I went with my kiddos to see Les Miserables on opening night. And yes, I was blown away by Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." If you can win an Academy Award for one song, then she'll win. She sings of a broken heart and dashed hopes. Her character, Fantine, embodies what the movie explores: the themes of justice and forgiveness. You wonder, who will help for the opressed of this world like her?
If Les Miz is over-the-top, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, is stylistically it's opposite – an obscure documentary. But it's themes are the same. Dr. Josef Mengele was a horrible man. He performed medical experiments on people in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
It follows Eva Kor, a real estate agent in Terre Haute, Indiana who was subjected to his torture. She was one of the hundreds of twins on whom Dr. Mengele experimented. Her twin sister, Miriam, later died.
All these years later, the memories persist. Dr. Mengele is long dead, yet he continues to inflict pain from the grave. Realizing that the only power he has is the power she gives him by remaining bitter, Kor chooses to forgive him.
Her rationale: It's not because of her faith (she's Jewish). And it's not because it's part of her culture. She chooses to forgive Mengele because she simply wants to be happy again.
In an amazing act of courage, she travels to Bavaria to visit a surviving SS officer and forgives him as well. And then she asks him to accompany her on a visit to Auschwitz. He agrees to do so and it's then that the movie gets interesting.
After reading a public statement forgiving Dr. Mengele, she is attacked by her fellow Jews. "What right have you to forgive such a man?" They ask. "He's a monster. And even if we were to forgive him, an act of contrition needs to happen."
What right to forgive does she have indeed? What right do any of us have to ask or seek forgiveness? Christianity is unique as a religion in that it's central tenet has to do with forgiveness. We who grow up in the faith take forgiveness for granted, but as this movies makes clear, it is a moral scandal.
Kor's position is that if you love yourself, the best thing you can do is to forgive others. It's in your self-interest to forgive. As followers of Jesus, we have no choice. We are commanded to forgive. Consider these scandalous passages:
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 18:21-22 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
2 Corinthians 2:5-6 Now if anyone has caused pain…you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.