Letter to the American Church

Have you ever had an idea for a book you would like to write only to find out someone has stolen your idea and written it. Eric Metaxas, author of the voluminous autobiography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, just stole mine. It is entitled “Letter to the American Church.” I am glad he did because he has done a much better job than I could ever have done. The thesis is he sees happening in the churches of America today what was going on in the churches of Germany just before Hitler took control.

Basically the thesis is the church failed to address what was going on in society until the time came when the state prohibited them from speaking out. Bonhoeffer spoke out, was sent to Auschwitz where he ultimately died days before the Allies liberated the camp.

Another German who dared to speak out was the Lutheran minister, Martin Niemoller.      In the 1920s and early 1930s, he sympathized with many Nazi ideas and supported radically right-wing political movements. But after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Niemöller became an outspoken critic of Hitler’s interference in the Protestant Church. For doing so he spent the last eight years of Nazi rule, from 1937 to 1945, in Nazi prisons and concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for his postwar statement.

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”

I do not have an all encompassing knowledge of the churches of metropolitan Atlanta and America, but I do have a fair familiarity with the churches in our area. To my knowledge there are only two pulpits that dare use an application of gospel truths to address civic and social issues of our time.

Metaxas raises some interesting questions, such as: “Silence in the face of  evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. God will not hold us guiltless.”

“Can it really be God’s will that His children be silent at a time like this? Decrying the cowardice that masquerades as godly meekness, Eric Metaxas summons the Church to battle.”

Metaxas refutes the pernicious lie that fighting evil politicizes Christianity. As Bonhoeffer and other heroes of the faith insisted, the Church has an irreplaceable role in the culture of a nation. 

Doubtless ministers in Germany thought what ultimately happened could not happen in their happy homeland. After all, they remained free of pressure brought by the state as long as they did not speak against the developing philosophy of Nazism.

In America today there are philosophies and governmental policies contrary to our Constitution and the tenants of the churches. The question is will reaction be bold enough to prevent them from prevailing and muting churches and all who oppose them.

What stance is your church taking against such ascendancy and ultimate control? This is a five alarm book.