Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie Monday

I've decided to start a new feature on this blog, one I've been thinking about for a while.  I enjoy watching movies, especially ones that are not highly publicized.  I'm a fan of foreign films and documentaries.  I'll be featuring thought-provoking films that I've watched each Monday.  You're welcome to comment on the films I feature and to link to your own blog posts, if you are doing a post on movies, as well.

For this week, I am featuring the movie Forgiving Mengele.  This documentary was made in 2006 about Holocaust survivor Eva Kor.  Ms. Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were selected by Dr. Mengele to participate in genetic experiments while at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Twins were forced to endure blood withdrawals and injections of unknown substances, in addition to the emotional torture of the concentration camp.  Ms. Kor's determination to survive is admirable, and her decision to forgive her tormentors is controversial, as is shown in the film. 

The story of Eva Kor raises difficult questions about forgiveness:  What does it mean to forgive?  (This question is asked of Ms. Kor repeatedly.)  Does forgiveness need to be earned?  Can forgiveness be given on behalf of dead loved ones?  Is it right for a human being to forgive; isn't this the sole right of God?  These questions are asked, but not necessarily answered in the course of the film.  The survivors of Holocaust atrocities who live daily with the effects of the torment they endured at the hands of the Nazis are split with regard to Ms. Kor's offer of forgiveness.  Many are openly hostile towards her.  Jewish scholars are seen challenging her decision to forgive. 

The most interesting aspect of the film comes toward the end, as Ms. Kor meets with a group of Palestinian professors who want to discuss their own wounds at the hands of Israelis.  Ms. Kor's reaction to the Palestinians reveals the complicated nature of human forgiveness.  She is willing to forgive the Germans, but is not willing to ask for forgiveness from the Palestinians for the wrongs that they have experienced at the hands of the Israelis (Ms. Kor is a Romanian Jew, living in Terre Haute, Indiana.).  She says that she could not hear their stories of trauma and terror because "it is too much."  The bloodshed is happening now, and she cannot bear to hear their stories.  It is unclear whether or not she feels that the Palestinians are experiencing oppression.  She is clearly uncomfortable and fears for her safety, so she is eager to leave the meeting.

For Christians, we are commanded to forgive.  Jesus said in Luke 6:37:  "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  We have been forgiven of our sins through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  The Jewish scholars discuss the idea of atonement as it relates to forgiveness, and this is a significant stumbling block to their ability to forgive.  They sincerely do not feel that the Germans are worthy of forgiveness, because they have not atoned for their wrongdoings. 

I like that this movie forces the viewer to really contemplate the notion of forgiveness.  What does it mean to forgive?  The central focus of this question is the concern for justice.  Does forgiving someone mean that the wrong that they have done is forgotten, or that it is acceptable?  I take my view of forgiveness from Scripture.  Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  In other words, we do not hold that person's sin, or wrongdoing, against them.  We do not expect retribution or vengeance.  Essentially, when we forgive, we do not consider the other person's actions worthy of punishment.  It is an action that enables us to move on from the injury and thwarts bitterness.  It is an act of cleansing--a cleansing of our hearts and minds from the idea of revenge.  (Let me also say that this does not mean that I do not believe in punishment.  I also believe in justice strongly.  However, I believe that forgiveness is a conscious determination of our will.  It is like love, in that it is not a feeling, but an action.  It is something we do to prevent bitterness from taking root.)

Forgiving Mengele is available on Netflix.  If you watch it, let me know your thoughts.  I'm curious to know what others' opinions are on this subject of forgiveness.

Many blessings,


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