Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Recognize No Evil; Admit To No Evil; Speak No Evil


Breaking The Veil Of Silence
Author: Jobst Bittner
Published by: TOS Publishing, Tübingen, Germany, 2013


I agreed to review this book because of my high regard for the Jewish people, from Abraham who lived about 3,800 years ago right up to those Jews living around the world today. So I was surprised to find out it had just as much to do with Christians. Silence about the past, the evil past, is a condition of the mind and heart that can prey on all of us. Thus its subject concerns many of us.
Jobst Bittner, the author, is the President of TOS Ministries, a multi-initiative work which is best described through its website. But for purposes of this review, Bittner is a German pastor, theologian, and activist. He tackled Germany’s “veil of silence” which covered the country’s history, the reign of Hitler, and the Holocaust, starting with Tübingen, the university city which gave rise to the “final solution” and its promoters after the Jews were blamed for the Black Plague. And he succeeded.  In this book, Bittner challenges us to tackle our own “veil of silence” in ourselves, in our families, communities, cities, and country, but above all in our churches. If we do it for no other reason, we must do it for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, if not more future generations.  The impact on children in each of these generations is discussed at great length. He shows us that unless we break this “silence”, there cannot be the spiritual healing each of these entities (family, city, church, community, and country) needs.  And without the healing, one has a hard time benefitting from the full extent of God’s intended blessings.
With respect to the Church, the author points out what happened to it since the early days after Christ’s crucifixion and ascension each time they moved away (or were taken away) from their Jewishness. He also shows us how, contrary to popular belief, Constantine didn’t do the Church any favors.
I found this book to be a serious treatise of the topic – very methodical, detailed, well-researched, and most informative. He does a great job of integrating psychological and psychiatric models into his explanations which are interesting. I was sharing its contents with some family and friends while still reading it and already a number have asked to borrow it. The topic is certainly still, for one reason or another, a very hot one. He spends time showing us where the veil of silence comes from, what it is, and where it’s found today. And then he moves us, using the parallel of those who experienced the Holocaust and the concentration camps of Hitler Germany, through the various generations of victims and how the silence has impacted each. And don’t think there’s no room in this process for Jewish people to ask forgiveness of the Germans, there is. But I’ll let you discover where for yourself.
As already mentioned, the book is not just about the victims (the Jews of Germany, Ukraine, Slovakia, and many other places), it’s also about the perpetrators – both inside and outside the church – for all the same generations, up to today. We meet the children of SS officers and we cry with those who had to visit the very ground that their parents or grandparents were executed or annihilated. But it’s all worthwhile for them, as it should be or could be for us.   
Bittner addresses the issue of whether or not, and if so, why and how, we can repent for the sins of our forefathers – and he does so with biblical backing. One of his chapters focuses on the fact that any veil of silence can be actually broken, but he warns us that it’s not a piece of cake. He does an excellent job of explaining how Christ “remained silent” on the cross, so we don’t have to be silent today.  Finally, he gives us vibrant example after example of how the “veil of darkness” encompassing the Holocaust has indeed been broken, in Germany, America, and elsewhere.
I love his line, “Most of the time, religious silence resists the power of God, always wanting to retreat to the ‘privacy’ of one’s personal faith.” How true that is and also how much it renders us ineffective.
The problem for many readers will be that we cannot even imagine some of the kind of memories those people he writes about had, let alone actually have them ourselves.
I recommend the book for any pastor who wants to break the silence in his/her church; for any parent who wants to break it in his/her family; for any counsellor who needs to better understand his/her clients; and for anyone who wants to be healed of his/her own silence.
·      By Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, August 30, 2016. www.accordconsulting.com

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