Thinking In Public

April 25, 2011

What Must We Learn from the Bloodlands?: A Conversation with Historian Timothy Snyder


Interview with Timothy Snyder

Thinking in Public

April 25, 2011

(This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated)

Mohler: This is “Thinking in Public”, a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about front line theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I’m Albert Mohler, your host, and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Thinkers as divergent as Brazinsky of the United States and the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm in the United Kingdom have referred to the 20th century as the century of mega death. The bloody 20th century that now stands as such a hallmark of horror in terms of human history just at the time that many humans believe that the species was coming of moral age. It’s hard to come to grasp with the 20th century. That’s a very humbling realization when after all we’re just in the first several years of the 21st century. We need help. And some of that help now comes in the form of a book called Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by historian Timothy Snyder.

Timothy Snyder is Professor of History at Yale University. He specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe. He’s the author of the new book Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997 where he was a British Marshal Scholar. His new book has set off a very interesting and important conversation not only among historians but among all of us trying to grapple with some of the most basic questions about our humanity. Professor Snyder welcome to Thinking In Public.

Snyder: Delighted to be here.

Mohler: Your book Blood Lands identifies not only a geographical region but a part of our history from the 20th century that many people simply, I think, do not know. They don’t recognize this until you begin to tell the story. And then there is the dawning sense that we should have known this all along. How did you come across this research interest and the purpose of this book?

Snyder: I came to it out of a kind of accumulating sense of responsibility. As you say I’m an East European historian, and I work particularly on the land between the Baltic and the Black Seas between Germany and Russian. And as I worked, some of the projects, I read the work of colleagues as I did research of various sorts I realized that some of the major events which in a general way were all familiar really took place in these territories even though we don’t remember it necessarily that way. Things that you couldn’t help but know something about growing up in the United States such as Stalinist terror or Hitler’s holocaust, I begin to realize that we East Europeanists tend to write about one nation or another. And the people who focus on Germany tend to look at things from the point of view of Berlin. The people who write about Russia from the point of view of Moscow but meanwhile in between Berlin and Moscow and among all these East European countries which we tend to keep separate, there was this series of unfolding disasters. And the more I concentrated the more I realized that here we had an event which was really unparalleled in the history of the west wherein some fourteen million, billion, some fourteen million non-combatants men, women, and children, more women and children than men, were murdered in a very short period of time from 1933 to 1945. But once I made that observation that’s when I really began to start. I tried to formulate from the beginning of the book what it is we’re talking about, an event in which fourteen million people are killed over a very short time. And then I sought out to try to recount that and then explain it and try to give it its proper significance.

Mohler: Let’s talk about the geography for just a moment. In the map in your book you identify what you designate as the blood lands. It includes a great deal of central and Eastern Europe, well into what had been the Russian empire.

Snyder: Yeah I mean you could think about this territory in a number of different ways. One is you can think of it as nowhere. That is this East European territory isn’t a country, it isn’t an empire, it’s not an economic zone, it’s simply the place where so much of the killing took place. It’s where almost all of the Nazi killing took place, and it’s where a disproportionate portion amount of the Soviet killing took place. The other way you can think about it is as where the holocaust happened. All of the Jews, or practically all the Jews, who were murdered during the Second World War were murdered in this place and in no other. And I think it’s interesting and deserving of explanation, I tried to provide that explanation why it is that in the same place where the holocaust took place most of the other German crimes also happened and a disproportionate amount of the Soviet killing also took place. And then another way to think about the blood lands is these are the places where German power and Soviet power overlapped. And I think it’s interesting that all of that lines up. That fourteen million people were killed here, that the holocaust happened here, and this is the place where Soviet and German power overlapped. You can use all those different definitions you come up with essentially the same territory and that’s the territory I call the blood lands.

Mohler: In the conventional memory of the 20th century especially with the holocaust as that paradigmatic event of horror at the middle of the century, I think most of us are accustomed to hearing a figure like six million and yet you point to the figure of fourteen million. Can you add that up for us in terms of the scale of the murder we’re talking about here?

