Where’s Mankind When Needed?
by BRUCE KESLER
March 6, 2012
I’ve been going to an interesting series of lectures on what is called Holocaust theology, the attempts to analyze what lessons about G-d can be drawn from the Holocaust, summed up in the question “Where’s G-d When Needed?” The learned views vary but, not having read the books, what seems missing is the question of “Where’s Mankind When Needed?”
The discussions of the question “Where’s G-d When Needed?” offers answers that draw upon centuries of theological explorations of what G-d is or what G-d intends and of in what ways we should be observant or revisionist in our religious practices.
Ultimately, however, in my view, modesty is – at the very least – required of man in presuming to understand G-d. Indeed, whether formally or spiritually religious, whether of faith or lacking faith in G-d, whether of any faith, it is, to me, more important and more knowable to try to first understand mankind. There is a truth to be had.
There are those in the world who seek domination over all aspects of others’ lives and thoughts. When such seize or are allowed to position to affect their control, the results are uniformly destructive of innocents and of the potentials that provide long-lasting benefits for most. Some or many, depending on the circumstances, align with such rulers in order to profit. For the majority, the basic belief in each other’s decency and goodness, or attempts to live in that way, is undermined – especially among those who most suffer, while most others just avoid confrontation or even thought in order to survive.
Meanwhile, there are those comparatively fewer who step forth to stir thought or to confront the depredations of such rulers. Often they pay high or ultimate prices. Often they prevail in planting unquenchable seedlings that grow to strength, and often they succeed in winning by recovering greater freedoms.
We can argue about how perfect or imperfect we are created in an image of G-d, if at all. We can argue about to what extent G-d guides our actions, if at all. We can argue about what G-d’s intent is, if there is one. We can argue about which organized religions come closer to understanding G-d, if at all. We can’t argue in any honesty, however, that – at least in the modern West and in some other regions’ dominant religions – most organized religions sincerely teach that there are moral and decent ways to interact, to be tolerant of reasonable differences, and to be. Indeed, these teachings and acts are fundamental restraints upon those who seek to usurp power to harm or control others’ freedoms.
In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz and spoke of the danger and purpose of its perpetrators of horrors:
We cannot peer into God’s mysterious plan - we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history….Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone - to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.
The Jewish Bible is full of miracles from G-d. Yet, in the Book of Esther, G-d’s intervention is not mentioned. Rabbinic commentary says that the hand of G-d is hidden but manifest in the saving of the Jews from the genocide plans of Haman. That may well be so. However, if there was divine intervention, it took the trembling will and the actions of a few of his earthly humans to bring about the good outcome.
Whether in whatever scripture G-d is seen to intervene, or not seen, or regardless of scripture seen as not intervening, and whenever in history horrible evils are curtailed or ended, it is mankind which acts to accomplish the result. More often than not, those with a deep religious faith are at that forefront. Absent such fighters to preserve the freedom of faith, successes in preserving other freedoms would likely be far, far fewer.
Today, we face gross intolerance among the rulers and mobs in most Moslem countries, rising to direct attacks upon all others. Today, we face here in the US our current rulers imposing their controls upon Catholic institutions and others who in the free exercise of caring draw the line at furthering what they believe is infanticide. These are efforts to impose control over individual and institutional and state freedoms, in effect to – as Pope Benedict XVI said – make “themselves masters of the world.” As I wrote last year, “Haman exists in every generation, and must be confronted, or allowed to prevail.” I ask this year, “Where’s Mankind When Needed?” It is up to each of us to decide, to act or not, and to live with the successes or consequences.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Bruce Kesler served in USMC Intelligence in Vietnam and was a researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He worked as a financial and business operations exec for Fortune 100 and small companies, and for the past two decades as an independent certified health and benefits consultant and broker. His columns have appeared in many major newspapers and also online. He currently blogs at Maggie’s Farm.
Bruce Kesler served in USMC Intelligence in Vietnam and was a researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He worked as a financial and business operations exec for Fortune 100 and small companies, and for the past two decades as an independent certified health and benefits consultant and broker. His columns have appeared in many major newspapers. He currently blogs at Maggie's Farm.