Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Renewal.

Featured in a television interview was a woman named Bettina Goering. If you recognize the name, you're quite right. Bettina Goering the grand niece of Hermann Goering, one of Hitler's henchmen and a leader of the Nazi government that did so much evil during World War 2. She talked herself about being of 'the bloodline of murderers.' In some ways the tone of the documentary is optimistic, because she is engaging in conciliatory dealings with a Jewish woman, helping to undo the cruel things done by her great uncle among other. But the point that struck me was what she said about herself, being related to someone who did such evil. It was as if that reflected on her. I don't believe that is fair, when those things happened before she was even born.
It can be right to learn from the misdeeds of the past. But it can be horribly wrong to condemn whole families for them.
Where this leads for me is, blaming a person for where they come from, or any other circumstances of their conception. Years ago I heard a debate about 'termination' of pregnancies. One speaker suggested that they could understand a woman choosing it if she was pregnant as a result of rape. Now I know that I can't dictate conscience to a woman who has suffered a horror like that. I'm not going to claim that I can understand another person's situation when I've never been in it, and never can be. What I do have to say is this: you cannot blame a child for the circumstances of their conception, just as you can't blame them for their relatives.
Someone once said a thing that struck me as quite shocking at the time - but it is actually quite true.
They said that any one or all of us could be living today because of an act of rape. Any or all of us could be descended from some utter monster. In either case, we cannot be blamed, and condemned, for the ancestry we come from or any other circumstance of our conception.
Does that sound shocking? Is it an insult to our parents to suggest it? No, not necessarily. Consider this.
Any human being draws their existence and identity from EVERY ancestor we have. It works thus: Obviously if our parents had never met, or something was different in the past from what is was, we would not have been conceived. And the same applies to our grandparents, and so on back as far as the human race goes. If someone travelled in time and intervened in the life of our great-great-great grandparents, so that they did not have the child they did have, then the whole line of descent would change from there down. If you could change history back as far as Emperor Claudius of Rome, and disrupt the relationship between two people such that one of their children was not born after all, then the entire line of descent from that point down through the centuries would alter. Thousands of people who do exist would not. Others might exist in their place. And that could eliminate the existence of any one of us.
Now calculate the number of your ancestors. We have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents... and even allowing for marriage or child bearing between relatives like cousins, which can reduce the number, our ancestors number millions. To check that, simply keep multiplying two by two. Ten generations back we each have 1024 direct ancestors - and our identity comes inseparably from every one of them. Ten generations, at three or four each century, only goes back to the times of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, William Shakespeare, the early European settlements in what was then called 'the Americas'. Now keep going back to the times of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, Julius Caesar. The number reaches millions.
What could there be among all those ancestors who yielded our existence? If one person in every million is conceived in an act of rape, the probability is that we have several such ancestors. And what sort of people could be included among them?
This is the risk you run if you research your family tree. It's a natural thing to do; but it can turn up some things that are less than flattering. Back in the 'Dark Ages', a vile barbarian raiding a village might have committed some abomination on a female villager, and from thence came the line of descent which led to ...me? How do I know where I came from? And if it came to light that a great humanitarian, or someone you love, was descended only three generations back, from an act of rape, incest, prostitution, are you going to condemn them for that?
Now look at something that might change the whole view of it. When the Israelites were taking the city of Jericho, they had help from a woman named Rahab. Rabab was a 'harlot', a prostitute. In a city alread squalid and corrupt, she was one of the least respected. And yet it is recorded that she became an ancestress of the Messiah, in that one of His human parents descended from her.
We can't know who all our ancestors are. We can't know what unloveable acts might have led to the bloodline that we're descended from. We CAN know that we each have a human identity that comes from God.
The saying goes that "God has no grandchildren". That means we each can call ourselves His children, with no generational separation - and we have our lives from Him. We need not feel blighted by what is in our human ancestry. If it turns out to be something we can't be proud of, that shows no-one need be proud and count themselves better born that others. Our worth lies in our being beloved of God, not what we do ourselves, not the forebears we might claim. And no-one need be condemned for which humans they are descended from. God can renew any and everyone, and make them what He knows they can be.

8 comments:

Randi Jo :) said...

what a great entry ----- to think about our family lines and how many wouldn't be born if we ourselves were not born --- and then to parallel that to Jesus' line. WOW! And the significance of Rahab in His line is awesome.