Snyder: Yeah the way the book runs through these horrible events is to stay focused on the territory and then to watch a Soviet power and then combine Soviet and German power and then finally German power rollover the territory implicating the people who lived there sometimes in horrible crimes and killing people in very large number. In terms of those numbers, to answer your question, the first major policy of deliberate killing in these lands entering this time 1933-1945 was the deliberate Soviet starvation policy in Soviet Ukraine of 1932-1933 which killed a little bit more than 3 million people. The next major crime that takes place on these territories is Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937-1938 which of course touched the entire Soviet Union but which touched disproportionately the Western Soviet Union which means Soviet yellow roost, Soviet Ukraine, part of what I’m calling the blood lands where a couple of hundred thousand additional people were shot individually each in the back of the neck. The third major crime which I discuss in the book I treat as a moment of joint Soviet-German action because what happened in 1939 is that the Soviets and the Germans sign a peace treaty, the Treaty on Borders and Friendship and they’d agree upon…influence in Eastern Europe. And the Soviets invade Poland from one side and the Germans from another and in Poland they pursue policies which in some ways are very different. For example the Germans put Jews in ghettos and Soviets do nothing like that but in some ways are very similar. And both are interested in eliminating the educated strata, the educated classes among Polish citizens and so they kill each of them about 100,000 people and they are very similar kinds of people. They tend to be educated people.

But then you have the beginning of a period where the Germans are the ones who are doing most of the killing. If you look at it chronologically from 1933-1938 the Soviets are killing in the millions and the Germans under Hitler are killing in the thousands. And then from ‘39-‘41 you see the Germans catch up to beat the Soviets. But after 1941 the Germans are doing the vast majority of the killing and that is because they had invaded the Soviet Union which they mean to destroy, which they need to transform into a kind of a racial frontier empire for themselves. This involves plans to eliminate all the Jews as well as to enslave, or deport, or kill by starvation millions and millions and millions of Slavs as well. And that doesn’t unrule exactly the Germans expected to unfold but they do kill some three million prisoners of war in horrible facilities which I think are almost totally forgotten basically enclosures of barbed wire where people were allowed to starve or freeze to death. And they do kill hundreds of thousands of civilians often in yellow roost also in Poland in so called retributions for part of an activity and of course they do carry out the holocaust which involves the murder of more than five million Jews who are natives to Poland or the Soviet Union as well as hundreds of thousands of other Jews who are brought into the blood lands where they’re either gassed or sometimes shot.

Mohler: If you can explain or attempt an explanation of why this particular territory became the blood lands. What was the historical series of events or the cultural developments that made this particular region of Europe so deadly?

Snyder: The interesting thing is that it wasn’t really. It didn’t become so deadly until the middle of the twentieth century. And when we look back ironically at the previous centuries, what one sees is that a certain level of toleration and a certain level of the weakness of the state really allowed for a situation which in the 20th century was particularly dangerous. And that situation, I think, you could think of in terms of three factors. The first is that in the middle ages and in the early modern period the West European states expelled their Jews and those Jews generally found a home in Eastern Europe where they prospered for the most part for centuries and multiplied so that Eastern Europe became the largest of the homeland really of Europe’s Jews. Now of course, this in itself isn’t given to cause a violence, but it does mean that when someone whose ambition is to rid Europe of Jews comes to power in Germany, it means that the zone is going to be particularly at risk as indeed it was. Another factor to point to is the weakness of the state precisely. When there is no state, when there is no political system, people are much more at risk. This is something we tend to overlook because we simply take the state for granted. We’re all about how big it should be and so on, and we fantasize that we could get rid of it all together and that that would be a good thing which of course is complete nonsense. If there is no state, people are at terrible risk and the zone between Germany and the Soviet Union, there was really only one independent state and that independent state was Poland and that state was destroyed in 1939 along with independent Astonia, Lathia, and Lithuania, the smaller states. You then see the real onrush of violence after that. And the third factor and this is one which is hardest I think for us to remember we modern people is food. Food was once and not so long ago a natural resource much the way that oil or natural gas is today. It wasn’t that easy to produce in many countries including many developed countries, were not self sufficient in food. Germany is a very important example of that so what the Germans had in mind, what the Nazis had in mind moving into Eastern Europe was controlling a zone especially in the Ukraine which was characterized by very fertile soil. They thought if they could control that then they could become self-sufficient, they could make of themselves an enormous empire. Meanwhile from the Soviet point of view, there is a related kind of thinking about Ukraine mainly that since there is such fertile soil here we can exploit the peasants, and we can raise surplus capital from what they grow from the ground and use that to industrialize the Soviet Union. This is very hard for us to think about because for us food is cheap and plentiful and easy. We lived in a world which was divined by hybrids and fertilizers and so on but that wasn’t the world of the 1920’s and 1930’s. So those are all the background factors. But if I wanted to explain why it is that so many millions of people were killed in these territories, one has to really begin the account where I begin it after just gesturing toward the background factors which is the rise of the Soviet Union and the rise of Nazi Germany.

