Jack on the Back
The Quest for Righteousness
"Character by itself is an empty vessel," so says David Gushee in, The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust. "Sound Christian character", he says, "must include the fixed perception that every other human being is my equal in fact, my kin and thus equally precious and worthy.
"Somehow Christians seemed to forget this in Nazi Germany and, in part, shared responsibility for the atrocities that occurred. Either because of fear or indifference, millions of people were tortured or killed, homes and properties were illegally confiscated or stolen, and families torn apart. Christians can be righteous, but they did not show themselves to be then."
So sooner or later, and I'm leaning toward the sooner side, the world will be facing a similar crisis. Will we do better?
Most Christian ministries and teachers nurture the hope that instruction in the Christian faith, participation in the life of a community of faith, and especially personal commitment to Jesus Christ will lead Christians to a higher quality of moral character and conduct. However, the fact of the matter is - it didn't seem to make much of a difference before. David Gushee said, "Christian Behavior during the Holocaust should give the church ample reason to be humble about its virtue, and ample reason to ask for help in obeying the teachings of the One we call Lord." He went on to say, "What the church revealed during the Holocaust bears little resemblance to the church described in the Bible. At its worst, we saw a church in which believers were taught to hate people of different creed, "race," or ethnicity. We saw priests and ministers discouraging their congregants from saving human lives. We saw Christians lost in complete ideological confusion as they give their souls over to the Third Reich and its cauldron of hatreds. We saw self proclaimed followers of the compassionate One react with utter coldness of heart when another human being needed their compassion. We saw morally powerful sacred texts create faint stirring of compassion, only to watch them be dampened by raw fear. We saw Christian leaders fall short of their calling to lead the people of God in the way of Jesus Christ, which is the way of unmitigated love of neighbor, which is the way of the cross."
There were, of course, a number of righteous gentiles, like Deitrch Bonheoffer and Cory Ten Boom, who laid down their lives to help their fellow men - but they were an embarrassingly small lot indeed, and few and far between.
We must continue to probe our hearts and vicariously put ourselves into the peril we might find our selves in the future, and ask ourselves, "Just how righteous would I be?" Leigh Hunt captures the thought in her poem:
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:--
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?--The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
Jack Doepke Author of "The Sacrificial Lamb"
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