Friday, April 10, 2009

"Better to Light a Candle" - Pierre-Charles Toureille (1900 - 1976)

From Kairos Journal (an excellent online resource):

Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille risked his life during World War II to keep Jews out of Nazi death camps.(1) At the beginning of the war, before many people could fathom Hitler's true intentions, he served under the Protestant Federation of France (FPF) as chaplain for refugees in southern France. His job was to make living conditions in the internment camps as comfortable as possible. When it became clear the Jews were not being merely relocated but killed, Toureille pushed his colleagues to adopt a more aggressive stance. They refused, preferring instead to maintain their cordial relations with German authorities. Thus rebuffed, Toureille began secretly hiding Jews in his own church-members' homes or smuggling them to safety in Switzerland. He finally resigned in frustration from the FPF in 1945.

Some years later, Toureille wrote about the Christian Church's mission in the world. In true evangelical fashion, he pointed to a fate even worse than physical death in a German gas chamber--spiritual death. In the face of an enemy so terrible as that, he said, the Church simply cannot afford to stand on the sidelines.
There is a Buddhist saying, adopted by the Quakers as a motto for their aid to the needy: "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." It is in passing the light to others that one disperses the shadows . . . I often see boxing matches on television where the boxers lose because they only defend themselves without ever attacking. The same is true today for the Christian Church. It is by going on the offensive that the Mission will save the world.

Please understand me: it is not uniquely the church's mission to save men socially, economically, politically. But above all else, it is the church that must save men's souls. If the church does not accomplish this task, nothing else will. A church that does not evangelize is useless on earth. If the Church does not go to the front, with zeal and faith, the world will die, however it might be magnificently equipped technologically, monstrously rich and developed, endowed with superior social legislation and possessed of the best possible material conditions for living comfortably--this world will die because it has no soul. Unless the world has this peace of the soul that authentic conversion and the assurance of eternal life can give, all is useless and in vain. The night comes, when no one can work. Let us work, then, without cease. (2)


(1)For other examples of pastors being faithful to their calling during the Holocaust, see Kairos Journal articles, "The Pulpit at Le Chambon" and "The End - A Beginning."

(2)Tela Zasloff, A Rescuer's Story: Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille in Vichy France (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 211


Jeremy said...

What an awesome testimony to the true mission of the church. Many of our churches fall too easily into defending themselves from the perceived evils of society while expecting political lobbying to change the course of our nation and the lives of people. Toureille understood that we need more than moral transformation; we need the transforming power that only Christ can give.

chrisdat said...

Wonderful post. With the church’s emphasis on social action which is so good - it’s good to be reminded what is of first importance.

Gordan said...

Friendly warning: Sarcasm ahead.

Too bad this brother didn't have a lot of helpful, modern Evanjelly-fish around to berate him for not cow-towing to the powers that be, since that's so obviously what Romans 13 demands.

(end sarcasm)

Okay, seriously, though, this faithful man's testimony is especially relevant to us, as I think we all need to do some serious Scripture-thinking about what our proper relationship to an antichrist government ought to look like.

Siripañña Sophie Lichtenstein said...

I'm glad people still remember my grandfather. Take care. : )