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Grace and Forgiveness

Tonight I watched the most graphic and moving film on the Holocaust I have ever seen: Night and Fog. A mere 32 minutes long, it is a French documentary that was filmed in 1955.

It was very difficult to watch. The only comforting factor is that I have proved to myself that I am still not desensitized to a point where I can no longer be distraught by the power of on-screen images.

The documentary did an excellent job on various levels. One of these was in bringing home the fact that, no matter how much of this we take in, we don’t know what it was like and we can’t know what it was like. We weren’t there, and just seeing it on your TV while you’re settled on a soft couch surrounded by good friends in a free country can’t put us there. I’m rather glad of that, of course . . .

Another thing that struck me with particular (i.e. more than usual) force was the fact that the Nazis were a bunch of Goddamned, bloody bastards. We turn them into cartoon villains, and laugh about their salutes and their “Sieg heils” and their silly goosestepping. It isn’t really that funny. They aren’t funny at all. And people should also think twice before they accuse other people of being like the Nazis. That’s a pretty serious matter, and it gets tossed around in an awfully flippant manner these days.

In a recent post I quoted someone as saying, “The world is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think,” (or something along those lines). I generally prefer to spend my time thinking because I think everything comes off better that way, but it doesn’t hurt to feel every now and again.

So, yeah, I was seething on the inside as I watched this . . . Shocked, horrified, and disgusted yet again by what took place, and I had decided to post something along the lines of the first sentence from two paragraphs ago, and simply leave it at that. I am terribly distressed that I can’t . . . because I started thinking again.

Without God’s grace I am every bit as guilty and evil and damned as Himmler or Eichmann. I hate having to quantify like that, and admit that we’re all in the same league when it comes to sin, but it has to be done . . . (John 8:7 says so). There is no 9th Hell for the uber-sinners, they all go to the same place. And we all deserve it. Equally.

Anyway, condemnation isn’t really my specialty, and self-condemnation even less so. Reflection of this nature isn’t really my thing either. But, as I said, as much as I wanted to just climb on here and remind you all that Nazi-hating is still a really good idea, I felt that it wouldn’t carry any significant weight, in the end, even if no one else noticed.

I remembered the account of Corrie Ten Boom’s encounter with a former guard at Ravensbruck from the end of “The Hiding Place.” That is still the most powerful story of human forgiveness that I have come across, and I still have a long way to go towards understanding what it takes to make that possible . . . not to mention beginning to practice it myself.

I guess this is all a bit disjointed, and no wonder. It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m writing on emotion. What I’m really getting at is this:

Take all evil (past, present and future) seriously.

Remember that “There but for the grace of God . . .” You’ve got nothing to feel superior about.

Consider that if you think forgiveness is easy, you’ve probably just never been wronged badly enough. Be prepared for when you are.

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~ by Jared on June 18, 2004.

16 Responses to “Grace and Forgiveness”

  1. When I went to Germany with my high school German teacher, one of the destinations for the tour was the concentration camp at Dachau. I remember feeling very…hollow inside. I remember thinking, “How can people look at this kind of thing and still think that humans are basically good?” We talk and hear about how we’re “superior” to non-human animals, and I think that’s true; no other animal seems to be able to reason the way we do, and (more importantly) no other animal was made in God’s image, intended specifically for a relationship with Him. But at the same time, no other animal tortures and kills its own kind, or any other animal, simply for the “pleasure” of killing. No other animal sets out to eradicate another species “just because they can.” The human soul, our distinguishing blessing, is also our greatest curse, for it condemns us to a higher standard and makes us responsible for our actions in a way that non-sentient beings could never be.

    As you said, no matter how close we can get with films, images, testimonies, we never get <i>more</i> than close; we can never <i>really</i> understand what it was like. But we can understand well enough to know that we need to fight that evil, both in the world and within ourselves.

  2. A Reflection

    Wheeler’s post brought be back into reality….how scary it is that I forgot I watched that last night too. But now, I read his post and I reflect on the movies I’ve watched in the last 30 hours and just…

  3. Well, I definitely agree with you guys on this and I’m glad that Jared got to see the movie and learned from it.
    I think it’s good to get the truth out and there are a lot of “good” holocaust movies. However, I believe I have had my share and prefer to read about such things now. To me, seeing years of killing and torture in a couple hours is rather exhausting, and intelectually I can get more out of reading a book (although it takes more time). Now, before you stop reading my babbling I have a question.

