Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Pause to Think

We'll get back to the science next week. This week, it feels necessary to react to one of the presidential candidates and his comments on Muslims. The following is are excerpts from a book I wrote in the 1980s called One Nation Over God: The Americanization of Christianity ( The excerpts are from Chapter 6:

Chapter 6 - A Free Society Out of Control

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions ... Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other..."
Ecc 7: 10, 13b

He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep. "Why is my lord weeping?" asked Hazael. "Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites," he answered. "You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women." Hazael said, "How could your servant, a mere dog, accom­plish such a feat?" "The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram," answered Elisha. 
2 Kings 8:11-13

       With this in mind, an interesting parallel to the US in the last 20 years is found in the writings of Emanuel Hirsch, a theolo­gian who died in 1972. One of the more profoundly intelligent theologians of the 20th Century, Hirsch found that in his own country, freedom was being abused, to the great detriment of his land and people. Immorality was rampant, economic injustice ruled the day, the government was de­stroying the nation through morally relativistic and secularistic dogma and practices, and liberal thought was eroding Christian and Democratic values. Foreign interests were controlling the land, the industries, and the banking structure, and the influx of foreigners was causing unemployment and suffering among the citizens of the nation.
       Economically the country was out of control; the balance of trade was a disaster, the national debt was beyond repayment, mostly owed to foreign banks and governments, and inflation made it impossible to pay for basic necessities. Educators were no longer teaching the values of patriotism and love of country in the class­rooms. Communists were making inroads politically within the structure of the government. Homosexuals were flaunting their lifestyles. Traditional values were being laughed at and scorned by intel­lectuals, particularly in the film and arts communities. We can easily recognize the striking similarities to problems and stresses within the present day United States.
       As many Christian authors and pastors have written and preached in recent times in our country, Hirsch preached and wrote that his country should return to the traditional values present when his land was strong and powerful, when the economy was healthy and vital, and when the church supported the state. As the Puritans and the Founding Fathers saw God's divine will in America, so he saw that God was with his homeland in a special way, and God desired and ordained his country to become the creation of a New Israel under a state and church dedicated to service of God and people. God had provided them with a new leader, a Christian man who prayed in his speeches to the people, who would lead a state which was intended under his leadership to become a tool of God's grace.
       The horror is that Emanuel Hirsch was writing in Germany of the 1930s and '40s. The nation which he foresaw as this "tool of God's grace", since it "accepts Christianity and preserves order" was Nazi Germany. The leader who was, in Hirsch's view, a heaven-sent Christian leader, was Adolf Hitler; witness what Hirsch wrote in 1933: "No other Volk (people) in the world has a leading statesman such as ours, who takes Christianity so seriously. On May 1 when Adolf Hitler closed his great speech with a prayer, the whole world could sense the wonderful sincerity in that." Yale's Robert B. Ericksen, in Theologians Under Hitler, tells us that "Hirsch believes that God stands with Hitler in this moment of German history..."
       Other German theologians, Gerhard Kittel and Paul Althaus, held similar beliefs. It must be said here that none of the three, not Hirsch nor Althaus nor Kittel, accepted what we in US Christendom term as classic German theology; they were, and remain, respected conservative theologians as far as their non-polit­ical theological writings are concerned. Their own individual tragedies lie in their acceptance of a national theology, which initially seemed to fit their Christian faith, but within a decade had become the epitome of evil on earth.
       It is intriguing to see how closely the observations and complaints the people and in particular the Christians in pre-war Germany and in present-day America parallel each other. It is not true that conditions were necessarily similar sociologically or economically, but somehow the perceptions held by the God-fear­ing citizens in each nation of their life and times manifested themselves in rhetoric and writings which are al­most interchangeable, as is evidenced by the opening paragraphs of this section.

       There were two outcomes of this process, both vitally important to understanding both the Germany of the war, and America of the present. First, as Jesus had been stripped, Germans felt free to dress him in whatever strange and misfitting costumes they whimsied. Eventually, he was clothed in the brown shirts and swastikas of Nazism, co-opted like a loving retarded child into a deadly game. This was done most brutally by the Deutsche Christen, the German Christians, the official Christian and church arm of the Nazi regime. As they violated openly and horribly the most basic tenets of Christ's teachings, there is no doubt that the Deutsche Christen were not Christian; for example, in 1933 (the pivotal year in Nazi history), the Deutsche Christen held a rally at which the call was made for "removal of the Old Testament from the Bible".
       However, the Deutsche Christen were represented by a minority of churched believers in Germany. The vast majority of German churchgoers went along with the excesses of their government for what must have been a variety of reasons, with a rainbow of conflicting emotions. Those might have ranged from quiet outrage and helplessness to quiet satisfaction and subtle cooperation. Most undoubtedly were disquieted, unnerved, but found it easiest and safest to pretend as though the government was indeed, as the Bible teaches, put into authority over them by God, and they should be submissive to its laws and strictures. They found refuge, no doubt, in their theology of individual salvation and personal walk and faith with Christ, and felt as though sermons and religious discussions should avoid politics unless those politics were in support of the state. Frankly, the economics of the street improved immeasurably under the Nazis, and Christians have always been tempted by comfort and bounty, seen as a reward for their piety. They dressed their Jesus in formal robes and put high liturgy on his lips, and stood him on the street corner to pray gratefully, thank­ful that he was not like those Jews. The swastika was worn gracefully around the neck next to the cross, in homage to the state, and the giant red flag slashed in black rested on the podium across from the Christian flag, the church and state once again strong together.

