nearly half of our new testament was written by a man who killed christians before God blinded him physically in order to open his eyes spiritually.
long, long ago, God made man in His image, and He called the man very good. He put the man in a garden and gave him work to do.
but man stepped outside of God’s ordinance, and so he was exiled from the garden he called home. and ever since, he has hated and murdered and stolen, rebelling against his Maker with every fiber of his being.
but the image of God is still buried deep within him. it is tarnished and imperfect and unholy, but the whisper of God yet sounds.
whoever loses his life will find it.
for whom are we losing our lives? to whom are we extending grace when it’s hard?
Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks Yours.
so break our hearts for black men, women, and children being slaughtered in our streets, but break our hearts, too, for the police officers who took their lives.
and break our hearts for babies who are killed in the womb, but break our hearts, too, for their mothers.
break our hearts for syrian refugees forced out of their country, but break our hearts, too, for isis, forcing them out.
break our hearts for those who died in mass shootings, but break our hearts, too, for their killers.
break our hearts for the evil in us, which looks as heinous as nazi death camps but also as mundane as being rude.
and do not break our hearts in silence, but break them loudly, that we do not rebuild auschwitz-birkenau, belzec and chelmno, majdanek, sobibor, treblinka.
teach us to choose life, Jesus. teach us to choose the lives of people who disagree with our politics. teach us to choose the lives of people whose skin color is darker or lighter than ours. teach us to choose the lives of people who would harm us. because You’ve already done that, hanging on a cross, weighed heavy by our sin, forsaken by Your Father.
we harmed You, but You chose us.