Mohler: You do not flinch in your book from writing about the techniques and technology of death. I think a part of what certainly is seared into the memory by reading your book Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is the fact that in a sense in both the crudest and most sophisticated ways these regimes perfected mass murder.

Snyder: Yeah there’s a lot to say about that. Unfortunately one of the things which I try to do in the book is to emphasize and you’ve already alluded to this that each death was the loss of an individual life and that’s one of the reasons why I describe some of the killing, a few individuals deaths with such precision because at a distance of time and space it’s very easy for death to become something badly abstract, and I think it’s better for it to be sadly concrete than to be sadly abstract. I think, if we don’t actually understand these people as human beings then their deaths can wash over us without leaving much of an affect. I also wanted to make it clear that the killing was very personal. We have a certain tendency I think to anasthesize ourselves by anasthesizing the killing by thinking of it as being modern, industrial, involving these facilities, thinking of it as bureaucratic, impersonal whereas in fact even in the case of the gas chambers, the killing was very personal there was human contact right down to the very end, right down to the moment where the people were actually in the gas chamber. And as many people, as many Jews roughly speaking were shot as were gathered and many, many other people were shot which is a very personal way of being killed because the shooting was done from behind with neck shots or were done with very close range with automatic weapons, or it was done from above into pits. So people were seeing each other right down to the last moment and then the most, in some ways, the most horrible form of killing which was also very personal and intimate was starvation.

This relates back to our forgetfulness about food. We don’t remember that more people were deliberately starved to death in this time and place than killed by any other method. And starving people to death, people watching them die over a period of not days or even weeks but really months and watching people suffer, watching people go mad, watching people carry out horrible acts before they actually died and that was also personal. So I needed that on the one hand so we would take seriously the suffering of these people. I also needed it because it is part of history I think in and of itself, but there’s something else which is important too which is we have to understand what we as human beings are capable of, that we’re not just capable of killing people from a distance although we might prefer that, but that we are also wholly capable of killing innocent people in all these horrible ways from enormous proximity to great proximity.

Mohler: In his book Blood Lands Timothy Snyder forces us to look at the reality. He points to the reality of what took place in the blood lands and this century of mega death and these years of mass killing. And yet he also corrects our memory. He does so in a paragraph such as this.

He writes, “Auschwitz was indeed a major site of the holocaust. About one in six murdered Jews perished there but though the death factor at Auschwitz was the last killing facility to function it was not the height of the technology of death. The most efficient shooting squads killed faster. The starvation sites killed faster. Interblinca killed faster. Auschwitz was also not the main place where the two largest Jewish communities in Europe, the Polish and the Soviet, were exterminated. Most Soviet and Polish Jews under German occupation have already been murdered by the time Auschwitz became the major death factory. By the time the gas chamber and crematoria complexes at Berkanale came on line in spring 1943 more than three-quarters of the Jews who would be killed in the Holocaust were already dead. For that matter the tremendous majority of all the people who would be deliberately killed by the Soviet and Nazi regimes well over 90% had already been killed by the time those gas chambers at Berkanale began their deadly work. Auschwitz is the coda to the death fugue.”

In other words our memory, even what we consider to be our well rounded and educated memory of the twentieth century is in the main woefully incomplete. It’s not only incomplete it’s erroneous, and our error is a matter of tremendous moral, if not merely historical, significance.

In the conclusion to his book Blood Lands, Timothy Snyder in two separate paragraphs makes two statements with two simple sentences that are seared into my memory. The first of them is this, “each of the living bore a name.” Paragraph later, “each of the dead became a number.” Professor Snyder it seems to me those two sentences in some ways frame and bookend the giant moral question of your book and that is how do we rightly remember and think about these things. And especially these human beings who died not just in mass numbers but individually one by one?

