Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pastor, What Would You Have Done? by Gary DeMar

Gary DeMar's lastest article should be read with great humility and introspection by American pastors. Accomodation is the watch-word amongst Evangelical and Fundamentalist pastors these days. Cowardice and lack of vision and knowledge the basis for this accomodation. One has to also wonder if we do not have some agent provocateurs installed in our pulpits as well. The evidence speaks for itself. (Editor)

The full article below can be viewed at

"‘I will protect the German people,’ Hitler shouted. ‘You take care of the church. You pastors should worry about getting people to heaven and leave this world to me.’"1 Adolf Hitler’s angry response was directed at Martin Niemöller, a German submarine commander in the First World War, an ardent nationalist, and a minister of the gospel. Niemöller had written From U-Boat to Pulpit in 1933, showing that “the fourteen years of the [Weimar] Republic had been ‘years of darkness.’ In a final word inserted at the end of the book he added that Hitler’s triumph at last brought light to Germany.”2 He was soon to learn, however, that the light was a fire that would consume hundreds of thousands of bodies in gas ovens. By 1935, “Niemöller had become completely disillusioned”3 with Hitler and his social experiment.

Niemöller protested “against the anti-Christian tendencies of the regime, denouncing the government’s anti-Semitism and demanding an end to the state’s interference in the churches.”4 He published a series of sermons with the title Christus ist mein Führer (“Christ is my Leader”). Not everyone followed Niemöller’s example. Numerous pastors swore a personal oath of allegiance and obedience to Adolf Hitler: “The Swastika on our breasts, the Cross in our hearts.”5 Those who refused to follow the party line were sent to concentration camps for their defiance. Niemöller was imprisoned as an “enemy of Hitler,” spending seven years in a concentration camp.

Why did so many comply with Hitler’s worldview? Why did so many pastors act, as Hitler described them, like “submissive dogs . . . that sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them”?6 For the most part, the people believed that their heavenly citizenship obligated them to accept the prevailing civil requirements of citizenship, no matter what their demands, and to remain silent no matter what atrocities were being committed.

The belief that one’s citizenship is exclusively heavenly means that there is no relation between the Christian worldview and the world in which we live. The Christian is simply a pilgrim and a stranger on his way to heaven. What he sees as he travels the road to his earthly reward is no concern because his citizenship is elsewhere. “In no country except with the exception of Czarist Russia did the clergy become by tradition so completely servile to the political authority of the State.”7 When the social and political world of Russia was crumbling, the clergy remained relatively silent. Some were occupied with more important things. Donald G. Bloesch writes:

"It is a sad but irrefutable fact that the Russian Orthodox Church at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution was engaged in a fruitless attempt to preserve its religious treasures (chalices, vestments, paintings, icons, etc.) and was therefore unable to relate meaningfully to the tremendous social upheavals then taking place." 8

For Hitler, the Christian worldview stood between Nazism and his newly resurrected pagan world order. Under the leadership of Alfred Rosenberg, “the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists.” Martin Bormann, “one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, ‘National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable.’“9 William Shirer would later write: “We know now what Hitler envisioned for the German Christians: the utter suppression of their religion.”10

Adolf Hitler would have said “Amen” to this statement by Rev. James L. Evans: “These days . . . we are on the side. We are deposed rulers, stripped of our divine prerogatives. We have been reduced to the status of mere citizens in a body politic where one idea is regarded as good as the next. We’re second stringers, benched during the big game, watching it all from the sidelines.”11

1. Quoted in Charles Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), 140.

2. William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930–1940 (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1984), 152. For an account of Hitler’s Christian rhetoric and support for the Church and Niemöller’s initial support for him, see Basil Miller, Martin Niemöller: Hero of the Concentration Camp (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1942), 79–81.

3. Shirer, The Nightmare Years, 152.

4. Shirer, The Nightmare Years, 153.

5. Philip Yancey, “A State of Ungrace: In fighting the culture wars, has the church forgotten its central message?,” Christianity Today (February 3, 1997), 36.

6. A quotation of Hitler’s confirmed by Hermann Rauschning, once a confidant of Hitler, in his book The Voice of Destruction, 297–300. Quoted in Shirer, The Nightmare Years, 152.

7. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 236.

8. Donald G. Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations: Death and Rebirth in the Age of Upheaval (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 30. See John Shelton Curtiss, The Russian Church and the Soviet State (Boston: Little, Brown, 1953), 112–20. “Patriarch Tikhon was quoted as saying that it was the government’s concern, not the church’s, to care for those dying of starvation (120). It is well to bear in mind that many Russian Orthodox priests as well as their parishioners did not follow the Patriarch’s lead and did use church valuables to provide for famine relief. It should also be recognized that Patriarch Tikhon at one point favored donations of nonconsecrated articles to the poor” (Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations, 141–42, note 1).

9. Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 240.

10. Shirer, The Nightmare Years, 156.

11. James L. Evans, “Why it’s right for us to be on the side,” The Decatur Daily (July 8, 2006): Online here.

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