Churches burn down, Deafening Silence of Apathy, Ear for an ear vigilante justice, First they came for the Jews, Martin Niemöller, Some are guilty all are responsible, Summer on Fire, Truth and Reconciliation
“In 1930s Nazi Germany, Martin Niemöller played a crucial role in organizing the Confessing Church, an ecclesial movement that resisted Adolf Hitler’s interference in German Protestant affairs. As punishment for his protest, Niemöller was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps from 1938 to 1945.” Due to his outspoken critique of Hitler’s efforts to dominate the church, Niemöller is remembered as one of the few German Protestants who openly defied the Nazis. He is best known for his widely quoted 1946 poem “First they came …“. The poem exists in many versions; the one featured on the United States Holocaust Memorial reads as above. (Source: CT article on Martin Niemöller).
When will it be Your turn?
Insert the name of any people group you want, and you get the point. When will it be your turn to be persecuted for no other reason than who you are, who you belong(ed) to, or who you identify(ied) with?
No doubt there were not enough people – like Niemöller – in Canada back in the 19th Century and beyond who would speak up on behalf of the rights of Indigenous peoples when their treaties were being dishonoured, and their children were being taken by force to residential schools. The silence of this apathy was… deafening. And so too is the deafening silence to this “ear for an ear” vigilante justice being visited on the people assigned the horrible guilt as churches are being burned down. The new silence of apathy is equally as deafening in a nation that must share the responsibility but who try to deflect all the shame upon anyone who dares identify as a Christ follower.
As a Christ follower I am bewildered by the reasoning that led to the genocide of Indigenous peoples with the help of the “church” of the day (just as I am bewildered by the Churches of Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s). What possible biblical/spiritual tenant would have been followed if they were following Jesus’ example and word? It is as perplexing as it was a wicked evil. It is a tragedy of profound contradiction.
However I am not surprised that the church has been willing to be instigators and fully involved in truth and reconciliation. Burn down the churches if you think this rights a wrong, but it won’t stop actual Christ followers seeking truth and reconciliation.
Presuming to Speak on Behalf of Aboriginal People
In an interview with Anthony Furey, Melissa Mbarki stated:
The fanatics burning down churches on Indigenous reserves and the Twitter pseudo-intellectuals who cheer them on have one thing in common: they presume to speak on behalf of Aboriginal people.
Not letting First Nations speak for themselves is nothing new: if it’s not it’s church-burning cheerleaders, it’s politicians cancelling Canada Day, or environmentalists hijacking First Nation’s economic opportunities.
(Melissa Mbarki, a policy analyst at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute hailing from Saskatchewan’s Treaty 4, talks to Anthony about how all of them stand in the way of the genuine reconciliation with non-Aboriginal Canadians that so many Indigenous people want).
The Deafening Silence of Apathy
In his article of July 12, Rex Murphy asks “Why is it OK to harm Christian places of worship in Canada?
Why, following this stream of attacks is almost everyone so calm? I’m not putting that question to the ‘burn them all down’ crowd, who are apparently living on their ow strange island or housed with the BC Liberties Association. One cannot expect a well of sympathy from a bunch that wants to see more burnings.
Yet it is surely a question for every other Canadian... why is a whole series of attacks on Christian churches receiving only routine coverage?
If there were attacks on “only 10 or 20” temples of any other religion in the space of a few weeks – “You would be hearing the familiar line ‘this is not who we are’ from sad-eyed leaders. But in the past few weeks, there has be very little of any of this.” Murphy continues:
I will note one outstanding matter. Those who some would expect (wrongly) to most easily let these attacks pass, Indigenous people, have been among the strongest and most persuasive in their condemnation and disavowal. There’s a combination of charity and resilience in some of their statements that is as rare as it is commendable.
How are you Speaking up?
To take a variation on Murphy, “it is surely a question for every Canadian“:
Why is a whole series of attacks on Christian churches receiving only average Canadian apathy?
In “Take a Stand” I quoted Rabbi Heschel’s maxim:
…morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
I ended that post with a variation on the theme: “How are You taking a Stand?”
For more see “Summer on Fire.”
Lorne Anderson said:
I’ve walked by Niemoller’s home church many a time. My wife’s grandfather was also a pastor, a contemporary of Niemoller’s. Also taken by the Gestapo, but for some reason released after a few weeks.
Having lived in Germany, I better understand how the evils of fascism flourished. And how it could see a resurgence in Canada and the USA.
The burning of churches accomplishes nothing useful, brings about no reconcilaition. I note that one of the dozen or so churches touched by arson or vandalism in Calgary was a congregation of Vietnamese refugees with no connection to the residential school system.
That there has not been more of an outcry over tha attacks on Christain places of worship is not surprising. When the Prime Minister says such attacks are “understandable,” it is a signal that the law doesn’t apply.
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R.H. (Rusty) Foerger said:
Thanks Lorne for your comments; what a rich family history you have, and opportunity to deeply reflect on the life of a person like Niemoller for such a time as this (thanks too for the link to your own post in honour of Niemoller). We live in interesting times when salt and light are needed as much – if not more than ever. Thanks for your thoughts on this.
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Heather Holbrook said:
I am so embarrassed to say that, as an American, I didn’t even know about this. This should be frontline news.
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R.H. (Rusty) Foerger said:
These are the days we live in. As I said in “Summer on Fire” – this is “a call for Christ-followers to do the work of absorbing the pent up anger that cannot land on the culprits, but can be aimed at those who are here now to listen and restore.” We are made for such a time as this to be ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom. In the face of such rage, may we be found to be more Christ-like than outraged.
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