Partly because of what I’m teaching in some of my classes, and partly because of my Lenten reading list (yes, I have to post updated reviews … maybe over the weekend) I have been reading and thinking a lot about the Holocaust lately.
I was reading a disturbing passage (one among many) in Elie Wiesel’s Night, about Nazi soldiers using Jewish babies for target practice. Then I heard this news story about snipers in the Israeli army wearing (unofficial — not approved by the army) T-shirts showing Palestinian babies as targets, among other disturbing images.
Now, I don’t need anyone to explain to me all the ways in which the Israel/Palestine situation is different from the Holocaust, or how the Israeli government is NOT like the Nazi party. I get the complexities. But I also get that certain horrors — like young soldiers being trained to hate so they can be trained to kill — seem neverending. Even the worst examples of human cruelty don’t teach us how to be less cruel … just move the pieces on the board around so someone else is practicing cruelty (perhaps even the children or grandchildren of victims) and we have a new victim to practice it on. The worst of human nature goes on and on and on…
I read Patty’s post about being upset by the news just after I was processing all this. It also reminded me of a piece I read in Geez about how we get bombarded with tragic news on top of more tragic news on top of trivia, and how sometimes the best thing to do is to turn off the radio or TV when you’ve heard something disturbing and just reflect on it, sit with that feeling, rather than racing on to the next thing. I like that idea, because really despite all the other stuff I’ve heard in the past two weeks, the images of the Israeli army T-shirts and the Holocaust scenes I’ve been reading about just keep bouncing back and forth off each other in my mind.
You know, I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but I’m the kind of Adventist that, both because of the theology and of temperament, has always focused much more on what my faith means to me in the here and now than on looking forward to the second coming and the earth made new. I still don’t fully know what I think about the whole schedule-of-end-time-events approach to reading Revelation, etc.
But here’s what I do know: we make progress, as a human race. We get better. But it always seems to be one step forward and one step back, so I wonder if we ever really get anywhere. Our darkest impulses always seem to be lurking, ready to pounce.
I think if there’s ever going to be a truly just world, we can’t do it on our own. I do believe we have to get rescued. And I pray we will.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to keep trying to work with those who are on the side of peace, love and justice. But it does get discouraging sometimes when you turn on the news.