‘In elementary school, teachers tried to deprogram students of any anti-Jewish sentiment we might have heard at home. In high school history class, we watched footage of what Allied soldiers found at the newly liberated concentration camps. Sometimes girls would faint or vomit. “Never again,” said our teacher. “Never again,” we repeated.
We also thought that, in those circumstances, we would all be heroes. We would be the one who hid Jewish friends in our attics. We would be the ones who didn’t vote in the Nazis. We would be the ones who spoke out against anti-Jewish hatred. That’s what we said.’
But even though it is 2009 not 1939, not much has changed. It is still easier to be part of the crowd and to be silent in the face of abuse rather than risk the wrath of the abuser.
I have heard the same kind of courageous statements from clergy when talking about the martyrs of the early church. Yet those same clergy would frequently rather be complicit in hiding abuse (I don’t necesarily mean sexual abuse, but also bullying and abuse of spiritual authority) than to stand up againt a bishop or other church leader, even though all that is at stake is their job, and the good opinion of those in power.
Courage is not about words. It is about facing your fears and overcoming them, and being being willing to say and do what is right, no matter what others think.
Yes we can be heroes if we want. But we have to want to do the right thing more than we want to be popular, and more than we want to be comfortable.