Snyder: Yeah, you’re asking me a very difficult question, and I can only characterize the two modest attempts I made to answer that. The first is that I think it’s very important to take the numbers seriously in the sense of trying to get it right. Too often what we do is we think in terms of big round numbers. And I’m afraid what often happens in politics is that people prefer larger numbers than smaller numbers because they find themselves in or they believe that they find themselves in a kind of competition of suffering with some other group. But of course that’s a really horrible way of thinking because in affect what you’ve done is you’ve wished that more of your own people were killed in the past. I mean of course no one thinks about it explicitly, that way but to insist on a number which is higher than you know to be the correct number is an odd way to think about the past of your own people or people generally. So, for that reason, I thought it was very important, and I do think it’s very important, and I’m surprised sometimes that the people don’t agree with me about this. It’s very important to try to get the numbers right. We can never get them perfectly right but we can use them to many sources that we have to try the best we can to be precise rather than be satisfied with general estimates. The other reason why I think it’s very important to be modest about the numbers, to be precise about the numbers, to be careful with the numbers, is that when we imagine that the horrors that our people are greater than they actually were then we are in affect releasing these ghosts of people who never lived into the public sphere. And then they go places they frighten people, they frighten ourselves. The past is bad enough if we look at it for what it was without imagining lots of death that didn’t happen. The number 14 million at this time, and place is large enough. There’s more horror there than we can really grasp without exaggerating it. The other thing that I try to do in the book, so that was all the first plane.

The second plane was that I tried to undo that process a little bit of people turning into numbers. There are a whole lot of ways in which Hitler and Stalin, although their regime..themselves were victorious. They were victorious intellectually in a whole range of ways. One of the ways that they were victorious intellectually was that in killing so many people they made death itself into a kind of ungraspable notion. They turned individual deaths into these horrors that we try to characterize, but we fail with words like genocide. And therefore I try to insist at the end of the book that once we have done our best with the numbers, we then have to think not only about the precision of the number, but with the number contains. And you have to remember therefore a big number is important not just because it’s so big but because any big number compares, contains smaller numbers and ultimately any big number contains a whole series of individuals. And so when we think of 14 million, we have to think, not of 14 million, but of 14 million times one where that one is a different person each time. And that’s a difficult exercise. But I think if we want to be historically correct and also historically sympathetic or humane then that’s what we really have to do.

And I found that as a matter of writing the book that people found it easier when rather than speaking of just 14 million were of 6 million or of 3 million I broke down the numbers a little bit further to a place where we could keep it more precise. So for example we know that 682,691 people were reported as shot during the Great Terror of 1937-1938 in the Soviet Union.

It’s a little bit easier to try to think of that one person at the end of that number and then think forward from there. So in a number of cases at the end of the book that’s what I try to do. I end with the number one, or two, or three, or six and reminded the reader of some of the people we had encountered along the way in the book. And that was my last and best attempt to try to make the number seem real. How successful that can really be I have to leave to the judgment of the reader.

Mohler: Well in reading your book, I’m struck by the moral sensitivity and the incredible weight of historical argument that falls upon anyone who would venture to identify, and explain, and tell the story of the blood lands. And your personal approach to looking at so many of the victims and identifying their stories in such haunting ways that again are virtually seared into the reader’s memory, that is a technique of tremendous affect. You also however deal with the bigger picture of the big questions, and I want to ask you the question that I think virtually anyone who comes to terms with even a part of this bloody 20th century in the blood lands would have to ask and that is the question why? Why did both the Soviets and the Nazis see this mass killing as being in their own interest?

Snyder: Yeah I’m afraid, no doubt you know being an East European historian and working on these subjects has a certain affect on me because whenever I think of that question I think about it in the reverse way. I ask myself how can we make sure that we don’t think about our own interests in that way. It seems to me that it’s much easier for people to think and behave that way then we would like to think. The resources, the institutional and moral resources that we have to throw against ourselves to prevent us from being like that are much greater than we flattering ourselves would like to think. But I will try to answer your question directly. It has to do I think partly with the end of an old world. It has to do with the First World War, the destruction of empires, the destruction of ways of life, death brought on a scale which it had never been seen before, violent deaths in Europe brought on a scale that it had never been seen before. It involves also the end of a certainty about economics, another thing with which we have some familiarity. It involves what people saw at the time of the crises of capitalism in the First World War brought to an end a moment of world trade like the globalization we have now.

