no love; no grace
It is good to be passionate. It is good to hold tight to convictions. But it is almost always bad when one’s passion turns into extremism. I saw the remains of extremism face to face when we entered the grounds of Struthof.
Struhof was the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil. The stories held within it are terrifying. Approaching the camp, the first thing one notices is the tall fence lined with barbed wire. A sign of no escape; a sign of complete separation from the outside world. Inside, there are cabins in rows, two by two. The cabins look misleadingly typical, like they could be summer camp cabins. But walking further in, one sees multiple platforms overlooking a noose, and the summer camp image is wiped away completely.
Walking through the camp, I was blown away by the effort the Nazis put into dehumanizing the concentration camp victims. The only way to treat other people in that manner is to remove any shred of their humanity from your mind. If you did not, you would be unable to shove humans into small cages like dogs; you would be unable to perform medical experiments to test poisons and acids.
What does it mean to be human? I believe the Bible teaches that any person made in the image of God is a human from the time their body begins to function to the time all signs of life are gone. So, did the Nazis, who read from the same Bible I do, have too limited a view of who reflected God, or too narrow a view of God himself? The probably had both.
Certainly the Nazis had an incorrect view of the reflection of God in humans. They linked the image of God to compliance with the Nazi party. Problems are often created when godliness is linked with a certain political party. It distorts our image of God and creates a new standard of rightness, which was never intended to be. As a result, even the German Church largely supported the Nazi regime, because they accepted this new standard of holiness.
Nazi theology did not embrace the full person of God. They saw the side of God that desires justice and righteousness, and that hates sin, but they failed to see God’s mercy, grace, and unconditional love. Most extremist movements have a one-sided view of God, which ends in the dehumanization and torture of those who do not line up with a created distorted standard of humanness.
If forms of extremism encountered the true God, the full being of the true God, they could not stand. Extremism is void of love; God is love and we were created to love one another.