       Both Kittel and Althaus joined Hirsch in support of the National Socialist movement and the Nazi regime in all of its heinous excesses and immorality, despite their sincere and conservative faith and profound knowledge of and familiarity with the Gospel. Kittel wrote that "the Nazi phenomenon was a 'volkisch renewal movement on a Christian, moral foundation'", based upon "Hitler's promise that the Party stood for "Positive Christianity,'" and joined a political party, the Nazis, for the first time in his life, at age 45 in 1933. In 1934, he wrote Karl Barth (a great Christian counter-point to Christian fascism), say­ing that "agreement with state and Fuhrer was obedience towards the law of God."
       Althaus wrote as the opening sentence in a popular book that "Our Protestant churches have greeted the turning point of 1933 as a gift and miracle of God." He goes on to say "...we take the turning point of this year as grace from God's hand. He has saved us from the abyss and out of hopelessness. He has given us--or so we hope--a new day of life." In 1934, writing in response to the Barmen Declaration (created by Barth and others in protest to the Nazis), he says that "we as believing Christians thank God our father that he has given to our Volk in its time of need the Führer as a 'pious and faithful sovereign', and that he wants to prepare for us in the National Socialist system of government 'good rule', a government with 'discipline and honor.' Accordingly, we know that we are responsible before God to assist the work of the Führer in our calling and in our station in life." In 1935, two years into the Nazi regime, he records his thought that "We Christians know ourselves bound by God's will to the promotion of National Socialism..."
       Meanwhile, the Deutsche Christen found comfortable and satisfying a comparison between Jesus and Hitler, made by one of their leading theologians, Julius Leutheuser, who also responded to charges that Nazism has been made into a religion by virtually equating the Reformation with National Socialism. Later, another DC theologian, Siegfried Leffler, "asserts that...Germany has been given a mission from God. The 'leader and prophet' is Adolf Hitler." Althaus attacked this position, accusing the Deutsche Christen of claiming the status of a "New Israel" for Germany. Leutheuser had written that "Whoever gives up hope for Germany, gives up hope for meaning in the world. Whoever does not believe in Germany's resurrection, does not believe in the resurrection of God." To his credit, Althaus ridiculed this idea. But he also wrote about "totalitarianism as a perfectly satisfactory form of government" and noted that " not the best form of government for every nation". He, along with Kittel, supported a mili­taristic state, describing war as "an unfortunate but necessary means for nations to resolve their differ­ences." Above all, he exalted devotion to the Volk, the people of a nation, the people of Germany, as an absolute obligation in obedience to God and His will.
       Hirsch, the true intellectual giant of the three theologians, once quoted Ernst Moritz Arndt: "Belief in God creates men, men of unshakable desire for freedom and genuine faithfulness...and men with warm hearts, who are capable of a complete and strong love for their Volk." Here we see the confusion of loyalties; the desire for a restoration of the things of Christ in society coupled with the longing for a strong and proud state. Somehow the two become as one, and in the unholy union, Christ is lost, crucified again in the 6 million Jews, the 10 million people killed in camps, the 100 million who died world-wide as a result of the idolatry. This is nothing but idolatrous worship of freedom, the same freedom that is blamed for the ills of German society, the same freedom that will be denied to those 6 million, those 10 million, those 100 million. It is this freedom that will enslave others to free those in power from menial la­bor and economic struggle. It is this freedom that will deny others immigration in order to protect a lifestyle, and this freedom that will deport or eliminate those it does not enslave, again to ensure physical comforts and luxuries.

       America now does not stand next to the German example of 1939 or beyond; do we stand with the Germany of 1932, before Hitler came to power, when all Germans were appalled at the state of their coun­try? Are the hard times in America yet hard enough to cause us to consider recalling some of our freedoms, to reign in democracy, to get tough with crime, drugs, illegal aliens, (refugees), foreign investors, and liberal lawmak­ers? In our idolatry of freedom, our worship of America, is it now time to begin to deny freedom to some in America, as we have denied it to people of other nations around the globe? Will the powerful within our shores begin to manifest their anger on the powerless? Who will be the Jews?

(Ironically, at the moment, the Muslims are the Jews. It may be time for us to be having serious conversations about the direction we are heading.)(And to buy and read my book.)(

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