“I see nothing” is the classic line of Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes, the 1960s television series about prisoners of war. The line is funny and unforgettable. So what does it mean? It means to ‘turn a blind eye.’ If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, it hasn’t happened, and therefore I am not responsible for it. Schultz was hiding from reality—usually the antics of the prisoners of war that he was supposed to be guarding. It was a humorous statement from a character on TV, but in real life hiding one’s eyes (face, head) from reality is immature and irresponsible. It can be downright dangerous.
Being purposefully myopic (in a metaphorical sense) is being unwilling to see what is perfectly clear but may be uncomfortable or beyond one’s perceived ability to cope. It’s like the ostrich which sticks its head in the sand but leaves the rest of its body exposed, thinking because its head is covered, it is out of danger. The ostrich syndrome is when we refuse to acknowledge what is blatantly obvious.
What is blatantly obvious? That there are Christians in the world who are suffering for their faith and we need to be actively involved in ministry with them. And yes, it could eventually happen to us.
The reaction of many is that we know what is happening but we do not want to deal with it. We may confine ourselves to a very tight circle that we have drawn around ourselves in which we will focus all our energy and concern. We refuse to see what is outside the line. Our little circle is a circle of self-absorption and self-centeredness. We may have determined that what happens in the world around us has no importance for us. The imaginary wall we build around ourselves blocks our view of who might be staring back at us. Neither the little circle nor the wall is real—they do not protect us at all. It is hard to be vigilant when we ignore the danger. Eventually, our temporary sense of security will give way to the invasion of reality into our little world. How will we deal with it?
It is obvious that this is not the posture, worldview, or lifestyle God means for genuinely-committed Christians to have. We are to embrace the reality of a fallen world and seek to win it. We are to care enough to feel the pain of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. Ignoring it (or them!) won’t make it go away.
I realize that there are a lot of important things in our little world that require a lot of attention and it is hard to add one more thing, especially when that something is painful. There are some things that cannot be ignored, no matter how overwhelmed we are. The question comes down to this: Do we ignore persecution because we think we can’t handle it or do we acknowledge it and deal with it because God is asking us to?
Interestingly, those who acknowledge and embrace the reality of persecution and seek to work with persecuted Christians are not burdened by it but are, in fact, uplifted by it. It is a great and wonderful ministry to real people who are on the front lines of faith. It is also wonderful to associate with the heroes of the faith.
Perhaps we should change Sgt. Schultz’s famous line to “Oh! Now I see.”
[Working with real people on the front lines of faith can begin with Adopting a Front-line Worker.]
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.