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Post No. 34

May 5, 2010

I was browsing Wikipedia, following random links in articles, and I wound up with an entry called Holocaust Theology. Before going on I’d like to make a few things clear up front.

The Holocaust is a tragic event in (in)human history that nobody can – or should – deny. It should be seen as bestial – demonic even – and nothing else. Benedict XVI’s address during his visit to Auschwitz included the following (which I lifted from the Wikipedia article)

The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: “We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter” were fulfilled in a terrifying way. Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone – to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

I quote  this excerpt because I approve of the sentiment. And I repeat: the Holocaust happened and it was diabolical. I need to be clear on that.

My gripe with the article is the lens through which God is seen:

a) God abandoned the Jews (he’d have protected the Jews if he hadn’t abandoned them)

b) God doesn’t exist (otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed the Holocaust to happen)

c) God exists but he’s not omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent

d) God sent the Holocaust as a punishment for the Jews’ misdeeds

I think that somehow linking God with the Holocaust (even with human suffering in general) is to bring him down to our level. Before I elaborate I’d like to say that this is only my opinion and if anyone who knows his/her onions thinks it’s heretical please post your comments and I’ll publish them in red beneath the “heresy”

The Holocaust (and human suffering) happened because humans are not free from the influence of evil. What we call “free will” is actually the option to choose what is right from what is wrong. If we were completely free of evil, we wouldn’t even consider the evil option and then reject it. (It’s beneath “no-brainer” ; wrong would be inconceivable).  The “freedom” we enjoy in this world – being imperfect and an unwieldy implement which we can barely use – is what causes suffering and general unpleasantness.

God did not inspire anybody to establish the Third Reich. God did not propose the abhorrent Final Solution. God did not rouse the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe at the time. Man did.

God did not punish the Jews for anything. The Jews were the victims of an injustice. The injustice was caused because Man turned away from God – or, as Benedict XVI said, Man wanted to take God’s place.

Why the Jews?  An injustice is precisely that. The entity – person or otherwise – at the receiving end is entirely undeserving of his plight. And who decides who deserves to be punished and who doesn’t deserve punishment?

God alone knows who deserves what, but divine punishment is not retribution or payback. Divine punishment – which we bring on ourselves – is simply denial of attaining the scope for which humans were created, i.e. being in God’s presence for eternity. A poor analogy is hunger. You’re hungry and the only item on the menu is pasta. You refuse the pasta, so you remain hungry. Nobody’s making you hungry, it is you who refused the food. Same with God. He doesn’t punish you. He reaches out and you turn away.

God has given us clear guidelines how to lead our lives. It is up to us whether we choose to embrace them or not. Our actions will produce consequences that will spread out like ripples. We may bring joy to others, or make others’ lives hard. It is our doing, not God’s.

Nothing stops God from intervening, but if he did what evil remains to be conquered by us in this world? On the other hand, God is a personal God. He knows us inside out. He can speak to us in a way we best understand. He is a customised helpdesk, but I don’t think that it is logical to expect him to intervene as and when we deem fit.

God is not an upgraded human with superhuman powers. We cannot try to understand God’s motivation by putting ourselves in his shoes and say “If it were up to me I’d do this and the other.” I’m not trying to say that God is illogical or unpredictable. It’s just that we’re not equipped well enough to understand. Which is why – in my opinion – the only way forward for us as a race is to abandon our “will” and embrace God’s will as it is revealed through the interpreted scriptures. At this point  I’d have to add “interpreted by the Catholic Church” because that’s from where I come. In no sense do I wish to diminish the worth of any other religion.


From → The Elephant

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