Saturday, June 23, 2007

A contrite heart

I read the obituary on Kurt Waldheim struck me particuarly. It discussed a man who they accused, and probably rightly so, of being in denial of his guilt at being part of the Nazi war machine. While not a key part of it, he was an efficient cog, and while he most likely did not commit war crimes, he knew about them and did his work very well (according to his Wikipedia article he received an honor for his work) only miles away from the concentration camps. He hid this fact, misrepresented his past, and denied all guilt aggressively. As the Economist pointed out his position mimicked that of his home country of Austria.

People involved in the horrors of WWII like him in a side manner cannot be condemned for life for their association. But they can be sorry, they can ask for forgiveness. He did not, saying he was in no position to do anything about it. He said in his autobiography

"When death comes to you, all the distinctions in life disappear. Good and bad, dark and light, merits and mistakes, stand now in front of a judge who knows the truth. I can go there with trust, because I know His justice and His mercy."

but the mercy of God is not given without conditions. One must admit his guilt and repent. And this is not because God is obsessed with forcing painful admissions from people, but rather because the hidden guilt is a barrier that keeps a soul from God, and while God does I think expose this guilt to the soul after death, the soul must still accept its guilt if it is to be forgiven and the soul is to recieve mercy. I hope Mr.Waldheim might accept his guilt after death, even if it seems (although I could never really know, not seeing inside his head) that he did not in life.

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