    It’s good to get the truth of the holocaust out in the open using movies, but why are there not more movies out there about what has happened in other parts of the world such as Central America over the last century? I guess more soldiers dies in world war II and that helps.

    I don’t want to drift too far into the world of G. P. Taylor, but ……..is it possible that the jews in the U.S. government are responsible for this?????

  4. Please confine yourself to intelligent, or at least indirectly enlightening, comments in the future.

    <i>why are there not more movies out there about what has happened in other parts of the world such as Central America over the last century?</i>

    The next time a Central American nation attacks dozens of other nations and kills 15 million people, I promise we’ll make a movie about it, OK?

    <i>. . . Is it possible that the jews in the U.S. government are responsible for this?????</i>

    I hope that this is a joke. If so, it is in poor taste, since it lacks any context except a forthright and rather emotional discussion of the Holocaust.

  5. Wheeler and Martinez have a excellent way with words! Very good movie review and comments. I have put a request at the library to see this movie.

  6. Actually, I think I was off with the joking, but Latin America, although different, does have a lot of dark past…and most americans don’t know it. Because you read Jared’s blog, you probably are not as ignorant as most people. Also, the UNITED STATES is responsible for a lot of the evil in Latin America. As I said Martinez, I’m not against the holocaust movies, I just don’t get why the US often forgets what has happened in other countries, that’s all. OH, now I have it, maybe it is because the U.S. is the hero, the good guy in the holocaust movies.

  7. Okay, I meant Wilson, and yes, it was the wrong time to joke, so sorry if I hurt your feelings. And, as I said before, I just don’t get emotional about this stuff. I”m more emotional about individuals, either victims of organized crime in Latin America (or anywhere) or holocaust victims. But, they’re all people. SO anyway, sorry I was stupid………. I’ll try to get smart like jared here………..

  8. about that U.S. being the hero in most holocaust movies–actually, not really. All the great Holocaust movies I have seen focus on non-American heroes–such as in Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, the said documentary (which focuses only on the evil), …

  9. Well, that is a good point. The U.S. was still fighting against the bad guys who were in the movie……but…. I guess you must be right because the moview don’t portray the U.S. as the hero. Well, I’m no expert on the subject either…………however, I”m sure it helps that the U.S. isn’t the bad guy in the movie….Anyway, interesting……..thanks for the comment

  10. Asa, if you want to see movies that satisfy your distaste for the U.S. you might want to try Vietnam documentaries.

  11. new blog on list

    Because of this post I decided to add the blog to my list…go read it, tis a good reminder to…well, just read it.

  12. Regarding Wheeler’s ending comment, I believe that same line is in Sherlock Holmes, although I can’t remember exactly what case it was in.

    As a wearer of glasses, the thing that has stuck with me from a similar film I watched in 5th grade (nearly 10 years ago) was the fact that there were full size warehouses filled with eyeglasses from the men and women who were murdered. Warehouses…

  13. It’s “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”.

  14. Cynic, I am not disgusted at the U.S. Vietnam was sad and as in all wars there was a lot of grey. And, as a matter of fact, my disgust is at people to spit on soldiers who have done their duty, not at whole nations. I”m disgusted at how SOME people in the U.S. have treated vietnam veterans, not at MOST veterans.

    I’m sorry if you cannot accept my apology.

  15. actually, if that’s what this is about I”ll just stop reading. Goodbye.

  16. Wait a minute… first off, I’m not offended. Your apology is accepted and unnecessary and you will find me one of the hardest people to offend in existance.

    Insofar as my discussion of politics with you goes, I’m kind of confused as to what your stance is. On one hand you seem vastly opposed to the image of America as a hero (even when such a stance is merited) and yet you also seem to dislike the portrayal of America as a villain and then jump completely to the topic of the treatment of soldiers (which hadn’t been an issue up until just now.)

    All of that said, I enjoy your contributions and would appreciate them far more if they attempted to logically follow the topic at hand.

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