Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Christ and Caesar, Part II

"Pastor, What Would You Have Done?" is Gary DeMar's continuing commentary on Christians and the State.

This is a continuing response to this.

A sampling ...

"‘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 (pictured), 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.’

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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.

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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.”

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.”