A Month After The Yad Vashem Museum
High school debate class taught me something, and I have lived long enough to see it play out over and over.
People can argue rationally for or against almost anything. They can make both sides sound good – even if it is completely impossible for both sides to be right.
But there is one thing I didn’t realize when I was sixteen, in debate class, and learning to deliver one point after another with speeds beyond the novice level. In the real world, one’s political slant colors everything. Everything.
Truth gets messy when one picks beliefs based on the planks of the platform of a particular political party.
Credibility, as far as I’m concerned, is lost when one’s beliefs (and points) match up too closely with any political party.
While I was in Israel, I went to the Yad Vashem Museum. We were all reasonably smart people on that trip. A publisher. A journalist. A photojournalist. A freelance writer. A syndicated columnist. And we all believe in higher education. In my own family, my mother has her doctorate. My sister and husband have doctorates. My dad had a Master of Divinity, my brother has an M.B.A., and I have a M.A.
I suppose that is why it horrified me – horrified all of us at the Yad Vashem Museum – that so many of the SS officers responsible for the Holocaust were educated men. Men with doctorate degrees. Men who should have known better.
But one can rationalize anything.
And when politics and power enter into it, the mind has all the motivation it needs to embrace some truly diabolical things.
Nobody is immune. In fact, the more education… the more prestige, and the more prestige… the more power. Power and prestige can become a prison.
When the stakes are high, we can talk ourselves into almost anything.
Strip us of the power. Remove the love for the prestige. And we see Auschwitz for what it is.
And abortion, too.
And the death penalty.
And a closed hand to the poor.
And a closed door to the immigrant.
We make all things sound rational.
We can make anything seem reasonable.
So we enter the Facebook world and spew words faster than a debater. We cut and paste the best arguments we see out there and imprint them on our minds for future use.
We can defend our position. So bring it on.
Politics is not my compass. Something else guides me. And it helps me to sort through the war of words.
My parents instilled it in me:
Denise, one day, you will stand before Jesus and give an accounting. Yes, one day you will stand where Pontius Pilate stood, only you won’t be asking, “What is truth?” You will be standing before the One who is Truth. And he will be your judge.
A judge who has spent your whole life advocating for the unborn, the aging, the prisoner, the poor, the immigrant. And that is the moment when you will realize if you truly knew him. Or if you only said you knew him.
We all need an informed conscience, but there is a danger in letting our politics inform our conscience.
The Christ who advocates for the unborn, the aging, the prisoner, the poor, the immigrant, and marital love is the one who must inform our conscience.
And his Church – a Church that does not fit well with any particular political party. Thanks be to God!