Vision New England Blog

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The general blog of Vision New England dedicated to equipping and encouraging New England Christ followers to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly and make disciples.


Not Doing Justice Equals Doing Injustice

James 4:17
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is a sin for them.

 

 

Since being asked to write this blog, I’ve been praying for focus and direction. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the result has challenged me, and forced me to face some realities that I had previously been quite content ignoring; after all, God loves to challenge us, and push us to be better versions of ourselves. Nevertheless, what I’ve realized has still made me uncomfortable, and highlighted certain crucial shortcomings that I’ve been blatantly ignoring.

 

I’ve never been politically motivated. In fact, I’ve generally regarded serious discussions about the workings of the world as dangerous. I’ve also never felt like there was anything I could say or do that would change even the slightest thing about the problems society faces. Lately, however, I’ve been experiencing a profound shift that I would like to share, because I think it’s completely relevant to our responsibility to “do justice.” This shift began as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I read something that made me think about Adolf Eichmann.

 

During my final year at college, I was assigned to read a book called Eichmann in Jerusalem, by Hannah Arendt. It became one of four books that have had a profound influence on my life. The book details Arendt’s journalistic investigation into the psychology and personality of Adolf Eichmann (one of the major organizers of the Holocaust) during his trial in Jerusalem in 1961. In this exploration, Arendt discovers the disturbing truth about Eichmann, and about humanity in general; she calls it “the banality of evil,” and highlights it in saying that, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” When you consider Eichmann’s admitted role in genocide, and that he was responsible for the horrific deaths of millions of Jews, you realize just how grim a revelation this is.

 

In addition to her discussion of Eichmann himself, Arendt also examines the actions of other groups and governments during the Holocaust. In doing so, she finds that these illustrations also depict the banality of evil, and how the majority of evil in the world is done by normal people, not monsters, who simply refuse to stand against injustice, are only doing their jobs, or obeying orders. For example, most countries failed to resist the identification and deportation of their Jews, and they more or less cooperated with the Germans in this task. Furthermore, most Jewish leaders themselves even cooperated with Nazi officials in organizing the Jewish population, a fact that Arendt points out led to gravely more deaths than what would have occurred had the leaders refrained from doing so. Only in Denmark was there real, direct, organized opposition to the Nazi’s efforts, and Arendt explains that because of this the Germans were virtually ineffective with their task. In fact, Arendt writes that, “It is the only case we know in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their ‘toughness’ had melted like butter in the sun.” What happened in Denmark is an example of political, decisive action, as opposed to the banality of evil, and it is the only thing that led to justice in a time when the standard was fear, and compliance.

 

What Arendt shows throughout her book is that evil reigns when normal people face injustice and refuse to do anything about it. They adhere to the means, and execute their orders, no matter how unthinkable. Actually, they don’t really even think about what they are doing at all; they simply obey blindly, because that is what we’ve all been brainwashed to do, and if they experience a moment of doubt, their fear of what will happen if they break away from the status quo cripples them, and they return to their unthinking, believing it to be safer than taking a stand. The only way to confront this is to take a definitive, unyielding position against wrongdoing, and model what it means to be political by taking action (as was the case in Denmark.) Only when this happens will others become willing to act as well.

 

Fear is a powerful motivator, and we live in a world of fear. These fears are both big and small, and they are tearing the world apart on countless levels. Fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of others, fear of ourselves, fear of war, fear of pains – these are all commonplace, and they cause us to walk through life looking over our shoulder, under our beds, in the mirror, across the ocean, and everywhere else we could possibly conceive there to be danger. We create danger that wouldn’t even exist because we are afraid, and this illusory danger can even frequently overshadow real threats that we may face. Fear allows sin and injustice to thrive, and it needs to be confronted with courage.

 

I’ve been thinking about these themes quite a lot lately as I’ve seen different events unfold in the news, and even in my own life. Take a look at our broken world. It is easy to tune out all the suffering, wrongdoing, and hate, and deny that it’s happening, because accepting that this is the reality is not only terrifying, but it challenges us to the very core. Arendt states that “under conditions of terror most people will comply.” This inability to resist injustice and evil actually perpetuates it, and therefore is a sin and crime itself, and in my avoidance of conviction and action I have been an accomplice, like many others. This does not sit well with me.

 

Because of this realization I’ve decided to become political. I’m not running for government, or starting a political movement, or anything like that, but I’m choosing to be more informed, and to act on my convictions and beliefs. I’ve begun to challenge myself to advocate for others, and reach out with compassion (even when it’s inconvenient) when I see them treated unfairly, rather than remain silent because this just spreads darkness and despair rather than love and hope. I’ve decided not to turn a blind eye to the injustices of the world, but to confront them whenever possible. I’ve committed to engaging in respectful discourse with others, even if they hold different beliefs than me, in an effort to understand them better, and to help them understand me, rather than continuing to feel threatened by one another. I refuse to sit back any longer, staying out of the mess and being comfortable, because the mess has gotten out of control, and I will not be a part of the global bystander affect that has allowed this to happen.

 

I think as Christians, it is our duty to challenge our fears, to act courageously on the convictions God has placed in our hearts and, moreover, to actively search ourselves for these convictions. Even if it’s not something overtly political that we are standing for, we need to be political about something. We can all do something. It doesn’t need to be a largescale display, we just need to do what we can in whatever situation we face. We need to be for justice, because allowing injustice when you can prevent it is as equally wrong as directly committing it.