Atrocities are made possible by all the “good” people who excuse or deny human carnage
The complacency next door is enabling the hate group “over there.”
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I think about how, as I learned about those unfathomable atrocities growing up, I compartmentalized it. I subconsciously thought of the Nazis and their sympathizers as some kind of special breed of evil person and that it happened then but somehow wouldn’t happen again.
It’s bad enough that Nazi symbols, rhetoric and general anti-Semitism is still around. It’s bad enough that we still have swastikas being spray-painted on walls. It’s bad enough that we still have arson and terrorist attacks being carried out against Jewish communities (it has happened twice in my county in the 4.5 years I’ve lived here).
But the last 4 years have brought the full realization of something else: how easily the “good” people you know at work, school, and church can dismiss or deny human carnage. We have now lost more Americans to COVID than in World War II. But it’s not just “hate groups” that don’t care or believe it’s fake. It’s that person who taught children at your church or that doting basketball coach.
Thousands of migrants die every year trying to get to safety, and thousands of children…CHILDREN…have been heartlessly separated from their parents, but it’s not just “hate groups” that excuse this or say they deserved it. It’s that person you’ve played volleyball with or that uncle you’ve had at your Thanksgiving table.
Tens of thousands of Americans die every year by gun violence, including children while they’re in school. Yet it’s not just “hate groups” that respond to that by clinging to their guns and having nothing to say about it except “MY RIGHTS!”
Untold numbers of these call themselves “pro-life,” sometimes making the issue of abortion the only thing they care about in the voting booth and the only thing they ever bring up no matter what other cruelty we’re talking about. Yes, an ethic of life means that we must care about the unborn as well, yet how many of these single-issue voters do not support policies that are proven to decrease unplanned pregnancies?
Americans seem to have a death wish. We have just accepted that the other is expendable and that mass death is our reality. Our gun violence is so bad that other countries have put out travel advisories. We are 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s COVID cases, which, not ironically, is pretty close to the numbers for our incarceration disparity as well.
This is not sustainable. On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we cannot stop with a prayer and a tear for the millions of Jews and others lost during that time. Our tolerance for neglect and violence is growing and is infecting people we see every day, and yes, people we love.
We have a choice to make. Human carnage does not come about just through people who do evil, but also by way of the nice church ladies and running partners and family members who tolerate, excuse, or deny these things. Evil is not “out there.” It is among us and in us. Evangelical Christians often know Romans 3:23 by heart: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But we are so far from realizing how true it is.
When Jesus and the prophets encountered this kind of callousness and violence, they did not say “let’s move on,” “let’s make peace and put this behind us.” Instead, Jesus said, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matt. 23:27).
Accountability had to come first. Repentance had to come first. As it must today.