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When People Are Turned into Numbers

Standing in front of one of the German death camps while filming a documentary for British television several years ago, Polish/British philosopher Jacob Bronowski said:

“This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.”

Conformity, everyone believing the same things, doing what you’re told to do no matter if it doesn’t make sense or is immoral or inhuman; believing you alone have all the truth; learning to hate others, to do violence even when you know it isn’t right—these are the trademarks of people who have lost their freedom and their heart; who have become duped into believing horrendous lies; people who feel superior and right and ready at all costs to prove they are.

There is a vicious callousness that has hold of far too many of us today.  In our obsessive need to be in control, convinced we are right, and forgetting our humanity, we our losing our souls.  We so are.  All of us.  We want guns.  We want money.  We want power.  We want to always be in charge.  What we lack though, is to want reason, compassion, humility and the courage to love without limits.

For all the Christians observing Lent, preparing for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter: remember that.  This season is not about showing the world how righteous you are.  How you have a nice package of absolute moral truth.  How it all ends so well.

This is a season of stark honesty, of facing the reality of our morbid fears.  A time to bow our heads and face our weaknesses and own up to how small we are in the whole scope of things.  It is a time to be humbled by a life that said even if you kill me I will still love you.  The power in that life and that death has for the most part been lost to nearly all of us.

© 2013 Timothy Moody


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