The impulse to transform terror, to resist its tide with language or music or love, flows from a perception that all history is caught up in meaning greater than a single event can reveal and that has been showing itself through the ages, an act of faith Langer cannot allow himself in the dark aftermath of the death camps. His views are not particularly Jewish, nor mine peculiarly Christian. We have made different choices of belief, each available within the other's orthodoxy: the one to see certain events as beyond the scope of divine intention and therefore solely of human doing (secularism), the other to see all history as informed by the freedom of human choice but ultimately subject to God (theodicy), lifting the death of martyrs from the sheer helplessness of victimhood to a purposed gain.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," writes the psalmist (116:15). "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13). Though tortured or persecuted or stricken, the lives of his children are never wasted in God's sight. In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1983 Templeton Address, "Men Have Forgotten God," we hear from the man who exposed the 60 million dead under Stalin to an incredulous world in language devoid of empty solace or evasion. He said, "The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century."

The flaw of sensibility that lacks divine dimension is to see only oppressors and victims. Such a view refuses to acknowledge the moral force of the individual. To see clearly is to look intently, without flinching, at all that is human, the degradation and the rarer glory, and also to witness, in what is visible, all that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.