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Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany


As many found out in the late 1930s, tyranny is always seeking its next conquest.  We will most likely not be able to hide from the new leftist totalitarianism sweeping the planet if we fail to confront it now. Yes, it may be that some out-of-the-way places might be less affected. As the socialist insanity of the Nazis swept Europe, perhaps being a Luxembourgian or Andorran was better than being a Jew in Poland, but as Churchill noted, this relative safety is really nothing more than hoping the crocodile eats you last.  Fighting a crocodile no doubt is terrifying, and the felt reality is, as Frodo voiced to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, when he realized he was now tasked with an all-but-impossible mission of taking his ring to Mordor, “I wish this need not have happened in my time.” Everyone who is called to great challenges, if they are sane, will feel the same way.  But of course, courage is precisely when one doesn’t feel like it, and has no meaning unless fear is a real possibility, just as faith has no meaning unless doubt is a real, actual possibility.  It is this choice between courage vs. fear, faith vs. doubt, action vs. inaction, that has now been arbitrarily placed on our doorstep, whether we wish it or not. Indeed, I wish this need not have happened in my time, either.

To help us not repeat the past, and to help us actively engage this inchoate evil, Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Bible Church and son of German immigrants, has noted seven historical lessons in his book, When a Nation Forgets God, that may assist the reflective conservative to take on the battle that has come unbidden to us, through the agencies of the “lamestream” media, a co-opted educational system, liberal churches, and more.

First, we must realize the core of the battle is a spiritual one. Lutzer noted that humanists felt God “died” (through their efforts, which were not dissimilar to the efforts of their heirs today) in the 19th century. However, the result of this is that man died in the 20th century, for as Lutzer notes, “For when God is dead, man becomes an untamed beast.” Whether it is the 160 million people that various forms of leftism killed last century, to the present day shenanigans of the Enrons, the WorldComs, or the Bernie Madoffs of the world, as the Russian writer Dostoyevski noted, “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”  Thankfully, of course, we serve a risen Christ. This is not the first time impudence has thought it had “buried” God. Unfortunately for them, He never seems to stay put.

Christians would do well to review the courage of men like Martin Niemoller or Deitrich Bonhoeffer as they faced the Nazis a half century or so ago. In general Lutzer notes “Hitler belittled the courage of pastors, saying ‘You can do anything you want with them….they will submit… they are insignificant little people, as submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.’” Rather, Lutzer notes, “If every pastor would have been a Bonhoeffer or a Niemoller, Hitler could not have accomplished his agenda,” and then quotes Peter Marshall stating: “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed, than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail. Better to fail while serving God than to win while serving oneself.”  Bonhoeffer early on confronted Hitler. At one point Bonhoeffer, in a July 23, 1933 radio address, warned that “when a people idolize a leader, then the image of the leader will gradually become the image of the ‘misleader.’ Thus, the leader makes an idol of himself and mocks God.”  One needn’t have too much of an imagination to see how this applies to today!  As the last sentences were being read by Bonhoeffer, the microphones were mysteriously switched off, and Bonhoeffer was silenced for the time being. Of course today, instead of turning the switches off, the radical left tries to turn off free speech by their Orwellian named “fairness/localism doctrine” on the radio, co-opting the news, and now trying to control the Internet.

The result of Christians abandoning the playing field was summarized by Pastor Helmut Thielicke, as he spoke to a broken German nation in Stuttgart, April, 1945: “Denying God and casting down the cross is never a merely private decision that concerns only my own inner life and my personal salvation, but this denial immediately brings the most brutal consequences for the whole of historical life and especially for our own people. God is not mocked. The history of the world can tell us terrible tales based upon that text.” The invisible transcends the visible in order and power, in our due allegiance and faith. Thielicke concluded that those who can’t see that socialist Germany “was wrecked precisely on this dangerous rock called ‘God,’ and nothing else has no eyes to see. Because he sees only individual catastrophes he no longer sees the basic, cardinal catastrophe behind them all.”

In sum, while preparedness it both vital and wise, we cannot, and must not, cease being salt in a dying culture.

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