About a dozen of us had an interesting experience after church Sunday afternoon. We visited the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the special exhibit on persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis. The museum is very well organized with each patron receiving a personal audio tour via an earpiece. It is designed so that you can hear overviews or detailed information so you may move at your own pace. The visit was both educational and sobering; the whys and hows such atrocities happened and the realization that, given certain conditions, they could happen again. Could they?
In the late 1930s Germany was recovering from both the Great Depression and feelings of national humiliation following WW1. The government was broken into factions that were more competitive in seeking power than cohesive in healing the tenuous circumstances. People wanted to regain as sense of national pride. They wanted someone(s) to blame for a failed economy.All was ripe for those speaking with the most authority being given the most authority. Hollow promise were made. Autocratic means to fulfill those promises were employed with a heavy, heavy hand. Those who disagreed with labeled as enemies, unpatriotic and portrayed as being suspicious in their motivations. Does any of this sound familiar?
Faith communities must lead in matters of compassion, fairness, ethics, generosity and morality. Faith communities in Germany during that period were intimidated enough to “look the other way” even though it was becoming more and more evident that more and more power was being collected by those with more and more tendency to misuse that power. We are amiliar with the quote by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor:
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Not so many of us might be familiar with these words attributed to Albert Einstein: “The world is too dangerous to live in not because of the people who do evil ,but because of the people who let it happen.”
May we be ever mindful of the consistent call of scripture that was the last verse of the text shared last Sunday in worship: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21