Thursday, February 23, 2012

Divine Judgement

Last night we were discussing perspectives on life and the effectiveness of living wills in the context of the presidential debates. Obviously there is the issue of the civil government’s duty in protecting the life and liberty of all its citizens from the very beginning of life at conception to the end of the days ordained by God. I hadn’t realized there are still more implications up for debate, however. I was pretty sure everyone understood what happened in Nazi Germany was deplorable and they didn’t plan on repeating it anytime soon. How, then, do we find it palatable to discuss someone’s “quality of life” as if we had the right to preserve it or snuff it out? Only God knows the length of a man’s days; in His eyes all life is precious and it is our duty to preserve it to the best of our ability as long as He sustains it.

I was reminded of Sophie Scholl’s words under interrogation:
Interrogator: “Why do you risk so much for false ideas?”
Sophie Scholl: “Because of my conscience.”
Interrogator: “You’re so gifted. Why don’t you think and feel like us? …The New Europe can only be National Socialist… you are confused. You have no idea. The wrong education. Maybe it’s our fault. I’d have raised a girl like you differently.”
Sophie Scholl: “Do you realize how shocked I was to find out that the Nazis used gas and poison to dispose of mentally ill children? My mother’s friends told us. Trucks came to pick up the children at the mental hospital. The other children asked where they were going. “They’re going to heaven,” said the nurses. So the children got on the truck singing. You think I wasn’t raised right because I feel pity for them?”
Interrogator: “These are unworthy lives. You trained to be a nurse. You saw people who were mentally ill.”
Sophie Scholl: “Yes and that’s why I know. No one, regardless of circumstances can pass divine judgment. No one knows what goes on in the minds of the mentally ill. No one knows how much wisdom can come from suffering. Every life is precious.”
Interrogator: “You have to realize that a new age has dawned. What you’re saying has nothing to do with reality.”
Sophie Scholl: “Of course it has to do with reality. With decency, morals and God.”
Interrogator: “God doesn’t exist! Here. For the record I ask you: ‘Following our talks, have you come to the conclusion that your action together with your brother, can be seen as a crime against society and in particular against our hard-fighting troops and that it must be harshly condemned?’”(1)
Sophie Scholl: “No, not from my point of view. I still believe I acted in the best interests of my people. I don’t regret it and I’ll accept the consequences.”(2)

Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst

Sophie was part of a non-violent anti-Nazi resistance movement in 1943, called the White Rose. Sophie (21 years old), her brother Hans, and their friend Mr. Probst were arrested, interrogated for four days, sentenced to death and then executed on February 22 of that year for publishing anti-Hitler propaganda and speaking against the socialist regime.
Sophie’s testimony is incredibly impactful. I often ask myself what I would have said had I been in her position. Her answers during her interrogation passionately and coherently defend her position so that even the interrogator was sympathetic and frustrated by turns.
The following quotes are copied from her letters and journal and perhaps give us a glimpse into how she thought:
“Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided. Yet time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely unchristian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect a righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?....(3)
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don't want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won't take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don't like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, die small. It's the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you'll keep it under control. If you don't make any noise, the bogeyman won't find you. But it's all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn…(4)
“I shall cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even if my numb hands can no longer feel it.”(5)

I pray we all have the courage and knowledge to always speak for what is right, especially now since it won’t currently cost us death by guillotine. “Lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” (Proverbs 20:15) Else Gebel shared Sophie Scholl's cell and recorded her last words before being taken away to be executed: "It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted."(6)  Her mother was able to see her for a brief moment before she was taken away, just long enough to say, “Don't forget, Sophie. Jesus.” And Sophie replied, “Yes, mother, but you neither.”(7) Let us not forget Sophie’s sacrifice and neglect the freedom and truth she died for. But more importantly, let us live for Him, Jesus, seeking first His kingdom and righteousness, honor and glory in standing up for those precious lives who bear His image and breathe His breath of life, for “of such is the kingdom of Heaven”.

1.       Transcribed from the film: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, sources for film derived from official records, the interrogator’s son’s account of his father, other interrogates and in At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl (1987) edited by Inge Jens, translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn.
2.       Response to the closing question in the official examination transcripts (February 1943); Bundesarchiv Berlin,ZC 13267, Bd. 3
3.       As quoted in Seeking Peace : Notes and Conversations Along the Way (1998) by Johann Christoph Arnold, p. 155
4.       As quoted in O2  : Breathing New Life Into Faith (2008) by Richard Dahlstrom, Ch. 4 : Artisans of Hope: Stepping into God's Kingdom Story, p. 63
5.       As quoted in At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl (1987) edited by Inge Jens, translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn; also in Voices of the Holocaust : Resistors, Liberation, Understanding (1997) by Lorie Jenkins McElroy
6.       Spartacus Educational, Else Gebel shared Sophie Scholl's cell and recorded her last words before being taken away to be executed.
7.    Transcribed from the film: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

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