Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Friday, March 31, 2006

Holocaust Museum

It's a beautiful museum, and an incredibly well done educational experience which draws one in to the times and place and people and the horror of the holocaust. I had avoided this museum for some years, afriad it would be overwhelming, but it was not overwhelming, just sad, and sobering. And it has me thinking about my theory of why people do such evil deeds...deeds not, by any means, confined to a decade of German history. Our own nation has its share of major atrocities with genocidal intent against native americans and more than a few shameful breeches of human rights against persons percieved to be aliens or subhuman, from African Americans to Japaneese to Irish to illegal immigrants. And there are genocides going on today, notibly in the Sudan, and genocides in the past.

What allows otherwise decent human beings to kill, torture, and mutilate, and how do we guard against this? The first is that in order to engage in this behavior, most people have to be convinced that the ones they are killing and mutilating and torturing are not human beings. Therefore the first price of civilization is eternal vigilance against de-humanizing humans. It's not at all a small step between allowing sick illegal aliens in your nation to die from lack of care, turning them away from feeding sites, and shooting them at your boarder to killing them outright. The people who have done the shooting and turning away need, to justify their actions, to harden their hearts and dehumanize their victims. That begins a cycle which, history plainly tells us, can easily get out of hand.

The Catholic Church is right to threaten civil disobedience against laws which would require them to harden their hearts against illegal aliens requesting their aid. Not only is Biblical law unequivocal on this matter "You shall not oppress the alien in your land," but their psychology is right, too.

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