I will never forget the 9/11 tragedy for obvious reasons nor will I forget the sunshine. I remember local sunny, azure sky and an identical image on the TV screen until the horrific swoop of airplanes. I watched endless news coverage, each time perplexed that horror could occur on that day which exemplified my favorite weather: not too cold, not too humid, and blue. It remains my preferred weather forecast, but I have a repetitive thought each time I soak in that type of climate: "the heavens declare the glory of God" even though 9/11 occurred on such a day.

I dare not offer an answer to that paradoxical mystery. There are other theologians more gifted than myself. The only reason I bring up the memory is that I was reminded of it yesterday, another crisp, blue day. Lorena, her baby Judah (my Godson), and I visited The Holocaust Museum, its very architecture resembling a gruesome concentration camp. Though dire, the Holocaust is a lifelong interest of mine. I've seen the movie Schindler's List countless times and two of my favorite books are the graphic novels Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and the sequel by Art Spiegelman. Life is Beautiful remains on my favorite movies list. I've watched numerous documentaries on Hitler. Today I picked up a book I should have read long ago: Night by Elie Wiesel. It is not that I have morbid interests, but I suppose I am intrigued by the capacity of evil. I marvel that while cruelty on that scale is possible, Jesus conquered sin by His own suffering, conquering what was, is, and will be. We see a glimpse now and shall see the victory.

I viewed the main exhibit at The Holocaust Museum several years before, but our purpose yesterday was to see Through the Eyes of Children - a photography exhibit, each picture taken by an orphan from the Imbabazi Orphanage in Rwanda. These children are left behind from the horrific 1994 genocide. The photographs are not that depressing - in fact, very few are sad. Rather, it is interesting to see Rwandan culture from a child's perspective and the land is beautiful. Again, I shook my head trying to wrap my mind around one million Tutsis senselessly murdered on grass so green, under sunsets so wide and serene, the dead victims' colorful clothes soaked in blood (I'm thankful our Rwandan Compassion child, Denise, and her Grandmother were not included in the body count).

We then viewed the current Holocaust-related art exhibit, the Lack Family Memorial Room, and placed a stone on a memorial sculpture outside in the Eric Alexander Garden of Hope. Also outside is the rail car exhibit, "a 1942 World War II rail car of the type used to carry millions of Jews to their deaths." I've read about such rail cars often and I pictured them much bigger. As we walked up to the railway prison, I gasped - so small. I somberly walked inside realizing actual people died in the claustrophobic wooden walls, two tiny windows latched shut. Two hundred Jews were crammed in lacking air, a bathroom, a view. I took a break from my imagination and looked outside. Again with the sunlight. Cool air and a breeze. I peered back inside the rail car. Dim light and a ghostly stench of death. I saw faces from the indoor exhibits, like the little dark-haired girl with a huge white bow atop her head. On the concrete wall near the rail car are quotes from Houston Holocaust survivors and Elie Wiesel.

We left and shook off the sadness at Empire Cafe, admiring real, live birds on the patio (I need to get a good bird guide). I laughed and apologized to Lorena for dragging her on such a depressing field trip. Yet I am glad we went to the museum. We need to know, remember, and pray. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) I guess that is the answer to my Job-like laments and perplexity of viscous evil juxtaposed with glittering sunlight.


allison said...

I too find it unreasonable that the suns shines, birds sing, and waters babble while horrific events transpire. It seems preposterous the atmosphere does not register our grief and devastation. And even more so that the perpetrators are unable to do so.

Andrea said...

We just watched Hotel Rawanda this weekend, so your post is timely regarding my recent thoughts and experience as well. I'm no theologian either, but one thought I had is this. Perhaps these things tend to happen on a naturally beautiful backdrop in part to draw attention to the stark contrast between the glory of God's creation and the horror of man's destruction.

"I marvel that while cruelty on that scale is possible, Jesus conquered sin by His own suffering, conquering what was, is, and will be. We see a glimpse now and shall see the victory."

Amen and amen.