Monday, February 22, 2010

Die Weiss Rose and Public Opposition to Evil

"How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"
-Last words of Sophie Magdalena Scholl before her execution by guillotine at the hands of the Nazi regime, she was 22 years old when killed.

The White Rose Society was a group of Germans who stood up against the Nazi regime in the form of leaflets denouncing the on going atrocities. These individuals represented true patriots as they saw the shame that the regime was bringing upon Germany. More importantly than being patriots the participants in the White Rose Society were Christians.

It was because the participants in the White Rose society held that man had dignity being made in the image of God that the society opposed the wars of aggression the regime engaged in as well as the slaughter of the Jewish people in Reich controlled territory.

The White Rose distributed a total of six leaflets denouncing the regime and attempting to rouse the German people out of their apathy. It was their opinion that there were many who agreed with them that what the Nazi regime was doing was atrocious, yet they simply would not publicly voice such an opinion. Sophie Scholl stated this notion precisely during her "trial" for treason as she declared:

"Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did."

I believe this is often the case when it comes to national evils, I think of the abortion issue here in America particularly and how the majority of evangelical Christians would say that they oppose the slaughter of unborn children. However, where is the public outcry demanding that the practice be stopped?

I reflected in my latest podcast how when a group of us organized an abortion protest and told the local evangelical Churches in the town the time and place of the protest, how nobody came. I will never forget that feeling, that the Church by and large really doesn't care about this. I am certain that if I asked those Church going people who didn't come that the majority would say they are pro-life. Yet, when it comes to taking that message to the public square and calling for change, nobody came.

That's why abortions continue in America, the Church has failed to speak out sufficiently.

Upon distributing their sixth and final leaflet at a University, the White Rose group was found out as a custodian at the University saw them distributing the leaflets and dutifully notified the authorities.

"Jakob Schmidt, University handyman and Nazi party member, saw Hans and Sophie with the leaflets and reported them. They were taken into Gestapo custody. Sophie's 'interrogation' was so cruel, she appeared in court with a broken leg."
(from this blog)

Two things should be noted in the above quote, firstly, the punitive state thrives upon individuals labelled in the common vernacular "Narcs", or "Snitches". This population is expanded through economic incentives from the State in the form of rewards for tips on "crime". Such "crimes" often involve activities on ones property such as leaf burning, or being a plumber without government issued permits. In the case of the White Rose the "crime" needing to be reported by the dutiful lackey to the State was distributing a contrarian political opinion, or unlicensed speech.

(The righteous are honored after they depart, to the left is a German stamp with an image of Sophie Sholl)

The second thing to note in the above quote is the fact that the members of the White Rose received enhanced interrogation. Sophie's leg was broken during this process. This is no longer a practice that Americans can look at with moral reproachfulness as the regime that rules us now employs the same practices. One example of this comes from a man named Omar Deghayes, who was guilty of no terrorism or association with terrorist organizations, and has since been exonerated. Yet, Mr.Deghayes is now blind in one of his eyes as American interrogators in Guantanamo Bay dug their thumbs into Mr.Deghayes eye sockets to "make him scream". A Guardian article describing Deghayes' story can be read here.

Again, it MUST be noted Mr.Deghays was guilty of no crime, and thankfully although he suffered spending 5 years in American gulags he has been released. (Mr.Deghayes discusses his treatment in this video)

Shifting back to the White Rose, to give a flavor to the reader as to what was contained in the six leaflets, and what these young people were made of philosophically, I quote from the first leaflet distributed:

"Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism.

Offer passive resistance - resistance - wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation's last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure."

That last line is tremendously powerful. It reflects the White Rose's attempt to rouse people from their apathy and oppose the evils currently occurring in Germany. Most individuals throughout history seem to go along to get along. Sadly, this is more often than not the case with the Church. It was the minority of Christians (like Wilberforce) that opposed slavery and fought to end it, it was the minority that stood up against the Roman Catholic Church and it's heresies and control of society during the Reformation, and today it is the minority in America that are opposing America's wars of aggression and the institution of torture.

It is frustrating to me to see the Church in America fail to stand for what is right and even endorse the evils of the Regime that rules us. Yet, I find it encouraging as I look over Church history to take note that it always was a faithful minority that stood for justice, we see this in the Old Testament clearly with Jeremiah, and Elijah who seemed to be the only ones standing on the truth.

For those failing to speak out against the evils the second White Rose leaflet has this to say:

"It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at least start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims [referencing the Jews]. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt.

For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this "government" which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!"

Put into one sentence what the White Rose stated is that men and women become accomplices to the very evils they fail to oppose.

All of the member of the White Rose group were executed for treason. As of right now in America there is still a window where the Church can effect change, yet, we should admit it is closing. Right now I can publish blog posts like this calling what the government that rules us is doing what it is, evil. Individuals are not arrested for their opinions and opposition...right now.

It must also be noted that such arrests HAVE happened in our nations history, so this isn't some wild idea I am describing, the most popular instance was Eugene Debs' imprisonment for speaking in opposition to the US involvement in WWI. Granted, I don't have any sympathy for Debs' political philosophy, however his opposition to the war was commendable and he suffered for it. You can read the Wikipedia write up here.

With the growing police state in the United State(s) I believe such a scenario is on the horizon IF we do not speak out sufficiently and demand real change. As, the State will always exercise the the authoritarian power the people let it exercise. It is up to the Church, which alone has an objective moral standard to call evil what it is, if the Church fails to do this such a prospect is not only possible but certain.