Friday, July 22, 2016

True Death and Darkness

I am working my way slowly through Elie Wiesel's "Night".  Although it is a very slim volume it is taking me days to read it because I want to be able to read between the lines of this rather sparse account of his time in a World War 2 concentration camp and how his experiences there and the suffering he witnessed caused him to lose his faith in God.  Before the camps he was very pious, devout, determined to learn all there is to know about God and his Jewish faith.

The poignancy of his recorded history in the camps, for me, is in all the details he has NOT recorded.  It is almost as if he is saving the reader from experiencing second hand the worst of the tragedies by not going into a lot of detail.

Wiesel is a true social, political and human rights activist.  If I was in a place of suffering like he has been I would want him on my side.

This little book of darkness raises a question for me:  what is it that causes some of the most devout believers to renounce their faith in God and others who are undergoing the same type of suffering cling all the harder to their spiritual beliefs?  What are the factors involved for each person?  

I have read probably every book published by authors who either survived the horrendous conditions in those camps and kept their faith, or even found new faith, so it is good to read an author who lost his.  In human terms it seems that losing faith makes more sense when you are watching thousands of innocent people being herded into burning ovens and gas chambers to be killed and babies being murdered by the hundreds before your very eyes.

My question can't really be answered of course, but I am wondering how I would react under such extreme conditions of suffering.  Would God continue to be my place of refuge or would the assault on my senses due to those kinds of experiences bring me to a place of being unable to believe a loving God exists at all?

Here are some well known quotes of Elie Wiesel's carry a lot of truth: 

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
 
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
 
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.


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