Most of us are familiar with the old question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?" I'm sure many of us have put our mind into that "proverbial forest" and sought the answer. But that is only hypothetical.
A more significant question is, If evil occurs and no one pays attention, will it just go away? What happens when we are made fully aware of an injustice and turn our back on the matter hoping that it will disappear? In other words, are we ignoring the "crash of news" and the "crush of reality" coming down all around us?
Walter Reich wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Timesfocusing on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was April 19. This designated day reminds a modern audience of the real threat of man's inhumanity to man by spotlighting the organized and methodical extermination of nearly 6 million Jews during World War II under the Nazi war machine.
Dr. Reich is a professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University. He was the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum from 1995 to 1998. His article, titled "Holocaust Remembered, the News Went Nowhere," gives each of us a lot to think about, not only about the past, but what we plan to do in the future.
Lessons and legacies for our time
Dr. Reich begins, "On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, mourning the victims of that society is a compelling act of memory. It would have been better, of course, if, half a century ago, while it was taking place, the Holocaust had been confronted with the focus and conviction that is now being devoted to its remembrance."
He woefully adds, "But that didn't happen. And in that sad fact, lies a tale full of lessons for our time." The thrust of his thought is that while regrets and commemoration are noteworthy, the true essence of devotion is resolve and vigilance at the very moment that evil is being perpetrated.
He goes on to state, "By 1942, it was clear to Allied governments that Europe's Jews were being murdered by Nazi Germany. Reports of mass killings by mobile killing squads in the Soviet Union, and then of the use of gas chambers, were transmitted to Allied capitals. News of the annihilation of millions of Jews eventually appeared in American and British newspapers."
Here the real point is established. He decries the fact that in government circles and in the press, the information was marginalized and sometimes suppressed. He pinpoints how the New York Timesreported in the summer of 1942 on an inside page that 1 million Jews had been killed.
Later in 1944, the New York Timesreported in four inches of copy on page 12 that 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to their deaths. Just imagine squeezing the liquidation of 400,000 human lives, a city the size of Portland, Oregon, into an article you could cover over with your thumb. It was done, is being done and will be done again.
Dr. Reich explains that he realizes this was all happening in the midst of an entire world at war with death and conflict everywhere. Even so, such news and such overwhelming numbers demanded greater attention. It is interesting to hear some of the reasons why such stories as the Holocaust, or Shoah, as the Jews commonly referred to it, were tucked away on inside pages. Dr. Reich points, unsurprisingly, to the reality of anti-Semitism, not in Germany, but in the allied countries fighting to liberate Europe. He also argues that allied leaders wanted to focus on military matters rather than humanitarian matters, thus avoiding criticism that the war was being waged on behalf of Jewish interests.
But what is most interesting is his conclusion. The main reason for inattention to this monstrous cancer of genocide, causing America and Britain to marginalize such bad news, was "probably the audacious and almost unbelievable nature of this immense genocidal project." The American and British peoples could not bring themselves to believe the atrocities, thinking, "How could so civilized and cultured a nation as Germany carry out so savage and inhuman an enterprise?"
Dr. Reich continues his plea for true resolve by sharing the lingering, unbelievable genocidal devastation over the last decade in Rwanda. By doing so, he brings the argument forward into our time, and indicts global society, which, like biblical Belshazzar, has been "weighed in the balances, and found wanting" (Daniel 5:27). Dr. Reich then places his finger on a problem that besets the human family. The lesson is "the ease with which governments, as well as institutions and populations, can become bystanders as true evil is carried out. Even if they have information about what is happening, they can find ways, if that information is uninteresting or inconvenient, of not absorbing it."
Denying it doesn't make it disappear
Today each of us is most likely facing news that we wish would simply go away. It can be about our nation, family, workplace, community or congregation. It may be about us. All of us at times, and for too long a time, reflect the same human nature that enabled the Holocaust to occur. Sometimes it is easier to relegate what should be front-page news in our lives to the back pages of our attention. Somehow, we think that such placement of our problems magically alters the potential size of the problem. It's like putting our thumb over the massacre of 400,000 people and pretending it didn't happen. Normally, our nobler intentions are to delegate such unpleasantness to tomorrow, thinking it will be safer and perhaps even gone. "Tomorrow" is one of the most innocent sounding words in the dictionary, yet it's one of life's most dangerous words.
Recognizing the window of opportunity
Often the window of opportunity for action is narrow. How often have people had information come to them, only to sit on it, even when it is costing human lives? The window stays open for only so long before it slams shut.
Long ago, there was a man who had done evil in the land. In fact, he had sent a man who was in his service to a certain death on the front lines of his army so he could have that man's wife to himself. To those who knew about it, the truth was probably "inconvenient." If there had been a newspaper in King David's day, I wonder how far back in the newspaper we would have had to go to find Uriah the Hittite's name?
One man had the discernment and courage to make it "front-page news." With no thought of tomorrow or concern for his future in the palace, the prophet Nathan stared evil in the face and declared to David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7.) There was no sweeping this under someone else's rug. Nathan had to confront the evil of his time and place. Was he scared? Perhaps. The venerable Hollywood cowboy John Wayne once said, "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."
David did come to recognize his sins and Nathan is recognized as a godly man. It has never been humanly easy to identify evil and strive to crush it. Sometimes there is success and sometimes, for the moment, there is perceived failure. Ronald Reagan will long be known for identifying the Soviet Union as the "Evil Empire destined for the trash bin of history." And his legacy was strengthened. Fifty years before that, another man pointed to an emerging threat in Europe known as Nazism. That man, Winston Churchill, was hounded from Parliament and went into his famous "wilderness years."
Nathan the prophet, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill each portrayed a rare quality in the world of politics. Courage! It takes courage to stand up and be counted, but it takes even more courage to keep standing after you have been counted. There truly is a difference between living a life of resolve and vigilance versus an existence of regrets and commemorations of what could have been. Perhaps each of these men was locked into the truth of the principle found in James 4:17, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
Tell it all, and tell it now
World News and Prophecyis dedicated to the same principles that allowed Nathan to stand before a powerful ruler and tell it like it is, not burying the truth in a sinkhole of obscurity. The goal of our staff is to share the truly front-page events that will affect the life of every human alive today.
In Matthew 24:21, Jesus Christ plainly stated, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time." This time is yet in the future. It's a time that will even be, incredible as it might seem, more traumatic than the Holocaust perpetrated on the Jews. Based on the living reality of James 4:17, we would be held accountable if we did not warn people today about what is emerging politically and religiously once again in Europe and how it will affect your very life and the life of your dear ones.
God's Word does reveal what is going to occur, and now is the time to tell the story that is emerging, of a system that is going to overwhelm the world not only with its glitter, but also with its evil. We strive to follow the prophet Nathan in presenting the facts, in courage and discernment publishing what belongs in the front pages of our hearts and minds. Our goal is not to allow the news of lesser importance to crowd out the important world trends of which we need to be aware. We don't want to look back on what we could and should have said, and hang our heads in silent remembrance.
Nathan's bold front-page headline of what was really happening in the world of his day sets the standard we are striving to emulate, a standard that heralds the millennial refrain of Isaiah 30:21, "this is the way, walk in it." Like Nathan, we should tell it all, and tell it now!