Sometimes I’m The Devil Sometimes It’s My Toaster

Statistics are not in our favour.

Everyone who reads about the history of Hitler’s Germany during WW2, from the outside of Germany, comes away thinking, “How could people have been that way?”

The assumption on our part is that “WE” would never have been like that.

Indeed some were not. But enough became so to fuel a genocide and a war.

The humbling realization is that if we were in the same conditions and experiencing, the same variables, pressures, culture, words, media, etc, at the time, statistically, just as many of us would have become the same evil, with one little incremental act at a time toward that end.

Our assumption that we would have been better people is naive and simplistic, if not arrogant. We could have risen above, some did, but most of us end up like the majority.

History proves it, in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Congo, Rwanda (Was 46 percent Christian at the time – the Church Missionary success story it was often referred to. That is, until the genocide brought into question just how deep that faith really was in the hearts of the nation) , and the little discussed Japanese invasion of China. The brutality, the heinous torture, rape, and murder in various towns as they were captured, is blood curdling. What,the Japanese have a penchant, more so, for that, right? They were just “more” evil people.

I’m reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s, “The Gulag Archipelago”, and he writes about a humbling insight he gained in Stalin’s Russia, as he understands the pressure bright or dependable people were under to join the ORGANS (NKVD)

“Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, stricken dumb: it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were executioners and we weren’t.”

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago. VOL 1, p16

This would apply to orphanages, church abuse scandals, aboriginal and native boarding schools, not only political movements. All horrors, we have come to find out after the fact. If we were a politician, town official, or an educator at those times and in those situations, statistically, most of us would have went with the flow of our culture, politics, and nation at that time.

You think not?

The Majority German church supported Hitler, except Bonhoeffer’s movement.

Humility has to be the end result. Humility confesses that “they” were not worse people than we are. Like them we are a product of our times. And before you and I put pressure on people to conform to certain ideologies, we better understand that we still don’t know the end game result of most of them. Conforming to the ideology might put us on the wrong side of history.

Maybe those playing ball will be the villains, maybe those who don’t play ball are setting up the catastrophe. How do you know for sure without hindsight? Studying history and noticing human and patterns helps.

But you and I have it all figured out, eh? Ya! Right!

If we think the solution to human suffering is found in better political ideologies, or economic ideologies such as wealth distribution, (not that anyone is opposed to feeding the worlds hungry and using a system of government with the least flaws), or that the soul has little to do with it, unfortunately, then, we are missing a huge part of the equation. I am both the solution and the problem, at the same time.

Things are more complicated than money and structures, these are external, material things, though they are certainly part of the equation. However, sometimes it might have little to do with our lack of opportunity or access. Sometimes it is me. There are existential and soul factors involved.

The brokenness in us emerges at times, at some point in most of our lives. Thinking it is not there, that we do not, at times, favor our comfort over another persons suffering is an illusion. We do it all the time. Sometimes we simply choose the wrong, at times knowingly, other times unknowingly, no matter the personal harm it causes ourselves or others. But there are times we chose it.

The fact that you and I make toast in a $15 toaster each morning pricks the balloon. No one can sell a $15 toaster for a profit that has been trucked in China to a port, shipped half way around the world, and then trucked to three different distribution depots around the country for a thousand miles before it reaches a local store, where each stop sees someone making profit along the way, unless someone is working for a buck an hour.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we describe the whole lot, good and evil.”

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago. VOL 1.

“But weren’t there also some who rose above the party – who were good in a general, human sense?

Broadly speaking, they should not have been there. The Organs avoided employing such people, eliminating them at the recruitment stage. And such people played their hand shrewdly so as to get out of it. Whoever got in by mistake either adjusted to the milieu or else was thrown out, or eased out, or even fell across the rails himself. Still were there no good people left there?”

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago.

If you have a chance to run from evil; run! Only Jesus Christ can save us from “OUR” sin, and we certainly need saving from our sins. But our faith better be a real faith, because if we really don’t have the transformation, Rwanda happens with machetes in “Christian” hands too, and the German church submits to Hitler.  Even then Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church refused. It can be done.

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