Nasty Nazis under the surface?
While overseas I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. The experience tore at your heart as one after another you heard about the atrocities carried out by humans upon other humans in those places. You were astounded and sicken by the realisation that just last century, almost in my life time, a western "christian" nation could do this to people. In Berlin I went to the Holocaust memorial and the museum under it. There I saw a photo that still haunts me. In the photo these women, Polish I think, had been stripped and were lying face down in a big pit. Standing over them were about four Nazis soldiers with pistols in hand shooting them one by one. One thing that was haunting about the photo was this one young woman looking back over her shoulder at the German officer who was leveling his pistol toward her head. I guess in the next second or two she was dead. I remember standing in front of that photo wishing I could wind back time. I found myself looking at this German soldier, a nice looking man, and wondering "How could he?" After each of these visits I comforted myself thinking that we in the modern western world had moved on from these nasty days. "Such a thing would not happen now" I tried to convince myself. But I don't think we have. Even in New Zealand.
This week in the news I have been astounded by the levels of violence in NZ. Last weekend in "Peaceful" Dunedin a young teenager was chased around the street and went into a restaurant for safety. That didn't save him, he was beaten and kicked unconscious by these other teenagers, with shoppers looking on. In another part of town a lady was stabbed. In Porirua a TV crew was interviewing a shop keeper. Her and her mother had been beaten by girl gangs. While the filming was going on a brawl broke out in the street outside between two women, one a teenager and the other a 26 year old. They were going hammer and tongs and even when it was broken up, they were screaming obscenities at each other... one declaring that she "was a Christian... that girl needed her arse kicked and I did it!" Incredible scenes. In Christchurch one young man may be blind in one eye because a guy pulled an air pistol and shot him in the head and eye! Someone left a cat in an air tight box on a motorway to die. A family was woken by two male intruders armed with a screw driver, metal bar and a knife. A fight followed, mum, dad and children absolutely terrified. Tonight I read of drive by slug gun shootings in Palmerston North. There have been others also that defy description. Are we any better than those nasty Nazis? If people like these got political power (and other news items this week exposed the nature of one of our politicians) would they not be just as violent but with more power and impact? In my chaplaincies this week I struck two men in two different places breathing all sorts of irrational generalisations, hatred and threats against Muslims! I don't know what sort of warped propaganda they had been reading. I suspect that there are many New Zealanders who if you scratched the surface and looked into their "souls" they too could easily be just like that Nazi soldier leveling his gun at a poor defenseless naked woman's head just because she was the wrong nationality.
Where does this violence come from? How do we stop it? What are we doing wrong that we breed such violent people? I don't know, but it scares me, challenges me and worries me.
Surprise! He's a nice Christian.
I was at a chaplaincy this week talking to the receptionist as I signed in. We were interrupted by an older lady customer, known to the receptionist, who commented on our interaction. I passed a cheeky comment, teasing the receptionist. (Nothing bad or sexual I assure you) . The receptionist laughed and said to the older lady... "Have you met Dave? You wouldn't know it, he's a Christian!" The old lady shuddered and put a grimace on her face, she obviously didn't have much time for Christians. The receptionist went on, "Oh he's a nice one. Even though he's a christian, he's a nice one, the nicest I have ever known!" How sad, what have we Christians done wrong to deserve such a bad reputation? How come she is surprised to find a "nice one"? I wish my good church people, who are often blind to how people view the church, could take on board such statements.
- I enjoyed peaceful Dunedin bush today.
- Auschwitz entrance building from the railway platform on which people's fate was decided.
- The holocaust memorial in Berlin.