The Great Depression forced countries back onto their own resources. It ended free trade, and it led to a lot of bad economic decision making which prolonged horrible crises of unemployment. It partly had to do with the sense that we the Nazis, or we the Bolsheviks, have to catch up in the world. That the world in some way either race and that the only way that the people about whom we care can succeed is if we push forward and so Soviet development is all about trying to speed up history on the territories of the Soviet Union. And German wars are to a great extent about trying to defeat other people before those other people are going to be stronger than the German reign. But then of course underneath that there is the theories, the very important theory, the unavoidable desperately dangerous theories about how some groups of people are more important than others. And that those people are somehow the focus of history itself. In the Nazi case that is of course the German race, the notion that the Germans are biologically superior and that insofar this hasn’t been demonstrated some more violence, some more violent conflict will demonstrate that, and it will give the Germans their chance to racially propagate themselves. In the case of the Bolsheviks, in the case of the Soviets, it is the working class, the working class which is supposed to throw off Catholic domination and establish a social state.

But in fact what happened is that one political party, the Bolshevik party, takes responsibility for history itself and in the name of this oppressed group creates a state which embodies the theory of history in which the Bolsheviks themselves claim the right not only to understand the past but to predict the future which means that the master of this kind of logic Stalin is able to justify almost anything in the name of safeguarding the future of the revolution, safeguarding the future of the proletariat.

All that hangs on the idea that there are particular groups which in some way have been abused by history and which have to be liberated from history by some kind of rapid means forward but then in addition to that there is the notion which is shared by these two systems and which was not, which was part and parcel of that whole era, which is that work can actually solve problems or that conflict can solve problems, that conflict which leads you to control terrain what will bring about economic development and the conflict in some way will prove your superiority to others. People had been of course stunned by the scale of violence by the First World War but certain people had seen how the First World War had transformed the world and they thought that another great war could transform the world again. And this is chiefly how the Nazis thought about things. But then underneath all this, I apologize for the long answer it’s much shorter in the book I assure you, underneath all of this or above it all is the fact that these two systems were functioning on overlapping pieces of territory. Their imagined geography, their imagined zone of domination overlapped, and that’s where the flood lands is, its’ where the Germans wanted to rule and it’s where the Soviets wanted to rule as well which meant that these are the places which were touched both by German racism, and German warfare, and touched by Soviet power and the Soviet idea of class revolution. Where the Soviets and Germans both were was the worst places of all to be and much as we might like to reduce it down to one system or to the other, as important as it is to make the very real distinction between the two systems because they were in fact quite different, I think if we look at the matter straight in the face you can’t avoid noticing that precisely where the two systems overlapped that the world was the most dangerous.

Mohler: We as human beings try to rationalize this kind of moral horror. We want to reason, we demand it, our minds and conscience grasp out for it and one of the ways that Americans I think have tried to deal with this is by assuming that ideology is the most fundamental issue here. As tempting as that is I want to read to you a couple of sentences from your own book in which you address that. You basically take that argument and then take it away from us, “ideologies also tempt those who reject them. Ideology when stripped of time, or partisanship of its political economic connections becomes a moralizing form of explanation for mass killing. One that comfortably separates the people who explain from the people who kill.” I think that’s an amazing argument and an amazing insight. And yet you see this as a very real danger as you operate as an historian in this terrain.

Snyder: Well yeah, I think it’s ubiquitous danger. I think it’s an ever present danger. It of course, ideology, did matter very much to these systems but it mattered in its interaction with economics, with politics, and with war. And what we tend to do when we think about ideology in retrospect is that we think about it abstractly. We strip away the history, that is we strip away the politics, the economics, and the war, and we try to think just in terms of the idea. And we think just in terms of the idea then it’s very easy for us to say that we reject those ideas, we reject national socialism, of course we do. We reject Leninism or Stalinism as of course we do but once we’ve made that move we’ve committed two errors. The first is the error of vanity, the idea that because I reject these particular ideas I won’t be tempted by anything else because I’m better than people that’s the problem. We tend to think that we’re better than other people because we don’t embrace a particular idea. And the other error that we commit is the error of anachronism. We don’t see that these kinds of ideas become tempting for reasons that are not so different from some of the things which we experience ourselves or which people in the world experience. So we are all subject to the sense of economic scarcity. We are all vulnerable to the emotions that are aroused by warfare. We are tempted by certain kinds of political utopianism. We all or many of us are tempted by the idea of political authority. These are things though that we tend to drop out of the explanation and then the historical danger at this moment or at any moment is that those things will creep up on us and they will find an ideological partner and because we think that we are free of ideological temptations, precisely because we think we are free of ideological temptation we will be vulnerable to that ideology when it does arrive. So the important thing to me is not that history repeats itself, its history doesn’t repeat itself. But history shows what’s plausible, history is about what happened and once we see what has happened then we can at least perhaps be aware of a certain pattern in the case that you’re asking about the pattern is where ideas of who is deserving and who is not encounter situations of real and perceived scarcity. And what seems to be the violent means of resolving that scarcity in favor of the people who are thought to be the deserving ones.

