September 4, 2014

Will American Churches Choose Christ or Nero?

By In Articles, Society and Culture

Trevin Wax at the Gospel Coalition posted an interesting interview with one Dean Stroud, who edited a collection of twelve German sermons into a book.  These sermons were preached during the Third Reich and a time in Germany where mass allegiance was being declared, yes, even in Church settings, to the program and person of Adolph Hitler.

The theological content and agreeableness of these sermons is unknown to me, as I have not read the book.  But what is relevant to us here is the simple fact that these Pastors were vocally opposed to the actions of Hitler.  Wax writes:

What struck me most about these sermons was their forceful clarity in the midst of moral and nationalistic confusion. These pastors knew “what time it was” and they knew Jesus was King, even though the churches were falling to Hitler and the world seemed to be draped in shadow.

“Nationalistic confusion.”  “Churches falling to Hitler.”  Today, one wonders how such obvious evil could be confused, how the Churches could possibly “fall” to Hitler.  We read of the atrocities and wicked endeavors undertaken and pursued by the German government during that time, and it is so painfully easy to consider the sheer depravity of such a State.  And yet, German Churches in general lacked clarity back then.  This is what made the twelve republished sermons in Stroud’s volume so rare.

Wax stated in the interview that “Many readers may be unaware of the extent to which Hitler sought to utilize the churches and their “positive Christianity” to fulfill his nationalist aspirations.”

What comes to mind here is Sinclair Lewis’ eerie prediction that “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

Gary North, just this morning, had a column on this very thing.  He writes:

The state is now heralding faith-based welfare. State money is used to favor some ministries, which conform to state requirements. In this way, the churches get “matching funds” from the state, and the state gets another avenue into the lives of the public. There will be more welfare clients, and there will be restraints on what the ministries can say and do with the money. The state extends its influence by means of confiscated money from the voters.

He concluded his column with this:

There is an Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the national level. George W. Bush started it. President Obama is extending it. You can read about it on Wikipedia. You can also search for “Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships” to get lots of links to the White House’s Website.

Here is the deal: matching funds from the churches, with legal control from the state. It is all done in the name of charity.

It is not charity. It is the welfare state: money coerced from the public, which is then used to make charities dependent on a flow of funds from the state.

Then come the limitations on what the ministries can do with the money. Doubt me? See this collection of official statements.

If you take the state’s nickel, you take the state’s noose.

Do American Christians know about these partnerships?  If so, do they understand the historical ramifications?  Do they care?  The State recognizes that religion, even in America’s secularist progressivist setting, is one of the most influential aspects of a civilization.  The State likes to ask: “what can we do to get the greatest number of people to support our efforts of growth?”  There are a number of answers: welfare programs, affirmative actions legislation, various subsidies and financial incentives, free goods and services.  Religion too is very important to a great number of people (whether or not this “religion” is Biblical and orthodox), and therefore it is useful to the State.  The State has a long history of seeking partnership with churches.  It does this especially when it needs to get away with permanent means of expansion.

Referring back to the interview, Stroud explains that some tenets of Nazism were:

  • the divine election of Adolf Hitler
  • the worship of brutality and war

Let’s comment on these through a Reformed Libertarian lens [I only cited two to keep this post short].

  • God did elect Hitler to his position in the sense that he ordains every even in history.  God also ordained the Devil and the Great Betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot.  God’s ordaining will, though, does not approve of the actions of Judas, Satan, or Hitler.  God ordained George Bush and Barack Obama.  God does not approve of their actions.  How does this logically work?  Simple: there is a difference between the preceptive and the ordaining will of God.  When the evil State says: “God has put us in this position,” we must be bold to say “and that very God will exercise His wrath on all who have rejected His moral law.  There are zero exceptions besides those who are cleansed in the blood of Christ Jesus. Repent and Believe.”
  • Unfortunately, this tenet is strikingly familiar.  “War is good!” declares both the economists and the cultural commentators.  Among the most deceitful themes spread throughout society is that to criticize the actions of the troops is completely off limits.  Everywhere we look, war is praised, the troops are put on a pedestal and war-dissenters, that is, those individuals who question both the wisdom and the intentions of war efforts, are seen as traitors to the American way.  We are told that because we do not support every activity undertaken by the government’s military (even that phrase sounds radical –they are supposed to be “our military.”), we must therefore be “against the troops.”  I reject this dichotomy and claim a third way: the troops and their families are also victims of State propaganda, Imperialistic tendencies, and the tax-money-sucking “military-industrial complex.”  War is evil; it destroys culture and civilization, takes men away from their families, robs mothers of their sons, eradicates the economy’s capital stock, and creates more enemies.

