Friday, January 28, 2005

Auschwitz anniversary thoughts

Copied and pasted from

"God did not reveal himself in Auschwitz or in other camps. . . . A doctor who survived, from a religious background, who sailed to Israel with us in June 1946, told us: "We didn't see God when we expected him, so we have no choice but to do what he was supposed to do: we will protect the weak, we will love, we will comfort. From now on, the responsibility is all ours."

Aharon Appelfeld, 60th anniversary of Auschitz dismantling, NYT January 25th, 2005
To my ears, Appelfeld seems to be making the following assertion regarding the nature and (non)presence of God:
  • Auschwitz was a locus of unspeakable evil;
  • The God we were taught to believe in was good;
  • No good God would allow Auschwitz to happen, if he were there. THEREFORE:
  • God was not at Auschwitz.

Does his assertion necessarily follow? As I read scripture, I see a God who allows horrible suffering to occur. His response to horrible suffering is often not to stop it but rather to experience it with his suffering creation. God is not unmoved by or distant from the suffering of his people: rather, he suffers alongside them (Isaiah 16.9, 11; 63.9; Jeremiah 31.20; 48.31, 36; Hosea 11.8-9.)

One fascinating thing about the passages referenced above: in some of them, the suffering is said to have been sent by God as punishment or correction. In those cases, God (in a sense) is punishing himself: suffering, even when it is a consequence of evil, involves the creator alongside the created.

How should this aspect of God's character affect the way Christians think of Auschwitz or Rwanda or the Indian Ocean tsunami?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a student in one of your classes this semester and I am so glad you posted this entry. I was at Auschwitz this past summer and didn't realize the anniversary passed. I wanted to encourage you to include the Hollcaust topic in some of your discussions. The time I spent in Poland made me realize just how much the world needs to take notice of what happened there and how these people are still being effected. They seem to be forgotten by people especially Christians and there are so many craving a reason to live. I can't see anything but good coming from a lesson or two about the reality of what occured and how God used the situation then and can still use it today.

8:50 PM  

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