Wednesday, June 07, 2006

God Was There.

Richard Cohen writes in the New York Daily News:

"The pontiff went late last month to that place where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered and this is what he said: "In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God. Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this?"

Others have asked how the Vatican under Pope Pius XII could have remained silent during the Holocaust. Some have asked how the Polish church could have remained silent even when Poles massacred around 40 Jewish Holocaust survivors. This was in July 1946, almost two years after the liberation of Poland. The police stood by. The army stood by. The church said nothing.

Now, though, Benedict has actually said something. He said more or less what I did after visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau. And, before that, Treblinka, and afterward, Buchenwald and Terezin: "Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this?" Only I put it differently. Where were You, God? I don't think You were silent. I don't even think You were there."

Read the whole thing.

Cohen touched upon what I consider many misconceptions about God. So I e-mailed him the following letter:

"When I was 10 I read "TheDiary of Anne Frank" and I drove my parents crazy asking how this could have happened. I read many more books over the years on the Holocaust. I am a Catholic and you ask a good question about the Pope's silence at the time, especially since so many Catholics were taken away and killed as well for hiding Jews. I think it is difficult to see evil around us sometimes. I think every generation justifies it in one way or another. I think generations from now will look back at horror at some of things we allowed to happen. Things like letting sexual predators free to attack more children, child abuse, abortion, pornography. the death penalty. Do you see my point? How will the future judge you on being silent or not on these issues ? How will it judge me?

But to your main point. You are wrong about God not being there. He was there. You say that Father Kolbe was a bigot because of that magazine. I don't know about that magazine, but I do know this; a man does not give up his life for another man that he hates or sees as lesser than himself. Period. Have you read Corrie Ten Boom's "The Hiding Place?" She and her entire family were sent to the camps for hiding Jews. Why did they hide them? Because of their faith. Because of God.

Man has done evil things. This is not God's fault. This is our free will. What you are fogetting is that satan was there as well. Satan was there for every evil Nazi guard, for every train that carried the Jews, the disabled, the retarded, and those who tried to save them. He was there in all the ghoulish medical experiments, he was there at the ovens. He laughed with glee and thought this would surely be the end of our belief in a loving God. But, as always, satan was wrong.

God was there at the Holocaust Mr. Cohen. He was there everytime someone gave thier last bit of food to another. He was there when every family risked death to hide strangers. He was there when they died for doing so. He was there in every act of kindness and sacrifice. He was there when Father Kolbe gave his life for another during which he gave comfort to others who were dying.

In every book I read on the Holocaust, in the midst of the horror was always a moment of hope, of kindness, and of selflessness. Moments where people gave, even when there wasn't anything left to give but comfort. Moments where loved ones gave others a reason to live and hang on, even as they themselves were dying.

Satan did not win in the holocaust. We still believe in a loving God. (well, many of us do) You are wrong on one more point as well. The God that we believe in will not "make everything just wonderful if only we put our faith in him." No. We are never promised a wonderful life. We are only promised His love. Through the pain and agony that life can bring us, His love is with us. That is His gift. That is his promise. Understanding that keeps us from having what you call "a tormented soul."


Related: Regarding Richard Cohen's assertion that the Pope and the Church were silent during the Holocaust, The Jerusalem Post tells a very different story.