Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Something To Die For"

Here is a cut-and-paste link to a really interesting and suggestive article from the always provocative New York Sun about what it means to be willing to die for one's faith. It is related to the two Fox News journalists who, after being held by Muslim insurgents for a few days, pretended to convert to Islam. It's worth pondering.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Roman Catholic martyrs during Nazi period

In our politically correct times when no one is supposed to say anything mean about anybody, the Roman Catholic church remains an open target for intense criticism and scorn. They are strong enough to take it; but today, as we lament the murder of a nun doing humanitarian work in Somalia, it is vital that we remember the heroism of many Catholics, little noted in the midst of the continuing barrage of criticism. For instance, a story appeared in The New York Times today about a bishop who spoke out in a sermon and three priests who acted with superhuman courage under conditions that few of us can imagine.

Here is the story:

HADAMAR, Germany, is a small, picturesque town not far from the fabled medieval storybook town of Limburg....For many years before the advent of the Third Reich, it had housed a large church with a psychiatric hospital attached.

When the Nazis took power, on the direct orders of Hitler, Hadamar’s mission was changed. It became a T-4, a euthanasia center. Persons with mental diseases, with retardation, with vaguely defined “antisocial tendencies,” which could include being divorced too often, changing jobs too often, drinking too much, or, of course, being Jewish or “Negro” or Gypsy, were sent to Hadamar in buses with curtains over the windows.

Once there, they were perfunctorily examined by doctors and nurses, photographed, stripped, dressed in old army uniforms, then taken down a grim flight of stairs...About 80 human beings were jammed into [a] room, roughly 25 by 15 feet. The doors were locked tightly, and then a doctor (it was strictly ordered that only a medical doctor, usually a psychiatrist, was to do the job) would turn on a valve that would release lethal clouds of carbon monoxide into the room.

In 20 minutes, all of the victims were dead. Most were dragged out to be cremated. The crematoria ovens were running 24 hours a day for close to two years, from late September of 1939 to mid-1941, belching smoke over the pretty little town of Hadamar, not more than a few hundred yards from the room where the killings took place...

I [Ben Stein, the reporter] was shown around this ghastly place by a careful, articulate woman, Uta George, who is the curator. She explained to me that while there was a racial purity goal involved here — in the sense that the Nazis were trying to create an “Aryan utopia”... [an additional factor was that according to supposedly] good, sensible Nazi economic policies, the “unfit” could be “controlled” and the available food could feed the blond gods and goddesses of the Thousand Year Reich...

Hadamar was closed in 1941 as a euthanasia center because of protests from a nearby Catholic bishop. Three of his priests were beheaded for passing out copies of his sermon.

But then shortly thereafter, it was reopened for other nauseating killing purposes, one of which was to murder half-Jewish children who had one parent at a concentration camp and one at labor or at war....
[one can imagine that by then there were no courageous priests left to protest]

To read the whole article go to

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Rev. Tim Keller and Gandalf at Ground Zero

Clergy Again Shoulders Burdens of Consoling and Explaining
By Michael Luo
New York Times 9/11/06

What to say after five years?

The Rev. Timothy J. Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, began wrestling with the question about a week and a half ago. He was working at home when the church’s receptionist called with an urgent message: “Tim, I think you better return this call. It’s the White House.”

White House officials asked Dr. Keller to deliver the sermon at an ecumenical prayer and remembrance service yesterday evening at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan for family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. President Bush and his wife, Laura, would be attending.

The invitation came as a surprise to Dr. Keller, who is pastor of one of the city’s largest Protestant churches but seldom preaches outside his own church. After hesitating because it would mean missing his church’s two Sunday evening services, he accepted. But what to say?

(the article then discusses other clergy who preached on that day)

…As for Dr. Keller, given the task of addressing a church full of family members of the lost, not to mention the president, he said he initially pulled out the sermon he preached at his church on Sept. 16, 2001. But he recognized that the circumstances have changed, he said.

In the initial aftermath of the attacks, he said, the city was laden with fear and uncertainty. Today, much of that has dissipated, though sorrow and, for many, anger persist. He decided to burrow anew into the difficult question “Why?”

The question is impossible to answer completely, he said in his brief sermon. But Dr. Keller pointed to a theme that runs throughout Scriptures, that God identifies with those who suffer.

“We don’t know the reason that God allows evil and suffering to continue,” he said. “But we know what the reason isn’t. We know what the reason can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care.”

He went on to urge those in the audience to yearn, even if it was difficult to fathom or believe, for a future time, when everything would be made right.
He cited a passage from the last book of “The Lord of the Rings,” when a character, Sam, awakes thinking all is lost but then sees his friend Gandalf. In his joy, he asks him, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The answer, Dr. Keller said, is “Yes.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Darfur in extremis

Darfur Trembles as Peacekeepers' Exit Looms --front page headline, New York Times 9/10/06

“What happened in Rwanda, it will happen here,” said Sheik Abdullah Muhammad Ali, who fled here [a squalid refugee camp] from a nearby village seeking the safety that he hoped the presence of about 200 African Union peacekeepers would bring. But the Sudanese government has asked the African Union to quit Darfur rather than hand over its mission to the United Nations. “If these soldiers leave,” Sheik Ali said, “we will all be slaughtered.”

“We beg the international community, somebody, come and save us,” Sheik Ali said. “We have no means to protect ourselves. The only thing we can do is run and hide in the mountains and caves. We will all die.”