Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Remembering Collective Shame by Uwe Siemon-Netto

From time to time I see Uwe Siemon-Netto's name appear in our local paper as a writer who comments on articles that would interest the religious community (he used to be affiliated with United Press International). For the most part I agreed with his articles but kept him at arm's length -- after all can anything good come from the UPI or the AP? Until today I really didn't know much about him until I found this article at the blog Cranach, hosted by Gene Edward Veith and was greatly moved by it.

Remembering Collective Shame

By Uwe Siemon-Netto

This column requires a caveat: I am not an American citizen and therefore neither a Republican nor a Democrat. But as a German residing permanently in the United States I believe that I have a duty to opine on at least one aspect of the upcoming elections – the question whether years from now Americans will have to wrestle with collective shame, just as I have had to deal with collective shame over what has happened in Germany in my childhood for my entire life.

It was West Germany’s first postwar president, Theodor Heuss, who coined the phrase, “collective shame” contrasting it with the notion of collective guilt, which he rejected. No, I cannot be expected to feel guilty for crimes the Nazis committed while I was still in elementary school. But as a bearer of a German passport I have never ceased feeling ashamed because three years before I was born German voters elected leaders planning the annihilation of millions of innocent people.

I am certain that in 1933 most Germans did not find the Nazis’ anti-Semitic rhetoric particularly attractive. What made them choose Hitler, then? It was the economy, stupid, and presumably injured national pride, and similar issues. This came to mind as I read the latest Faith in Life poll of issues Americans in general and white evangelicals in particular consider “very important” in this year’s elections.

Guess what? For both groups, the economy ranked first, while abortion was way down the list. Among Americans in general abortion took ninth and among white evangelicals seventh place, well below gas prices and health care. Now, it’s true that most evangelicals still believe that abortion should be illegal, which is where they differ from the general public and, astonishingly, from Roman Catholics even though their own church continues to fight valiantly against the ongoing mass destruction of unborn life. Still, 54 percent of Catholics and 60 percent of young Catholics have declared themselves “pro choice,” according to the Faith in Life researchers.

What I am going to say next is going to make me many enemies, of this I am sure: Yes, there is a parallel between what has happened in Germany in 1933 and what is happening in America now...

Read the rest by clicking the link below:

Concordia Seminary Institute of Lay Vocation: Remembering Collective Shame

No comments: