I Long For Those Who Say Yes For Yes And No For No, For A Light Without Shadow

In 1941, as the Soviet Union sought to enlist Polish support against an unexpected invasion by Nazi Germany, a formerly imprisoned Polish army officer named Jozef Czapski spoke with a fellow Pole and quoted some of the words of a noted Polish poet, “I long for those who say yes for yes and no for no / For a light without shadow [1].” Given the darkness and evil of those times, it is all too tempting to desire for light without shadow, to hope for that which cannot be seen this side of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we are people of basic honesty and integrity, then we will often be disappointed by the dishonesty of others, even if we avoid following that example in our own lives. To find some expression of our romantic idealism through poetry does at least give voice to our sentiments, though.

It is striking, and perhaps unintentional, that there was a close connection between the poetry of Cyprian Norwid quoted by the patriotic Pole and the closing words of Arthur Koestler’s [2] novel Darkness At Noon, which deals with the same period of history and the horrors of Stalin’s purges and the sublime poetry of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no, for anything more than this is from the evil one.” The Soviet Union, like any totalitarian state, was based on lies of omission (in its conspiracies of silence) and in its lies of commission, in its active pretense of a regularity and legitimacy that it did not possess. When people must put on a fake smile and pretend as if everything is okay in the midst of unspeakable evils, corruption threatens all aspects of society, and not merely the political involvement of elites.

There is a belief among some that to participate in politics is itself sinful. To be sure, to view politics as a tool for salvation is unwise and ungodly, and politics in this fallen world is often a matter of tactics and choosing the lesser of the evils, a matter that strikes many who desire simon pure morality in their every action as something sinful and corrupt. Yet it cannot be denied that political matters are of the greatest importance. When good men do nothing, evil men are freed to conduct their evil plots. In areas like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, these evils can lead to the death of tens of millions of innocents in gruesome and horrible ways. Those who stood by and did nothing, not even speaking up against evil (even if it risked them their freedom and their lives), must bear some responsibility for their moral cowardice. We need not be partisan in our political support, for rarely (if ever) will there be political leaders whose worldview corresponds with a godly and biblical one, but all the same we must be aware that there is no escape from political behavior.

As much as we might wish to believe otherwise, every action we take in life has political implications. Even matters of belief have political implications. For example, those who believe that there is no god before the Eternal, and that God is the highest authority in life (as revealed through His Word) are going to face hostility from those who wish to make government or the market or anything else the highest arbiter of worth and legitimacy in a society. Even if we may not have any intent to be politically provocative, being sincere and straightforward and open about our belief system will carry with it political implications that can be very serious, putting our freedom and even our lives at stake. If we are truly sincere and committed about our beliefs, we have to face the fact that it can cost us everything under the sun.

Yet we long for a world without shadow nonetheless. Even though we know that every human system will provide difficulties because it will be some combination of good and evil, since no society has ever fully committed to God’s ways and sought repentance and restoration, there are still gradations of evil. Having too dim an ability to distinguish moral matters hinders us both from properly realizing that politics are not a path to salvation and the establishment of heaven on earth and that even if this world is full of different shades of gray, some are to be preferred to others, and gray is to be preferred to the blackness of evil that is represented by both Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany and those realms like them. We ought not to mistake the gray shades of our own lands for heaven on earth, and ought not to deny the evils that exist in our societies and institutions, no matter how enlightened, but neither ought we to have no preference between immensely evil and mostly good.

[1] Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin. (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 152.

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/the-dinosaurs-prayer/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I Long For Those Who Say Yes For Yes And No For No, For A Light Without Shadow

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