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ARE WE WITNESSING THE RISE OF THE FOURTH REICH?
Feb. 7, 2006
Without a doubt, comparisons to Hitler have been overdone. It
seems that when a writer disagrees with the policies of a sitting
president, be he Republican or Democrat, there exists a ubiquitous
temptation to compare him with the ignoble German leader. Some
will no doubt charge this author with having succumbed to this
temptation. Perhaps I have.
However, as a student of both the Bible and history, I believe we in
America are living in times that are eerily reminiscent of the days
leading up to the rise of the Third Reich. If after reviewing this
thesis, the reader wants to dismiss its conclusions as insipid and
irrelevant, he or she is certainly free to do so.
On the other hand, it would do the reader good to heed the words
of George Santayana who said, "Those who cannot remember the
past are condemned to repeat it." If America is truly flirting with
any semblance of the fallacious and fallen Reich (which I believe it
is), it is incumbent upon each and every true American (especially
Christians) to renounce, reject, and repudiate such flirtations as
early and as vociferously as possible!
There are many facets and aspects of the Third Reich which could
and should be analyzed. For the purpose of this column, however, I
want to focus on the attitude and actions of the ministers and
churches of Germany at the time of Hitler's rise.
My focus upon the German church is predicated upon the fact that
as a Christian pastor (I have been the pastor of an Independent
Baptist Church for more than 30 years), it is my studied opinion
that any western nation will rise or fall according to the attitudes
and actions of its Christian leaders and churches. Scripture says,
"Judgment must begin at the house of God." Therefore, while any
nation might survive corrupt politicians, greedy merchants, and
sinful citizens, it cannot survive cowardly, compromising
churches! As the churches go, so goes the country!
In the case of Nazi Germany, it was the German churches first and
foremost that failed their country. It was the churches that provided
Hitler with moral and spiritual cover. It was the ministers and
churches that allowed Hitler to seduce the nation. Some ministers
were no doubt deceived themselves. Many others, like Adam,
partook of the forbidden fruit with their eyes wide open. Either
way, without the help and assistance of Germany's churches, the
Nazi Party could never have become such a horrible leviathan.
Therefore, let's examine the attitudes and actions of Germany's
ministers and churches and compare them to America's ministers
and churches today to see if there is any similarity.
As we delve into this material, I want to strongly recommend that
the reader purchase and devour a book to which I will repeatedly
refer. The book is entitled, "Hitler's Cross." It is written by Erwin
Lutzer and published by Moody Press. The book is absolutely
phenomenal! If you do not read any other book this year (beside
the Bible), read "Hitler's Cross."
Now, let's examine the evidence.
It is a fact that when Adolph Hitler began his ascent to power,
many, if not most, of Germany's Christians believed he was an
answer to their prayers. Lutzer says many Christians replaced
pictures of Christ in their homes with pictures of Hitler. They truly
believed Hitler was "God's man" for Germany. They believed that
to resist Hitler was to resist God. And why not?
As Lutzer notes, Hitler revived Germany's collapsed economy. He
eradicated the shame of Germany's defeat in WWI by reclaiming
the Rhineland. He gave generous vacations to the German people.
He created numerous trade schools that trained and equipped
Germany's workers. Thus, almost overnight, Germany's vast
unskilled labor force was replaced with highly skilled workers. In
fact, under Hitler, Germany had virtually no unemployment.
Furthermore, Hitler brought crime under control. He built freeways
and highways that were the envy of Europe. He literally brought
the German people out of poverty and despair and made them a
great and proud people once again. As a result, the German people,
including German Christians, loved him!
Unfortunately, as Hitler was building Germany's economy and
strengthening its military, he was also taking away the rights and
liberties of the German people. Remember, Germany was a
republic before Hitler came along. The principles of individual
freedom and constitutional government were at one time precious
to Germans. However, most German people were willing to gladly
trade their liberty and freedoms for Hitler's promise of security and
strength. It was a bad trade then. It is a bad trade now!
Lutzer documents the fact that at the time of Hitler's rise, there
were some 14,000 evangelical churches in Germany. To win the
support of these churches, Hitler literally wrapped himself and the
Nazi Party in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Even today, one can view
photos from Nazi parades showing the Cross of Christ highlighted
in the heart of the Nazi Swastika.
In short order, Germany's pastors and churches were convinced
that the Nazi Party was God's party and Hitler was God's man. By
the time Hitler consolidated power and became Germany's Fuhrer,
the Nazi Swastika was displayed proudly on the walls and halls of
Germany's churches, both Catholic and Protestant.
