Bright Valley of Love embeds many warnings to us, as well as a picture for how the church could respond to those living with severe disabilities.
For example, as the National Socialist Party (the Nazis) and the Communists battle for control of Germany in the 1930’s, Gunther believes they both “sound all right to me.” To which the leader of Bethel replies:
“Gunther, beware of cruel and ruthless men with high ideals,” said the voice behind them quietly. Pastor Fritz had come unnoticed into the room. “In fact, I would even go so far as to say that we must beware of kind and cultured men with high ideals – if in all their kindness and culture they do not have faith in the Lord God and Jesus Christ, if they do not have his love in their hearts.” (Hong, p. 117)
From listening to German radio, the young men with disabilities knew what this meant after the Nazi’s took control. These same young men created their own list of who would be eliminated. That list included them:
- The “very worst cases, those who are completely worthless to society.”
- The ones who “are not able to contribute anything to the economy but are a fearful drain on the nation.”
- “I do not call the lives these poor creatures live human.” (Hong, pp. 147-148)
We hear the same arguments today, sometimes from ‘kind and cultured men with high ideals.’ People with credentials and Ph.D.s and many books to their credit. Those sections of the book are deeply disturbing in how ‘fresh’ they sound today.
Yet, this little book also gives examples of how to fight such evil:
On his knees to God in his little room of prayer at House Burg, he prayed that he would do nothing hot-headed or foolhardy that would bring sure death to those trusted in his care. At the same time he prayed for the boldness and courage to fight against this war upon the weak and helpless, to take all the responsibility upon his own shoulders so that none of his fellow workers would be charged with guilt by the Party and arrested by the Gestapo. He prayed that House Burg, so weak a fortress, indeed, no fortress at all in this new kind of air war, would be a mighty fortress for those the Nazi Party considered to be worthless creatures.
‘Oh Christ Jesus,’ he prayed, ‘you who loved the lowliest and the least, help me, guide me, so that not a hair of their heads is touched. Make me wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.’ (Hong, p. 129)
Prayer, Bible, and worship are constant themes in this book. May they be so for us as well.