Again and Again


Never Again. This is carved in stone in seven languages on the monument at the Treblinka death camp. I wonder if we ever meant this. It says never again, but we do this again and again. We annihilate each other time and time again, and God weeps.

Aleppo has been devastated (view before and after photos here).  Misinformation from Russia has interfered with the evacuation of civilians from the city.

But this is just the most recent atrocity we have committed against each other.  Cambodia. Bosnia. Rwanda. Darfur.  All of these genocides occurred since the words were carved on this stone in Treblinka. And what for?

Bashir al-Assad wants to remain in power in Syria even if there are no people left to rule over. Russia and Iran are happy to back Assad at any cost. Human life is cheap. It’s about maintaining power for them, too.

Until we begin to see each other as God’s creation, as equals each carrying the face of God, we will continue to treat each other as commodities. We will continue to do this. Again and again.  We can carve whatever we like into stone.  God already tried that with us, giving Moses the tablets containing the big 10.  We aren’t doing to well.  Just to recap here:

From Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:

 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

We’re screwing it all up. It’s time to pay attention to the words on the stones.

That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.


Trains and Beaches

By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!   (Psalm 137, NRSV translation)

Children should be playing on beaches. Children should be playing, and people should be swimming, and dogs should be catching frisbees. The sons of mothers should not die on beaches. Their bodies should not hug the shoreline as waves lap at them like an eternal blanket. 

Yet there they were, 70 years ago, scattered across the beaches of Normandy like seaweed washed up upon the shore. Mothers sons sent to fight and die.

Trains should be romantic. Children should squeal with joy as they look out of the windows and watch telephone poles fly by. Young couples should rock gently to sleep in romantic compartments as the trains clickity-clack through the night.  They should not be vehicles of death, carting hordes of the oppressed off the camps where they don’t want to go – camps where they will die.

Rail cars Auschwitz (2011)

Rail cars Auschwitz (2011)

Yet beyond the beaches where the sons of mothers lay dying those 70 years ago, trains full of mostly Jewish prisoners continued their grim journeys to the death camps and work camps of the Third Reich.

But so many more of those young men made it beyond the beach, and the war ended, and we cried, “Never Again!”  Never again would we allow a genocide. Never again would we allow the bashing of babies against rocks. Never again.

And yet. And yet. We have done it again. And again. And again.

Oh, perhaps we have not personally smashed babies, but make no mistake, when we make war, babies die. The sons of mothers.

And so this week we see new images of refugees on trains – being taken to camps where they do not wish to go, and being forced to remain, like cattle, in cramped quarters, because no one is wanting to take them in. And we have seen babies washed up on the shore. Babies have washed up on the shore because no country would give them harbor. Read more here

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.

How long, O Lord? How long will we turn away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters?

Ever again and again. God cannot stop this until we do our part. God is weeping and waiting.

Click here to find out where to help.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.

DSC00221Monument at Treblinka (2011)

Addendum – 6 September, 2015 – The Pope has responded by calling on Catholic families in Europe to take in refugees.