There is a lot of talk about burdening future generations, but it isn’t new. What we do affects those ahead of us, for good or evil.
“The Lord! The Lord! a God who is compassionate and merciful, very patient, full of great loyalty and faithfulness, showing great loyalty to a thousand generations, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion, yet by no means clearing the guilty, punishing for their parents’ sins their children and their grandchildren, as well at the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6b-7, Common English Bible
Even God makes a point of telling Moses that sin is passed on. A natural consequence of an individual’s or group’s action that God chooses to not remove from us. While God forgives us, God also warns us that there is a true reality to what we do, or do not do.
It was upon this background that I heard the following quote: “Can we burden future generations with such an inheritance?”*
Such a loving, thoughtful and concerned question! Those who posed this particular question were very concerned that scarce public funds were being misspent to continue a program that in the end produced no useful products and only continued to need more and more funds. It was their understanding that in the midst of a very difficult situation, only those programs that were of benefit for the greater good and worked towards fulfillment of their mission were worth maintaining with public and private funds. Their solution was to literally end the programs, an action that would require some clean-up.
Sounds logical. If something isn’t helping, why continue with it? The program I was watching that included this quote was a documentary that methodically worked through the cultural, social and political situation. Without judgement, it shared viewpoints of many sides (as much as you can do in a few hours), including first-person interviews and historical documents. Facts were laid out, including personal opinions of those involved – involved on various sides.
It was very logical. Too logical. Within the logic, within the progression, within the moves to fulfill their mission, logic, not God, ruled.
This quote, “Can we burden future generations with such an inheritance?”*, which could easily apply to so many situations, was part of Nazi propaganda seeking to eliminate individuals they deemed not to meet their standards of being a good or useful person. *Auschwitz, BBC 2005
In their eyes, they were doing the right thing. In their eyes, in their minds and hearts, the leadership, thought that killing individuals was not only good, but necessary. Many people followed the logic, turning their dislike or hatred for these ‘worthless’ people, and later Jews, homosexuals, communists and others, into a valid truth to eliminate them, to murder them.
(I will strongly state that not all Nazis or Germans would agree with this idea. Using ‘all’ in and of itself is the first step down a path of subjecting God’s diversity into contrived and inaccurate categories.)
In line with God’s Words to Moses, we need to be aware that our actions have an effect on those who go after us. We need to understand and address what our actions – from how we use material objects to how we treat others – do to this world, our children, and our children’s children (even if you don’t have children this applies!).
Yet, I found this statement, said in the midst of a logic that I can follow, but don’t believe, a stern reminder.
Nazis, especially the SS, were just people. They breathed and bled, they ate and had children. They loved and they hated. They are like us, just in a different time and place.
If those people could use logic and hatred to twist murder into a necessary action to benefit their children, what will we do?
What if they had just stepped back. What if just one, two, or ten of them stood up and asked a few more questions? What if they took seriously the logic and conclusions of the ‘worthless” people?
Not every situation involving burdens for future generations even closely compares to systematic mass murder, but, the process can be very much the same.
Lord, help us keep our eyes open. In Your Word you put it all before us, but even in it we can manipulate logic to conform to our image, not Yours. Forgiving God, help us listen to others and take them seriously so that we may follow You instead of following what we want You to be. Amen.
Postscript You really need to watch the documentary, especially the first episode. I’ve only gotten through the first three, and plan to watch the rest. While I am not an expert on Germany, German politics, WWII or Auschwitz, I did spend a year as a high school exchange student in Germany (my host parents’ fathers were both conscripted into helping the Nazis) and visited Auschwitz. Physically being in any place does provide an added perception of a place and the after effects – and I, being part of the children’s children was definitely affected by it. In fact, the CBYE scholarship program that made my exchange year possible grew out of building relationships between our two countries post-WWII.