Saturday, May 02, 2015
Goodness and Evil
Recently I was asked by direct message whether I believed in demons and evil. I offered a qualified "yes." I do believe in evil and I have seen it close at hand. Yet I know how the spectre of evil has been used to subjugate people through the centuries. I don't get asked this sort of question often but it would probably be good to address the subject more often.
This week there was an opinion piece in the New York Times which reflects on how the German people will remember the evil of the Holocaust or Shoah now that those of the generation who lived through this terrible atrocity are all but gone. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/01/opinion/why-old-nazis-are-still-useful.html?ref=opinion&smid=tw-nytopinion&_r=0
The piece was prompted by the current trial of Oskar Gröning, the 93-year-old “accountant of Auschwitz.” Mr. Gröning is charged with complicity in the murder of at least 300,000 people. Several of the few remaining camp survivors have testified at the trial and after all these years their pain in palpable. While Gröning has expressed remorse he has also described the mass murders in clinical terms.
Speaking about evil is never easy. So often it is not identified in the moment, whether it is manifested in personal relationships or in systemic brutality. Yet we know it exists in our world and too often under the cloak of religious piety. We must ask God to give us clarity in the challenging task of naming the destructive forces of our world.
There has been an expression of the triumph of goodness over evil during the trial. Survivor Eva Kor allowed Gröning to kiss her, and she said that she forgave him:
“I know many people will criticize me for this photo, but so be it. It was two human beings 70 years after it happened. For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture.”