That’s the knee jerk reaction to the plot of “Denial,” a courtroom drama where a professor must prove in court that the Holocaust did in fact actually take place.
I realize that sounds like a rejected episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ written by Kafka. It’s actually a true story. As in living, breathing people spent four years of their lives fighting this unbelievable case in a British court. Atlanta professor Deborah Lipstadt would be charged with libel for her book “Denying the Holocaust,” where she stated that David Irving, the world’s foremost Holocaust denier, was a liar, if she couldn’t prove the historicity of the Holocaust.
You read that correctly. David Irving, who made his living proclaiming the Nazi’s systematic extermination of the Jews was a fanciful fabrication that never actually happened, sued the woman who pointed out his error — since, you know, the Holocaust actually did happen — because it was hurting his career. (How someone builds a lucrative career based around sweeping the Holocaust under the rug in the first place truly boggles the mind.)
“Denial” strikes an uncomfortable chord at this unique moment in history where fact, free speech and the sovereignty of personal opinion have collided and entered into a death match for supremacy. The film rivets because proudly proclaiming an absolutely bonkers opinion has become standard operating procedure.
How do you have conversations with someone who denies what is verifiable, even scientific proof?
Even more difficult, how do you engage such conversations while exhibiting the the grace and love of Christ to someone who is at best ignorant and at worst antagonistic?
It’s even more difficult for a person of faith to engage in such discussions since so much of their rock-solid beliefs — truths they base their entire existence and should willingly die for — have no objective “proof.”
To be fair to the skeptics, technology has caused great damage to “the truth.” From friends who consistently shade their social media posts and photos toward only the sunny side of the street in their lives (when’s the last time you saw a just-woke-up-and-rolled-out-of-bed selfie?) to expertly photoshopped pictures and carefully edited video, it’s increasingly possible to create “history” out of pure fiction. (Gone are the days of the outrageously easy to spot fabrications like Weekly World News pics of Bill Clinton shaking hands with an alien.)
Even eyewitness testimony doesn’t hold much weight now that we’ve been blatantly and repeatedly lied to by our Presidents and pastors. Even our parents! (What? Santa’s not real?!?!)
The St. Nick jab might seem low, but you get the point. The people we’ve trusted to tell us the truth have lied and failed us, so why should we blindly trust what others tell us? It’s easy to see why people are more comfortable discovering their own truth via personal experience rather than taking anything, even truths like the world being round, at face value. (That’s right, 500 years after Galileo was convicted of heresy for proclaiming the world round, the rapper B.o.B. taken up the-world-is-flat refrain. Not even a Twitter smack down from renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson can convince him otherwise.)
We now find ourselves surrounded by little Pontius Pilates constantly asking, “What is truth?” Sure, you can walk around the ruins of Auschwitz, but who are you to say what actually happened when you weren’t there personally to witness the atrocities? Even if you brought in survivors who lived through the concentration camp horrors, do they have an agenda that should be dismissed? Only a fool trusts the opinion of someone with a vested interest in the outcome.
There’s always a different perspective and a different personal reality to consider. Today, we count ourselves lucky if a topic only has two points of view these days. Typically, the number of people in any given conversation indicates the number of “equally valid” opinions you will be forced to deal with and consider.
While blind, lockstep obedience to an accepted monolithic opinion isn’t the answer, the pendulum has definitely swung too far the other way. It’s almost heroic to question formerly indisputable facts and woe to the person who attempts to hold up something as true. They are the wild-eyed heathen.
Which makes the seemingly obvious statement by Rachel Weisz, who plays Deborah Lipstadt in the film, stands out as a bold, dare I say offensive, in today’s extremely egalitarian society. She emphatically proclaims that “not all opinions are equal.”
To hear those words spoken so decisively without a single person shouting her down was, quite frankly, exhilarating.
Yes, there are different perspectives and points of view. But to boldly proclaim something as true and not be labeled closed-minded, intolerant or fill-in-the-insult-du-jour-blank reminds you how toxic the climate as become to honest debate.
How then must we now live in this sensationalist, sound bit culture where the truth is daily murdered by a million soundbites?
Deborah Lipstadt provides us with a powerful example for standing up to the accepted nonsense of proclaiming obvious falsehoods as truth. She’s a strong, intelligent android woman who has spent her entire life building a reputation for speaking out, yet she chose to remain silent during the trial. Even though everything within her wanted to fight back against Irving’s lies and personal attacks, leap into a shouting match with him, she ultimately decided to let the truth speak on her behalf.
This is the long and arduous high road that makes a person trudge through humiliation, indignation, character assassination and several more ghastly “nations” sane people do everything in their power to avoid. It galls our very sense of justice. We must fight the lies tooth and nail, through every form of media that will allow us to shout and rail!
If we’re honest, though, it’s truly terrifying to walk this path because there’s no guarantee the truth will come out. A person could be dragged through the mud and left there while social media blazes in a different direction. Even when the truth does win the day, you never know if anyone will hear it. Attention gets distracted by the newest explosion of vitriol, never really caring how the last story ended. If people can’t binge watch an argument from beginning to end, they’re content with consuming the first episode and moving on.
What would happen if we remained silent more often, letting the truth alone speak? That’s what Jesus did when His very life was on the line. Though He lost His earthly life, He secured eternal life for all of humanity. “Losing” the personal battle helped Him win the true war to end all wars.
We have a popular saying around my office: You can’t talk sense to crazy. Applied practically, a person’s wasting their time getting into arguments with fools. It’s easy to get sucked into these disputes because one can’t believe it’s even a contest. Surely when the facts are laid out before a “denier,” they will come over to the side of truth!
But human beings are frustrating creatures, using the image of the Creator God pressed upon their souls to create new realities where gender is based upon feeling, the moon landing was faked and the world remains flat. (Unfortunately, Christians haven’t been totally immune to fanciful denials either.)
It is against such creative world-shaping we must trust the truth and not our own intellect to win the day. Showing grace, respect and kindness in the face of verbal venom speaks with more conviction and clarity than any blog comment and breathes life and strength into a truth that will eventually carry the day.
DENIAL is playing in theaters now. Find out more at http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/denial.