Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Not Being Deceived

Yesterday, I posted some reflections that grew out of Philip Hallie's  Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and how goodness happened there. I focused primarily on the pastor of that congregation and the role he played there during World War II in occupied France.

There is one more thought I want to share, however, that connects some of what I've been thinking and praying about these past six weeks or so of my sabbatical time. Hallie quotes from Pastor Trocme's notes, where he writes: "Many French let themselves be deceived in 1942." (page 104) And then Hallie writes these words:
This is a psychologically penetrating statement. The Chambonnais under Trocme, on the other hand, would not let themselves be deceived. Trocme knew enough about Nazism and cared enough about its victims to realize that what the Germans were doing - whatever it was- was not for the good of the Jews. Perhaps he did not know more about Nazism than many other Frenchmen - Hitler's anti-Semitism was no secret in Europe - but he cared enough about its victims to realize what giving the Jews to the Germans meant for the Jews. That caring had to do in part with Saint John's commandment to love one another, but it also had to do with stubbornness, if you will, fortitude, a refusal to abjure - this crucial word again - a commitment. 
At this moment in American history, it seems to me that too many of my fellow citizens are allowing themselves to be deceived. This same notion came up in my reading of Stringfellow and of Wink. It also goes to the heart of Revelation as an "unveiling." Sometimes people simply do not have eyes to see, or ears to hear. Shouting louder is probably not the best way to get through to them! But it's also important to be able to discern when we are past the idea that people are simply entitled to have their own opinions. The holocaust happened, not only because of Hitler. It happened because too many good people "let themselves be deceived." They could not, or would not, see what was happening. There were not enough people who both knew and cared.

This is not a new problem. It's a problem we always face when battling against the Powers. But it seems to me there is great wisdom here in what Hallie sees in Trocme and the Chambonnais: they cared. It is not always more information that we need. Sometimes what we "know" is not enough on it's own.

I think of the refugees in our own day. Some people know that we need to secure our borders. Some people know that Biblical faith demands that we love our neighbors. Some people know that we (the United States government) played a huge role in creating this mess. (Some even know all of these things to be true!)

But until we truly care for the plight of that neighbor from Syria - until we see in the faces of their children a glimmer of recognition of our own children, - we will only be debating government policy. Until we care, we will not be able to use our eyes to see our neighbor. When we do, we require more than love or "goodness." We need to be stubborn. We need to persist. We need fortitude, and a refusal to abjure our commitment to mercy, compassion, and hope.

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