Welcome to Historicus Pro Vitae

Greetings and thank you for taking the time to visit Historicus Pro Vitae, a website concerned with using the study of the past to promote a culture of life. In this brief introductory post I will answer a few questions that will chart the course for the posts that will follow. Why If one is to take a hard, honest look at the saga of human history with all of its inherent wars, pogroms, persecutions, and injustices – to say nothing of natural disasters and plagues – one would be tempted to conclude that human life did not amount to much. If life truly had any lasting value, how to explain 60 million deaths in the Second World War? How could the Holocaust have possibly happened? By what twisted logic could one human being claim to own another? The sad truth is that injustices and calamities like global war or genocide result not from the fact that human life has no inherent value. Rather, these calamities are the result of societies who place a low value on human life in general or specific life which they deem to be “subhuman” or opposed to the interests of the state. The results of such toxic thinking are etched in stone in cemeteries and memorials the world over. Wherefore It seems clear to me that the lessons of history scream that catastrophe results when a high regard for human life becomes a secondary concern. Yet in today’s society, with scientific and technological advances occurring at a break-neck pace and mounds of new data accruing every second, it seems like we still struggle with what premium should be placed on the individual. In the United States, we zealously affirm individual rights on the one hand while vociferously advocating for practices that undercut the worth of the individual on the other. While the current struggles in America over issues like abortion or euthanasia come to mind as prominent examples, these are just two poisonous fruits that stem from the same tree – a tree with branches that sink deep into the troubled past of mankind. Much ink has been spilled on the moral, political, and religious implications of issues like abortion, genocide, and war – but what does the discipline of history have to say about these topics? That is what I intend this site to be – a wide-ranging exploration of various matters linked with what I hold to be the sacredness of human life. A Final Word While some may balk at such an unabashed marriage of an academic discipline with what many contend to be personal preference, I want to share an illustration from history to relate why I will not be silent on such issues any longer. My current book project is a scholarly biography of Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who suffered grievous persecution at the hands of the Nazis in order to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. My research led me to the following statistic regarding Europeans who were willing to risk life and limb to save their fellow human beings from the death camps: Of an estimated 300,000,000 European non-Jews that lived in Nazi controlled areas during the Holocaust, only around 100,000 chose to intervene and help. As noted historian David P. Gushee observed, “Even if we generously assume that only one-third of these non-Jews had any kind of realistic opportunity at all to help their Jewish neighbors, the numbers still mean that no more than one-tenth of 1 percent of Europe’s Gentiles did anything to help Jews survive the Holocaust.” (emphasis mine) I don’t know about you, but when the history of our modern era is written, I wish to be counted in the minority who did something rather than the majority who kept silent. It’s time to be a spoke in the wheel of injustice. Next up: an exploration of the historian as activist – is it permissible or “verboten”?

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