Germany's pastors often preached sermons supporting Hitler and
the Nazi Party. They told their congregants that to support any
other party or any other potential leader was to "fight against
God." Very soon, congregants who refused to swear loyalty to
Hitler were denied last rites and Holy Communion by Catholic
priests, while Protestant pastors excommunicated such members.
Romans chapter 13 was often quoted from Germany's pulpits as
scriptural justification for demanding loyalty to Hitler.
Even the famous Canadian pastor, Oswald J. Smith (Pastor of the
People's Church in Toronto), was taken with Hitler. In 1936 Smith
wrote, "What, you ask is the real attitude of the German people
toward Hitler? There is but one answer. They love him. Yes, from
the highest to the lowest, children and parents, old and young alike,
they love their new leader. They trust him to a man.
"What about your elections? I asked. 'We don't want another
party. We are satisfied with Hitler.' And that feeling exists
everywhere. Every true Christian is for Hitler. I know, for it was
from the Christians I got most of my information, and right or
wrong, they endorse Adolph Hitler." (Source: "Hitler's Cross" by
Erwin Lutzer, pp. 109, 110)
One German pastor, Julius Leutherser gushed, "Christ has come to
us through Hitler. [T]hrough his honesty, his faith and his idealism,
the Redeemer found us." (Source "Hitler's Cross" by Lutzer, p.
Lutzer writes on page 102 of his book, "[I]n Hitler's day being a
good Christian involved being a good German nationalist. God and
country were practically one and the same."
Germany's Christians forgot that Christ's kingdom "is not of this
world." Their desire to restore Germany's greatness and their
patriotism somehow dwarfed their commitment to Christ and their
fidelity to republican principles. Accordingly, their trust in God
was supplanted with trust in Hitler, and their allegiance to
principles of freedom was replaced with allegiance to the Nazi
Of course, Hitler knew exactly what he was doing. He knew he
needed the support of Germany's churches and pastors and he
played the role of Christian leader magnificently. Privately,
however, he despised Germany's clergymen. He said, "The
parsons will dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us.
They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and
incomes." How right he was!
Out of 14,000 German ministers, all but 800 gave Hitler their
unequivocal and unflinching loyalty. Among the 800 was the great
Christian patriot Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was later assassinated
by Hitler's henchmen. Virtually all of the 800 courageous pastors
who refused to support Hitler were sent to concentration camps.
What would have happened had 10,000 ministers in Germany
resisted Hitler? What would have happened if 10,000 ministers
would have refused to compromise their loyalty to Jesus Christ,
their commitment to republican principles, and their devotion to
sacred duty? What would have happened if 10,000 Christian
ministers had not allowed the National Socialist Party to supplant
their loyalty to God's Word?
It seems clear to me that the attitudes and actions of Nazi
Germany's ministers and churches are being repeated in the United
States today. To a large degree, Evangelicals have wrapped the
Cross of Christ in the banner of the Republican Party. They quote
Romans chapter 13 to justify their unflinching, yes, even blind
support for President Bush. They are willing to surrender their
freedoms and liberties so that President Bush might protect them.
Pictures of the president almost universally line the halls and walls
of our churches, Christian schools, and pastors' offices. They
castigate and denigrate in the most caustic terms anyone who dares
to challenge or even question President Bush. They are willing to
let the president lead them into multiple wars, even wars of
aggression, based solely on Bush's word. They refuse to hold the
president accountable to the principles of our Constitution and Bill
of Rights. It seems to me that President Bush has taken on the aura
of an American Fuhrer in the minds of many Evangelicals.
Just how far are Evangelicals willing to allow Bush to go? They
already support unbridled spying on American citizens. They have
gladly surrendered their Fourth Amendment rights. Would they be
willing to support the imprisonment of fellow Christians who don't
support Bush if the Department of Homeland Security ordered it?
I believe many would. And if so, how is that different from the
attitudes of Christians in Nazi Germany?
Again, readers may dismiss my observations as inane if they want
to. However, please notice that the focus of this column was not so
much on Hitler but on the attitudes and actions of Germany's
ministers and churches.
If the reader can honestly and objectively look at the history of
Germany's ministers and churches and see no similarity to the
attitudes and actions of America's ministers and churches today, so
be it. To me, however, the similarities are striking!
© Chuck Baldwin
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