On Tuesday, Dec. 12 Index Editor J. Gerald Harris delivered the following report to the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee meeting held at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth.
When John Pennington, former pastor of Douglasville First Baptist Church, was on our board of directors he charged me with the responsibility of being a watchmen on the wall. And he read Ezekiel 33:6: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”
I have tried to take that admonition seriously and aspire to that role today.
Several years ago I wrote an editorial on Andy Andrews book How Do You Kill 11 Million People? In the book Andrews answers that question by saying: “You lie to them.” He urges readers to be “careful students” of the past; seeking accurate, factual accounts of events and decisions that illuminate choices we face now.
“Hitler was a man of the common people,” Andrews writes, “and his speeches were exciting and passionate. He promised more and better and new and different. He vowed rapid change and swift action.”
Hitler said, “How fortunate for leaders, that men do not think. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Andrews asks, “With all we know, does anyone believe that telling the truth will solve all a nation’s problems? Of course not. But it is a beginning. In fact, speaking the truth should be the least we require of our elected leaders! After all, what are our standards for being led?
“You see, the danger to America is not a single politician with ill intent or even a group of them. The most dangerous thing any nation faces is a citizenry capable of trusting a liar to lead them.
“In the long run, it is much easier to undo the policies of crooked leadership than to restore common sense and wisdom to a deceived population willing to elect such a leader in the first place.
“Any country can survive having chosen a fool as their leader. But history has shown time and again that a nation of fools is surely doomed.” Andrews specifies, “There are 545 human beings who are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for every problem America faces” – one president, nine Supreme Court justices, one hundred senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives.
Andrews observes, “By the way, have you noticed that if any one of us lies to them, it is a felony? But if any one of them lies to us, it is considered politics.”
On March 10 of last year Mike Griffin, who courageously represents Georgia Baptists at the state capitol, was chastised by the Speaker of the House and several legislators who perceived that Griffin was linking them to Nazi Germany.
The criticism was unjust, because all Griffin did was write an article that was posted on The Christian Index website that said, “We must not let the government do to us what Hitler did to the pastors and churches of his day. He got them to accept his protection from government action if they would agree to stay out of government. He basically said, ‘You take care of the church and leave the government to me.’ Pastors, this is happening before our eyes today.”
Mike Griffin was right! While many legislators in Georgia are serving their constituents well, others, perhaps unknowingly, are leading us down a path that appears to be alarmingly like the course that the German people were blindly led to follow in the 1930s.
Could what happened in Germany 80 years ago ever happen here in God blessed America? Dr. Laurence White, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, TX insists that it is happening today as the innocent are slaughtered in a 45-year Holocaust that has seen nearly sixty million little boys and girls brutally slaughtered.
White declares, “It is happening again as families are fractured and marriages are broken, while self-obsessed people pursue the immediate gratification of their every desire.
“It is happening again as the militant homosexuals pursue absolute approval, complete acceptance, and preferential legal treatment for their perversion. It is happening again as our young people have lost their way, and often their lives, in a maze of alcohol and drugs and the corridors, and classrooms of the schools of our land are littered with the bodies of murdered teenagers. It is happening again as the nation’s leaders wallow in decadence and deceit, while the people look on in apathetic indifference.
“This nation is heedlessly stumbling toward third millennium darkness. Look around you and read the signs of the times. Look beyond the walls of our church buildings, and the comfort of our padded pews to see the chaos, the corruption, and the confusion that reigns throughout our culture.
“We live in a society where passions are riderless horses, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, in which there is a desolation of decency. In which love has become a jungle emotion, lust exalted to lordship, sin elevated to sovereignty, Satan adored as a saint, and man magnified above his maker.
“Americans have come to dwell in an Alice in Wonderland of fantasy and self-delusion. Everything has been turned upside down and inside out in our America. Right is wrong, and wrong is right, good is bad, and bad is good, normal is abnormal, and abnormal is normal, true is false, and false is true. We are fast degenerating into a decadent culture obsessed with selfishness and sin, death and destruction.
“In the face of this relentless onslaught of evil, many churches have become timid and afraid…. But God has called all of us to be vigilant watchmen on the walls of Zion.”
In 1993 the Nazi regime banned all Catholic newspapers in Cologne, citing that ‘political’ Christianity commenting on government policy would not be tolerated. Although the ban was lifted for a while it was not long until Christian meetings were shut down and the church was labeled as anti-Nazi and obstructionists.
The Nazi leadership focused on discrediting the clergy and undermining the credibility of the church. Hitler accused the church of being weak and impotent. He insisted that the church was hollow, rotten and false through and through and vowed that he could eliminate or at least neutralize the influence of the German church within a period of two years. He said, “One push and the whole structure would collapse.”
Hitler accused the preachers of greed and self-indulgence. He stated, “We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years reprieve, why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantage. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves, they will betray their God for us, they will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and incomes.”
However, there were some brave Christians who were not about to be Nazi loyalists. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the church leaders who stood in courageous opposition to the Fuehrer and his policies. He began work as an agent for the Nazi Military Intelligence, but used his contacts to gain foreign support for the German resistance.
Eventually, the Gestapo realized he was seeking to foil the Nazi cause and we moved to the dreaded Gestapo prison in Berlin, then to Buchenwald and finally to Flossenburg concentration camp where on April 9 1945, he was hanged from a piano wire noose at age 39. The SS (Gestapo Secret State Police) doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death later stated, “I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Another champion of the resistance was Martin Niemuller, who was a WWI hero for the Germans, a U-boat Commander, and a figure of national prominence. After the war he pastored a prominent church in a Berlin suburb with politicians, military leaders and wealthy businessmen in the congregation.
He was a national celebrity. He was taken before a judge to be tried for sedition; and the judge was so enamored by his status in Germany that he said he would release him if he would but honor Hitler and say nothing negative about the Nazi policies, Niemuller responded, “I cannot, and I will not be silent, because God is my Fuhrer.”
White added, “The Christians of Germany realized only too late how much had been at stake and how much they had lost. But we still may have a chance. It’s not too late, yet, for our America. The righteous judgment of God has not yet come upon us. The New Testament speaks of unique moments of divine destiny, when God confronts His people with a challenge, and offers them an opportunity.
When such an opportunity comes we must seize the moment for we have no promise that other opportunities will come our way – maybe none. White concluded, “The Greek word for such a moment of divine destiny is ‘kairos.’ I believe that the church in America has come to such a time – a biblical ‘karios’ – a moment of divine destiny.”
I believe God has given us this time to preach the Gospel, to lift up a standard of righteousness and to influence our governmental leaders. Let us seize this moment for His glory.