Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dispatch From Germany, Part II

We have made our way from Frankfurt over to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a Disney-charming, remarkably preserved medieval village dating to the 12th century. It is ringed by the picturesque Tauber River, which we can clearly see from our hotel balcony, and nestled quaintly among the surrounding hills.

When the Thirty Years War of the 17th century devestated most of Germany, this place was fortunately spared, and, thereby, frozen in time instead of updated and modernized with successive waves of cultural development. Its cottages and cobblestones make an excellent setting for postcard-perfect German scenery.

But, I was shaken from this pastoral reverie with today's visit to a museum of medieval criminal justice. The museum houses one of the most extensive collection of medieval torture implements in the world. It's one thing to see this stuff in movies, quite another to look at it right in front of you. The cruelest and crudest devices for wresting confessions from suspects were on display for perfectly cultured and refined people like us to view: racks, ropes, cranks, pulleys, pinchers, gallows, stocks, belts, balls, chains. It was a graphic presentation of human barbarism, an ample justification for why historians refer to those ages in our human story as "dark." As we were all wincing and grimmacing, we were thinking: thank God we don't practice justice so primitively today.

Then, I got back to my hotel room and turned on CNN to see, once again, the now-famous cell phone footage of Saddam Hussein's final seconds, and realized that the continuum between what happened then and what happens now is not all that long, that our contemporary moral superiority isn't justified after all, and that eras like medieval and modern and post-modern may be different with regard to what we drive or how we dress, but not so different in how perfectly civilized people still insist on killing people who kill people-- even murdurous beasts like Saddam-- to show that killing people is wrong.


Anonymous said...


I'm glad to see you back on the blog. I have checked from time to time and have been diappointed that you hadn't written something. That is understandable, of course, with your time of grief about your Dad and the business of end of semester stuff. But I'm glad you are back and I applaud ball your 2007 entries!! Wow! You are a superior writer and communicator! And you are an excellent theologian as well!

A+ and I wish you and Jana the best year yet in 2007 and hoppe our paths cross somewhere, somehow this year.

Unknown said...

Charlie, so glad to see you back. You have been describing some of Martin's and my favorite places in Germany! Wunderbar!

Saddam's hanging was indeed a bizarre start to the new year. I was praying that someone would speak to him of redemption. I'm sure he knew the Muslim view of Christianity, but I had hoped he could still be reached with the Gospel of Good News. The crucifixion and resurrection were for him, too, and the depth of God's forgiveness goes far beyond the crimes Saddam had committed... It's all too sad.

Good to have you back. We have sorely missed your thoughts and musings, but know that other things haved consumed you.

Be well in 2007. Love to you and Jana.

R and M

Anonymous said...

I've been to those places in Germany too, and love them! Glad you're having a great trip.

My take on your journey from medieval instruments of torture to the legal execution of a madman who used to use those very instruments, is that intent is everything. Murder is wrong; killing evil to prevent murder is justified...! I'll bet your two Army sons would agree!

See you soon...have a great New Year!

Anonymous said...

That is an intelligent observation that just goes to show no matter how civilized we may think we are, we are just animals that operate on basic instincts.

Keith Vaughn said...

Hi Pastor,
I’m taking a short break from my J-term Pastoral Care studies and thought I would read your Blog. I am glad that you are well and that you are enjoying your rest with your family.

How far have we traveled down that road since the dark ages? As we so recently learned, in some ways the road ahead is still very dark. The virus of violence still afflicts us. Will we ever realize that God offers the cure for humankind’s ills?

I am also pleased to learn that these historical artifacts are so well preserved. We need lessons for ourselves and our children to remember that we have moved such a short distance down a very long road. As we learned in our MLK class last fall, humanity still has many issues to deal with. Violence is only one of our enemies. There is much work to do.

Keith Vaughn

Anonymous said...

Your observations of the cruelty that mankind has bestowed on fellow men/women is certainly mind boggling. We read about such, but 'seeing' these instruments of torture through your eyes brings it closer to us.
I was also appalled by the way Saddam was hung. I truly believe he was an evil person, but unlike the Iraqis that were executing him, as Christians, hopefully we would have been more considerate. I believe that he should have been executed for the atrocities that he performed for years, but it should have been done with respect. But, Charlie, that is a different world over there as Chad and Cliff can probably attest to. His own countrymen and fellow Muslims were the ones who were so degrading.

When are you coming home?
Have a great time and give my love to Jana.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I have been checking from time to time to see if you were back to writing. I've missed reading your thoughts! Have a most wonderful trip and enjoy your family!
Jan Pullin

Anonymous said...

Repent, Charles, Repent-

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