A Number Is Not a Person

June 23, 2015 09:00 AM

Writing from a German prison camp where he would ultimately be murdered by the Nazis, Father Alfred Delp, SJ wrote about the meaning of humanity. Having lived as a mere serial number while in prison, he wrote

Let us resume the practice of giving names to life and to things. I have been a mere number long enough to know what it means to be nameless and what effect it has on life. As long as life itself has no name, or at least none that it honors, people and things will continue to lose their identity in the dreadful regimentation and anonymity into which we have sunk. Life has a sensitive nervous system through which everything is connected. Since the name of God is no longer the first and foremost of all names in the land and the voice of the people, then everything else that was once precious and prized has lost its name and been subjected to false and falsifying labels. The cliché, the label, the uniform, the slogan, the “dominant trend of the masses”—these are our rulers. And pity the man who dares to differ, to proclaim his own thoughts or use his own name.

When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was the fact that each one of the millions of little babies who have died from acts or the effects of abortion is also nameless. All of these children have lost their identities and are anonymous to everyone—including their mothers. Father Delp had an ID number and the mothers of aborted babies have case numbers. Assigning a number to replace a person’s name is degrading enough. But the child does not even have his own number, for in the United States that dead child has no humanity—according to the Supreme Court. He is either a mistake, a problem, a growth, or a threat to his mother’s future. He is anything but a human being.

At the same time, it is also clear that the name of God “is no longer the first and foremost of all names in the land.” In fact, there are abundant efforts all across America—led by the cultural hedonistic elite—to not only eradicate God’s name from public proclamation but to quash the very idea that people of faith have a right to speak out and defend the truth who is Christ. This is just part of the reason why “everything else that was once precious and prized has lost its name and been subjected to false and falsifying labels.”

Yes, Father Delp wrote his profound statement from a Nazi concentration camp nearly 70 years ago, but his words could well have been written today, Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

As he closed this part of his reflection on words from the Lord’s Prayer, Father Delp reflected: “The cliché, the label, the uniform, the slogan, the ‘dominant trend of the masses’—these are our rulers. And pity the man who dares to differ, to proclaim his own thoughts or use his own name.”

These are the very same challenges that we face today as we cry out for justice for the preborn, the threatened elderly, the ill, and others at risk because people are fast losing their identities as human beings worthy of respect and honor. America is going mad; we must turn back the tide. 

God is the antidote—the only answer to this problem.

Father Alfred Delp died for his faith in God. May we be strong enough to resolve to die for Our Lord as well if it should come to that.

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