Mohler: I’m very grateful for the opportunity of this conversation with Professor Timothy Snyder. But let’s remember something every time we read a book we’re actually entering into a conversation. A mind meets another mind in the community of yet additional minds that’s why reading is such an important activity and why every reading of a book is the entering into a conversation.

One of the most important contributions Timothy Snyder brings to this discussion is that he does not allow the reader an easy moral refuge. He does not allow us the easy refuge of believing that we can look back to these events from a position of moral superiority simply because what we now know so many of these Europeans did what the Nazis did and what the Soviets did and we believing otherwise would never and could never do these things. That argument that he makes about ideology once stripped away from its political and historical circumstances no longer sufficing to explain well, it really reminds us that we are not off the hook. And then when in the conversation we just had, he brings in the reality that scarcity in general and in particular the scarcity of food can create a context in which people do what they otherwise would never do and rationalize what they would otherwise never rationalize. Well that just adds another horrible layer of our own moral concern as we look not only to the past but to the present and the future. And then he argues so convincingly that many of the inhabitants of this region he designates as the blood lands were not only the victims but also the perpetrators, or the perpetrator victims, or the victim perpetrators, we come to understand even that category that we really learned as common usage after the Second World War of collaborator. Well it raises a whole new set of questions. In one sense as Timothy Snyder also makes clear in his book, well we’re all collaborators. What about the Roosevelt administration? What about the United States of America that was in alliance with Joseph Stalin when there was no way we could not know what was going on? What about the reality of the fact that there has been something of a conspiracy of silence ever since the Second World War to refuse to deal with the magnitude of what really happened in the blood lands. What about the fact that even when we build something like a holocaust memorial or when we go to visit a site like Auschwitz we go to remind ourselves we say of what happened and yet even as we go to these sites many of them are actually a means of hiding what actually happened.

Well you know from a Christian perspective all of this really does come to make sense. Genesis 3 is the crucial category here. It’s the crucial change in terms of our understanding. It’s the revelation to us that we are indeed in a conspiracy of sinful suppression of knowledge. That’s exactly where we draw the line from Genesis 3 and the fall all the way to Romans 1. We suppress the truth in unrighteousness. You put Genesis 3 together with Romans 1 and you come to understand that every time we make a moral explanation of ourselves we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Even when we try to look at something as morally compelling as what took place in the blood lands we look at the holocaust, we look at the 20th century, we try to come to terms with something whether it be the holocaust or the era of Jim Crow when racial discrimination in our own country and we say, well we can take a position on that because after all we’re now enlightened, we’re on the other side of this, and yet we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Now I honestly do not know how someone operating from a secular understanding without that particular revealed knowledge can deal with this. But I can tell you in terms of the field of history, I know a few who have dealt with these questions more courageously or clearly as has Timothy Snyder. I’m thankful for the conversation I had with him about his book Blood Lands. I’m thankful for the conversation this book has now prompted in many other circles. I’m thankful that there are now fewer excuses for us to fail to deal with at least more honestly with the reality of what human beings are capable of. When you read the last concluding chapter of his book entitled “Humanity” you will come to terms with some of the most searing analysis of the human condition and of human moral action, you’re going to find just about anywhere. And you’re going to wonder where have we seen anything like this before? And then you’re going to remember how early this started when Cain killed his brother Abel. From that point onward we have been a murderous race. From the Christian gospel perspective, there’s only one way out and that one way is now either by war or what we may even claim as a human attempt to eliminate war because the real murderous intention doesn’t begin in an ideology or even in a regime it begins and we know this don’t we? In the human heart.

Thanks for joining me for Thinking In Public. For more information go to my website at You can follow me at Twitter by going to twitter.comalbertmohler. For more information about The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary just go to For information about Boyce College go to Until next time keep thinking. I’m Albert Mohler.


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