The point of all that was to show what I see as familiar themes between what took place in Nazi Germany, and what happens today, in America’s Imperial atmosphere.  In my estimation, there will not be another Hitler from the West.  There will not be another one-man dictator who takes control of the Empire.  Many conservatives fear this.  I am a conservative who does not foresee this.  I see a different type of Imperialism, a different type of totalitarianism based on the concepts of “democracy” and “egalitarianism” and diversity” and an Orwellian definition of “freedom.”  I see a tightly controlled “elite,” at an international level, who will use religion as a leverage to garner support from the masses.  And this is the new danger.

You see, American Christians and Church leaders don’t want to be like the Christians and Churches of Hitler’s Germany, who fell sway to the German nationalistic vision.  They will make a conscious effort to avoid being in that position.  When America’s government leaders declare Russia’s Putin to Hitler, which is ridiculous, what happens to the overcompensating mentality of the Churches?  They rush closer to rally against the new Hilteresque Putin coalition.  They rush closer to rally against the new Hitleresque ISIS group. The US Government says, alluding to Romans 13, “we must stop the bad guys! We must bring the sword to the evil doers!” How can the Churches possibly oppose this?  They don’t want to appear like they are secretly supporting someone as bad as Hitler; they don’t want it to seem like they disagree with Paul in his letter to the Romans.  The Churches and Congregations fall right into the State’s trap.  They fall because their presupposition is this: “the State wouldn’t lie to us.  The State has the interests of the people at the top.”  There is no reason to assume this.  In fact, historically, the opposite is the case.

In the interview, Stroud commented:

Each pastor in the book showed Christian courage in their preaching. We should know these men because they stood firm in the faith in a time of evil and put themselves as risk for the Gospel. They can be Christian examples for us today.

[…]

Sermons from the Third Reich are difficult to find. Most did not survive the war. Also, many pastors offered no resistance to the Nazis.

To stand up to American Imperialism and an increasingly despotic Statism would, in a Christian setting, be a modern example of “showing courage.”  The American Christian has not yet understood the nature of the American Federal Government.  Thankfully, perhaps because Obama uses less Christian phraseology than Bush did, they are beginning to see that America is not what they think it is.  But it is my conviction that a Republican presidency would reverse any positive progress that Christians have had in their distrust of the State.  If the next President purports to be a Christian and uses rhetoric that is convincing to the Christian patriot, I worry that apathy will return.  Obama is one of the most dangerous Presidents that this nation has had; but he is closely following the path blazed by his predecessor.  Christians don’t recognize this because they see Bush as a Christian. This is a very inaccurate view.

Christians, show courage and vocally speak out against the actions of the State whenever and wherever it acts contrary to the Moral Law of God!  The State is not excepted from God’s standard, and although an astounding majority of what it does would be considered illegal if you did it, it claims the authority to act in any way it pleases.  It has claimed a moral position that only one Being in this universe can claim; namely, transcendence above of the Moral Law.  And those who cast their affections toward such an agency in the form of a distorted nationalistic patriotism are guilt of idolatry.

Stand firm in the faith and speak the truth to the world.  The State is not to be assumed as a partner in the expansion of the Gospel. We ought to “be arranged under” (hypotassō –1 Peter 2:13; I discuss more here.) but being arranged under does in no way ever indicate that we ought to disobey the moral law of God, or look the other way when the State does the same, as it usually does.  A time is coming and indeed is here when the Churches in this nation must choose whom to serve: Christ the author and perfecter of our faith or the almighty State which appears in sheep’s clothing but is inwardly a ravenous wolf, ready to devour.

Beware: choosing the first might spark the appetite of the latter.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com