In his seminal book Night, Elie Wiesel recounts a horrifying event among a trainload of starving Jews locked in a train to Buchenwald. The Nazi guards throw food into the cars, and gawk while the prisoners fight to the death. A son kills his own father over a piece of bread.
I will never forget reading that. It is an excruciating glimpse into the human condition degraded by desperation. Of course it is an instance of violence, but one could hardly fault those who were deranged by deprivation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics was largely born from his own labors to faithfully live his Christian faith in fascist Nazi society. In it he writes of abortion calling it, “nothing but murder.” (In modern terms, he’d be described as “pro-life”.) However, training the focus on the issue of responsibility or culpability, he continues:
“… in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual.”
I’m not intending to address the issue of abortion here, but rather draw attention to Bonhoeffer’s application of guilt. In essence, he says that a woman’s society bears the blame for her choice made in despair and destitution.
We don’t often think of ethics that way—we want to situate blame on individuals. This is very Western, and is actually incongruent with the collective ethics of Scripture. Continue reading “Desperation | #Friday500”