Our society, in fact, faces virtually the same temptation that Germany did: the temptation to normalize certain well-scripted death operations in the midst of polite society.
If we look within our own culture and within our own time, we will see that suction machines have replaced smokestacks, and that fertility clinics and women’s health centers have replaced the barbed wire. Unborn humans and embryonic children are now dispatched with the same desensitized ease as camp inhabitants once were, and never a word is mentioned in respectable society.
During the Nazi years, there often were no momentous decisions to be made for or against evil. People were concerned with their daily affairs, and on that level, Nazism seemed good: it seemed to bring prosperity, it made things work, it allowed people to feel good about themselves and their country. The moral issues — the ones that we now see as having been central — were carefully avoided.
When the full horror of Nazism was revealed at the end of the war, the German people responded, “We didn’t know.” When a local townsperson was asked whether he knew what was going on in the camp, he gave a more complete answer. “Yes, we knew something was up, but we didn’t talk about it, we didn’t want to know too much.” Primo Levi, a writer and a survivor of Auschwitz, described the German ethical blind spot this way:
In spite of the varied possibilities for information, most Germans didn’t know because they didn’t want to know. Because, indeed they wanted not to know. … Those who knew did not talk; those who did not know did not ask questions; those who did ask questions received no answers. In this way the typical German citizen won and defended his ignorance, which seemed to him sufficient justification of his adherence to Nazism. Shutting his mouth, his eyes and his ears, he built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence not being an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his door.
Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that what pained him the most was the silence of the good. Albert Einstein, who fled Germany when Hitler came to power, articulated the same sentiment in an interview for Time magazine on Dec. 23, 1940. He stressed that sometimes it was only the Church and religion that could challenge the status quo as evil made inroads into a society:
Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked for the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. But they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I had never any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom.
The courageous, even daring question we must ask is, “What is our own response to the evil around us?”
There is one thing that holds us back and that is fear. Fear of sacrifice. It’s not just any sacrifice that we fear, but the sacrifice of meaninglessness. In other words, we are afraid that the sacrifice we might put out will mean nothing in the end.
This, in turn, points to our lack of faith and trust in God that – no matter what happens – He will be with us until the end.
We must stand with the unborn and accept the consequences that this culture of death dishes out.
The pro-life movement has long forgotten that we are in a war.
A war means we need to fight.
For too long, we have been into appeasement and understanding. This needs to stop.
For as Christ said,
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49)