Who else isn't getting the chance to live here on earth because of terminating pregnancies?

great entry! :)

Marshall Art said...

Indeed. Very thoughtful.

George H. W. Bush (Bush 41, not 43) made a comment when asked a hypthetical about rape and abortion. He said (paraphrasing here), "Seems to me in that case there are two victims." He still didn't go for abortion.

I wonder if Goering is suffering from a common malady from which too many Americans suffer. This sickness is that which leads to talk of reparations to the black race for the suffering of their ancestors by white slave owners. Many whites feel guilty about slavery, or even the treatment of indigenous tribes, as if they were there taking part in it. Some people feel guilty because they have more money than poor people. In each case, the victim of this disorder wants to be punished on behalf of those who suffered at the hands of other people of means. It's a pathological level of empathy that can't be healthy. I feel sorry for the downtrodden, too. I just don't hold myself responsible for it.

~*~toni~*~ said...

Great food for thought.....no matter how you feel!

Farrah said...

I agree. One thing that came to mind is our situation here in the U.S. with Native American Indians. We have something called Indian Reservations, which is land we have given to tribes to live by their own laws. We do this to help pay them back for the atrocities we committed against them in the past. The problem is that they have taken advantage of the situation by offering services and products that are illegal elsewhere. For example, I knew people who would go there to purchase illegal fireworks around Independence Day. They had a booming business. Of course, people would purchase them and then take them back home to shoot them off illegally. Another example is their casinos.

We have given them this land so they can live by their heritage. But this is unrealistic. Of course, they are incorporating modern conveniences into their lives that everyone else has...benefiting from the rest of the country. And yet, they are free to have their own laws which they can use to generate business by selling things not allowed in the surrounding areas. To me this seems to be a bad idea. I am sad that they lost their land way back 100 years ago, but I don't think the answer is to let them have their own little pieces of land with their own special set of laws. It just doesn't make sense to try and repay people for past mistakes on a large scale like that.

I am also against reverse discrimination. I don't believe minorities should get jobs, scholarships, etc. just because they are minority. I believe they should earn those things by working hard and having good skills, just like everyone else. And believe me, I am not prejudiced. I got a college scholarship for being a minority, and I never felt right about it.

Greg said...

Ah, now I know where the reverse discimination comment came from! LOL! Good post.

God agrees (I think Ezekiel is one place) that sons are not to be held accountable for their fathers' actions, but they do sometimes suffer from the consequences. Ultimately, we all have the same offer of salvation, which is what really counts. Jesus' sacrifice on that cross is indeed the great equalizer. :)

Culpster said...

One of the things we constantly hear is that a woman should have the right to do with her body as she pleases. I don't know why it is so difficult to understand that we are talking about the rights of the child or fetus and not the rights of the woman.

But I also am in no position to understand the situation of a person who has been raped. It's a terrible thing and if there were another way for life to born, it would solve all our problems.

But we are stuck wrestling with these ethical dilemmas and somehow must judge right and wrong when wrong has already taken place. As you’ve stated, it’s important we do so because we are perhaps the product of this ethical wrestling.

Andrew Clarke said...

I think you're absolutely right, Culpster. As you say, the fetus is a person with rights, not just a part of the mother. And yet it's in the nature of human procreation that the mother has to endure the pregnancy which can be terribly hard even when she wants the child. That's a thing men do not have to endure personally in the same way. As you say, we have to keep on reflecting on these issues because if we do not, and start simply resorting to cut-and-dried answers, we become ethically lazy and hidebound by tradition. "Deep thoughts", another blogger I know, wrote a good comment on that recently. We have to keep thinking, not just assume it's settled.
Interestingly, our press recently reported that a prominent Australian sportwoman found out that she was conceived when her mother was date-raped. That is what it comes down to: looking at a living person and knowing what the implication could be of ending the pregnancy.

Andrew Clarke said...

I have to add a summation here, because it's good to get ALL the comments people have left here. As Randy jo says, you could not tell who's life would have not been if a pregnancy had been ended by human intervention. It might come as a shock to know, if that were possible in this life. It seems right to me, as Marshall art points out, that there are TWO victims, the unborn child as well as the mistreated mother. And there are persistent items of medical evidence that abortion can do damage to the woman. In any event, would anyone like to guarantee that there was never a case of rape or something else in their ancestry that should not be held against them, only the person responsible for it. God help us - we can't take the responsibility for some decisions ourselves because mere human creatures just can't know all there is to know.