Otherworldly or Indifferent?
Glen Burnie, Maryland
Early in 1970 there was a formal congressional seminar called the "Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility." The transcript of those talks was recently included in a book called War Crimes and the American Conscience (Ed. by Erwin Knoll and Judith N. McFadden. N.Y., Holt (1970). In this extremely interesting book were two revealing illustrations. At the end of World War II an effort was made by the allies to "Denazify" the German people. This effort included massive efforts to educate the German people about what they and their government had done. The theory was that a Germany ignorant of it's history would be condemned to repeat it. The allies tried to make the German people aware of Nazi war crimes and German guilt. "The effort was a failure. Our propagandists found that it is almost impossible to induce people to think about something that they prefer to forget. With few exceptions, Germans interviewed during the Denazification campaign stood at a far emotional distance from the Nazi crimes, feeling personally and morally uninvolved and unconcerned, or they denied the facts, or they projected guilt on others, or they rationalized and justified the atrocities, or they simultaneously engaged in several or all of these mental maneuvers, little inhibited by logical consistency" (p. 120).
During W.W. II, as General George Patton pushed his troops deep into German territory, Aushwitz, the infamous Jewish Death Camp, was overrun. General Patton was shocked by what he saw, and enraged by the indifference of the German civilians that lived about the camp. In anger and frustration he forced all the civilians to walk through the camp. Only one man reacted, or expressed personal guilt: He hanged himself.
Christians in America are both human and very much American. Though it would be desirable that the majority of the people of God have a different moral outlook, and a more sensitive spirit of righteousness than those that are in the grips of Satan, this does not always seem to be the case. In conversation with different Christians throughout the U.S. I have been met with almost total indifference to such American atrocities as the destruction of American aboriginees at Wounded Knee, in Kansas, Wyoming, and Arizona, the interment and execution of the Nisea population after the outbreak of W. W. II. This same indifference is exhibited for contemporary atrocity in Viet Nam: The slaughter of over two hundred old men, women, children, and infants in My Lai, the indiscriminate destruction of My Khe 4 with the murder of at least a hundred civilians. Few Americans, and fewer Christians are familiar with the villages of Ben Suc or Son My, the provinces of Quang Ngai and Quang Tin, and the indiscriminate genocide of the civilians in those areas by American troops.
After returning from Viet Nam in 1969, a year and several months before the My Lai atrocities were publicly known by Americans, I made several efforts to tell Christians of the wide spread atrocity that I had witnessed in that country. The reaction of the brethren was the same as the German people - "morally un-involved and unconcerned." The almost universal response was, "Even if what you say is true, what does it have to do with me?" In our efforts to avoid the abuses of the "Social Gospel" we have in many instances, gone too far in the other direction. Some brethren are so "Otherworldly" that the wanton destruction of hundreds of innocent people by our "boys," and tacitly authorized by our government, will not even elicit a response of surprise. As one preacher in Florida said, "You have to expect that sort of thing in war." One Christian, in fact, was not only unconcerned, but went so far as to say, "They had it coming. That is the only thing those orientals understand: Force."
The gospel of Jesus Christ does not teach social indifference. Quite the contrary, Christians are the only leavening influence this world has. "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matt. 5:13). Our first responsibility as Christians are to God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). If our loved ones, friends, family, or nation are in conflict with God's righteousness we must still remain faithful to God even if our lives are forfeited (Matt. 10:34-39; Acts 4:19, 20). We must speak out and take a stand against all evil, lest God count us as accomplices of those that do evil (2 Jno. 11; Tit. 2:12, 15). Looking to and hastening the coming of the day of judgment (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) does not mean withdrawing all contact with this world or ceasing to attempt to influence it (1 Cor. 5:20). On the contrary, recognizing our place in the world, the paucity of time, and realizing that we have the only real answers to the world's problems we must spend what time we have left "warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom" (Col. 1:28).
Our prayers are the only prayers that are answered by God, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers" (1 Pet. 3:12). Paul commanded that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Without our active, concerned influence in this world through a forthright condemnation of all evil, a steadfast stance for right, and our prayers of love for this sin sick world, we will fail in our cause.
Jesus did not strike out at the murderer Herod with a sword, but with a stinging rebuke, "Go tell ye that fox . . ." Paul did not take up the sword or the bomb, but raised his voice against those in power that would do evil (Acts 16:37; 22:24-29). We look with disgust at the religious leaders and people in Nazi Germany, because their righteousness did not outweigh their sense of patriotism and self-preservation. How will History and the Lord judge his people in America? Geographical and political boundaries do not absolve the Christian from making a moral decision according to the Word.
My prayer for God's people is not that they will view the world and their part in it with indifference and complacency, but with a sense of purpose for right, and outrage at that which is evil.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:26, p. 12-13