John Demjanjuk was on trial for being a guard at the notorious Polish concentration camp, Treblinka, and had been known as "Ivan the Terrible."  The graphic accounting of his alleged offenses were not for the squeamish.  Finally, his lawyer stood up and stated with certainty that his client was not a monster, and claimed Demjanjuk had never been a guard at Treblinka, but served in the German army at another camp, Sobibor, where he was known as "Ivan the Less Terrible." 

When you're talking about crimes against humanity, is there really a sliding scale?  What about the things people do in the name of God that are ungodly?  

I started thinking about the way we rationalize our actions after reading some postings on Facebook.  One FB friend made a comment one day about homosexuality that was not overtly offensive, but had a tinge of intolerance to it.  "Love the sinner, hate the sin," she wrote.

Another FB friend is obsessed with purging the country of immigrants and laments that "his" country is becoming "third-world" because of all the "types" of people we "let in."  If you purge the country of everyone who came from somewhere else, wouldn't everyone who's not Native American have to leave?  And where would they go? 

I'm starting to think there's some kind of gradation of "godliness" that makes it possible to hate whole segments of society and still claim to love God. 

Most religions have an element of redemption and forgiveness, and many of us know that we've been the recipients of grace.  As people of faith, have we forgotten that?  How is it that we're often graceless, ungracious and ungrateful and still pack up the whole family in the mini-van to get to church every Sunday?  

It's doubtful that any of us will find ourselves on trial like Ivan the Terrible and/or Less Terrible, but if we believe that we're representing our faith to the world, we should at least remember that what we say and do really matter.  Just as I tell my son that he should treat himself and others with respect, because he represents me, this family, this community, and this country, hoping that if I keep saying it, eventually, it will take root.  Not a bad way to engage with the world, whatever your creed.

Warm Welcome 

You can't know someone
by sizing them up at first glance.
It takes effort to really connect
with another human being.
So many things separate us,
like color, age, and language.
But all it takes is heart to come together.
Help us to live what we say we believe,
and keep the door open to all.
As people who seek You,
allow us to seek unity.
At work, at home,
with strangers and friends,
remind us that there is no great divide,
only Your children,
and our choices.

-Ruth Williams


more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad