Our pastoral staff was blessed yesterday to attend a luncheon sponsored by Michigan Family Forum, a conservative group of pastors and lay people here in Michigan who stand for religious freedom. The speaker for the event was Eric Metaxas who has written the New York Times best seller Bonhoeffer, the life story of a man who spoke of “religionless Christianity” and fought to stop the slaughter of the Jews in Germany during Hitler’s reign. He was hung by the Gestapo in a Nazi prison camp in April 1945 just 23 days before the German surrender.
Yesterday’s luncheon was full of ministry people including the president of Hope College in Holland Michigan and several pastors of large area churches. Metaxas made it clear to all of those present that contrary to popular opinion, pastor’s should be speaking out about the political issues of our day. He compared today’s issues to those being faced by Bonhoeffer during Hiltler’s regime and stated that NOW is the time to speak out…and inferred that soon you may not be able to.
The room was still and quiet (minus the moans of agreement being brought forth by my wife, myself and a few others).
I think that it is interesting that Mataxes stated that he that he had just returned from two weeks in Germany, Bosnia, Albania and Greece where he was able to speak out on the issues of the day. He spoke of the fact that the church was totally silent during the atrocities of Hitler’s day and mentioned how the pastors of that day were silent. He shared a phrase that Chuck Colson (Prison Fellowship International) had written in one of his books. He called this absence of political dialogue in the church “The Spiral of Silence.”
I found it interesting that there was this sullen quietness in the entire room…as if most of the pastors at the luncheon were not on the same page and that they had been lied to for so long about the “required” separation of church and state that they actually bought into the idea that it is somehow unconstitutional for churches to talk about politics. He pleaded with the pastors to speak up now…before the “Spiral of Silence” puts us behind bars.
This morning I was reading an article from a Christian author and writer stating that he believed that pastors should not speak out on political issues.
One week ago I was in Germany and had the opportunity to visit Dachau Prison Camp where Hitler sent thousands of Jews to be exterminated. We got off our train and were told that it was about a 50 minute walk to Dachau While walking down the street heading toward the camp, I noticed on old woman peering from a third floor window of a house that looked like it had been there a hundred years or so. I could only imagine what her eyes may have seen in the past 100 years from that same window and countless Jews marched to their death. Once we arrived at the camp, we walked the grounds that held cattle cars full of innocent men, women, and children who were to be exterminated in the gas chambers. We stood next to the furnaces that had destroyed the remains of thousands of beautiful lives that had been cut short simply because they were of Jewish descent. We walked the halls of buildings where pastors were imprisoned in total darkness for 8 months at a time… simply because they spoke out against the insanity that was taking place all around them.
I shudder to think of what might happen here in America. That was the very point that Mr. Mataxes was trying so carefully to articulate. Mr. Mataxas shared the fact that Deitrick Bonhoffer witnessed the German Lutheran church as it became infected with Nazism and thus weakened in its mission to spread the true gospel of love and peace. Pastors turned their backs on sin and did NOT call it out, and those who did were imprisoned…or tortured to death.
You may remember that part of the ‘Great Awakening’ that took place, before our founders were even around, was the ‘awakening’ within the corruption of government and how it had to be addressed.
Our culture is no different than it was in Bonhoeffer’s day…morally decadent. Far too many clergy are in what Colson calls “The Spiral of Silence.”
Way too many clergy believe that preachers do not have the responsibility to call evil out. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer dealt with in Germany while Hitler called himself a ‘Christian’…and we all know where that led to!
I believe that our life narrative should be so saturated with Jesus Christ and the principles and practices of His Word that it affects our culture forever and saves us from the mistakes of history.
In my mind…there is no difference between the “sacred” and “secular” life of a TRUE CHRIST FOLLOWER. Politics, economics, and spirituality are inextricably linked; therefore I cannot separate my belief system on Sundays from my daily life. They are one.
If there is anything that struck me while standing in the prison camp last week, it was reading the plaques on the doors of the cells and in the halls of the buildings that held those sentenced to death. Those plaques reminded us how this mammoth atrocity happened right underneath the ears, eyes and noses of the people living right there in that little town of Dachau…and nobody dared say a word…”The Spiral of Silence.”
It can happen right underneath our ears, eyes and noses here in America too.