Lessons from pre WWII Germany

Once upon a time, there was a Christian nation, united, in part, when Luther produced a German translation of the Bible that provided the German people with a common dialect. Christianity became a part of German national culture, a taken for granted framework.

In 1918, Germany lost the first world war. Towards the end of the war, the ideas of Communism swept through the German ranks. Some in Germany believed that their army had been destroyed from within. Bolshevists became the new enemy. Later, through Hitler’s rhetoric, “Bolshevists ” were replaced by the “Jews”.

At the end of the first world war, Germany was in turmoil. The economy was bad, the Kaiser deposed, and conflicting political theories vied for a hold of the nation.

In 1933, Hitler rose to power by playing on people’s fears of other races and promising economic recovery. Christian leaders in Germany grew more and more concerned at the direction their nation was heading. German Nationalism  and German Christianity needed to part ways as a “Christian ” nation terrorized the Jews within its borders.

In that day and age, some within the Church stood up and spoke prophetically to the church and to their nation. The  Theological Declaration of Barmen, penned in part by Karl Barth, hammered against a syncretism of Christianity and nationalism.

The following are  paraphrases from this confession:  “In view of the errors of the “German Christians” of the present Reich church government…we confess…Jesus Christ as he is attested for us in the Holy Scriptures, is the one Word of God which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and beside this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

We reject the false doctrine that …there were areas in our life that belong to other lords…

The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely His property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from His comfort and His direction.

We reject the false doctrine (that)…the church were permitted to change according to prevailing ideologies or political convictions.

We reject the false doctrine that the State, over and beyond its special commission, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the church’s vocation as well.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church  over and beyond its special commission, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the State’s vocation as well.

The church’s commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ’s stead, and therefore in the ministry of His own Word and work through sermon and Sacrament.

We reject the false doctrine that the church in human arrogance, could place the Word and word of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.”

In the Theological Declaration of Barmen, the Church boldly proclaimed that Hitler was not the National Savior of the German people.

We can now affirm that neither Trump nor Clinton is the national savior of America. Salvation comes in and through Christ alone.

It is time for the church to bow its knee in prayer, then rise up again and speak prophetically to a nation. God will not be mocked. What this nation has sown, it will reap. The answer is not in horses or chariots or mighty men, but in humility, justice and mercy.

 

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