Remembering the holocaust

March 19, 2010 09:00 AM

Guest commentary by Kortney Blythe

I recently visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Of course, as an abortion abolitionist, I thought of the subject often as I viewed each display. But certain areas of the museum sparked stronger parallels to the abortion battle.

Many Hollywood movies have been made chronicling the stories of Holocaust survivors. Some have even documented the rescuers and heroes during this time (Schindler’s List, Defiance). A scarce few, however, highlighted the impact that the church—both Protestant and Catholic—had on the rescue efforts.

As I perused the “Rescue and Resistance” section of the museum, I couldn’t help but notice a pattern. Many of the prominent rescuers were priests, pastors, nuns and religious people with strong convictions for the sanctity of human life.

If you’ve never heard of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, look it up or rent the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Sophie and her brother, Hans, were college students compelled by their Christian faith to speak out against Hitler and the Nazi agenda through non-violent means. Their leaflets influenced thousands, and they were martyred for their courage. They quoted extensively from The Bible and unequivocally challenged people to wake up from their indifferent slumber.

When I visited the Holocaust museum’s web site, I found further evidence of the church’s impact during the Holocaust (emphasis mine):

Some European churches, orphanages, and families provided hiding places for Jews, and in some cases, individuals aided Jews already in hiding … In France, the Protestant population of the small village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon sheltered between 3,000 and 5,000 refugees, most of them Jews. In France, Belgium and Italy, underground networks run by Catholic clergy and lay Catholics saved thousands of Jews.

Two ministers led the residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in the effort to hide Jews, provide forged I.D. cards and help them escape to safety, even though some residents were arrested and one murdered by the Gestapo. The Yad Vashem, a Holocaust remembrance organization, recognized the town with the title, “Righteous Among the Nations.” The gratitude Yad Vashem feels towards recipients of this award is best summed up this way:

Attitudes towards the Jews during the Holocaust mostly ranged from indifference to hostility. The mainstream watched as their former neighbors were rounded up and killed; some collaborated with the perpetrators; many benefited from the expropriation of the Jews property. But in this world of moral collapse there was a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values.

At the end of the museum tour is a section called "From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide." Its purpose is to direct the righteous anger and indignation (elicited from viewing the horrors of the Holocaust throughout the museum) from emotions to action. Thus, the display encourages visitors to fight modern genocides in the world.

As you might’ve guessed, abortion is never mentioned.

In the feedback notebook provided for guests, I implored the museum to include abortion in its genocide display. In my note, I referenced Deuteronomy 30:19, which is prominently displayed on a wall in the museum. It reads, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

Choose life that your offspring may live.

As I exited the museum, the heroes section lingered in my mind; specifically, the overwhelming presence of the church in the rescue efforts. I thought of the slavery abolitionist movement. It was Christians who ran underground railroads, preached anti-slavery sermons that shifted the culture and infiltrated the government with pro-personhood legislation.

 I said to my mom, “If the churches in America stood united against abortion, we would see an end to it.”

Instead, the Episcopal, Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist denominations have official  pro-abortion stances. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development undermines Catholic teaching by supporting pro-abortion organizations. Groups such as the YWCA and the Salvation Army have distanced themselves from their Christian heritage and shifted their positions on the plight of the preborn.

As for the majority of American churches, abortion is a taboo subject. There may be one or two pro-life activists in a congregation, but they are just the token radicals.

Many Christians have become apathetic and indifferent, letting a few passionate individuals do the work that all Christians should be doing. Jesus is supposed to be our example, and he was radical. His message of caring for the “least of these” is for all Christians. He didn’t proclaim ear-tickling messages. He made people uncomfortable in their complacency. He never backed down from the Truth, and eventually, he was crucified.

William Wilberforce, one of the most influential slavery abolitionists in England, whose story was captured in the film Amazing Grace, said, "If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large."

Most church leaders do not hesitate when asked to collect food for the homeless or fill shoeboxes for Christmas. But when they’re asked to pray outside an abortion mill or allow a pro-life speaker to make a presentation, it’s a whole different story. No one gets upset when a church collects a special offering for Haiti, but bring up abortion and you may very well have controversy. So be it. The 50 million children dead from abortion deserve our passion.

In the past, when the body of Christ, the Church, rose up in opposition to an injustice, earth-shaking things happened. Slaves were freed, rights were restored and killings ended.
The first leaflet of the White Rose asked something that Christians in a country with decriminalized abortion should ask themselves every day: "Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes—crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure—reach the light of day?”

May the Christian churches remove the veil from its eyes and expose the horrible crime against humanity that is abortion. Only then will it end. 

Kortney Blythe is the chapter and street team coordinator for American Life League’s Rock for Life project,  which brings the human personhood message to youth through music, education and human rights activism.

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