I am reading Matthew Hockenos’ biography of Pastor Niemöller, “Then They Came for Me: The Pastor Who Defied the Nazis.” There might be growing similarities between the erosion of religious freedoms a Lutheran pastor and their congregation endured in Nazi Germany of the 30’s and early 40’s and the insidious undermining of those freedoms in the civilized “woke” world we find ourselves in. When I warned my small Zoom Bible study group that wokeness is invading the church, they exploded in unison, “Pastor, it has been happening for the last few years, already!”
As the title suggests (“Then They Came for Me”) German Christians were suddenly awakened by an alarm, occasioned by the imprisonment of many of their leaders, alerting them to commit or not to commit totally to the message that a thousand peacetime sermons joyfully proclaimed. Eventually, a totalitarian autocracy, gone mad with power and hate, awakened the church to its true and only mandate from God: Keep the Gospel message pure, not besmirched or compromised by ideological interests that would silence the singular voice of Scripture. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church was boldly outspoken against Facism. He was hung for his faith. (I was one day old.)
Are we here again? The first amendment rights are being circumvented, as Rachel Campus-Duffy on Fox & Friends compared it, “like Nazi Germany.” “It’s the biggest story you’re not hearing about,” she disclosed. Whereas she was more focused on political rights, there can be no rights at all if our worship of God is in any way impinged upon or diminished. Like Pete Hegseth on the Sunday Fox & Friends reminds us, “Go to church!”
All of Christianity is threatened, Catholic and Protestant faiths alike. Niemöller, a Lutheran, in solitary confinement (two years in and feeling—the word was—“morose” with a growing sense of “futility and hopelessness”) was given a Catholic breviary (for him, a daily devotional of sorts) which he found to be “so refreshing… everything is unambiguously focused on … the Lord Jesus Christ.” “In contrast to Protestantism’s pious impulses,” Hockenos explained, “in Catholicism he [Niemöller] found ‘the living incarnate Word of God.’” Many thought this Lutheran pillar of the Faith was converting to Catholicism but that wasn’t the point.
The point was—and is—that the single message of the Cross, of salvation through Christ, the Savior’s ongoing ministry to the Church, is always alive with inspiration and hope. When we collectively focus on this “common” faith, united as one Body of Christ, the differences—like soldiers in war discover about their ideologies, political affiliations, and religions—are laid aside in a common fight—“the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
I grew up thinking only the “Faith” of the church I attended was the “Full” and only Gospel message and that other “Faiths” were deceptively misleading. We need to rethink this inclination to marginalize other brothers and sisters in Christ because they worship elsewhere. When they come for me, they are really coming for us.
In India, I found that often there was more acceptance among different Christian groups than I have found in the States. Though there is a variety of reasons, one main one is the low percentage of Christians as a whole. With the attempts to stifle Christianity in the US becoming more pronounced, it may result in some of the barriers being broken down here also.
Most enlightening, John. Your ministry as a missionary is rich with inspiration. Thanx.
I have attended many a Christian Church some with good leaders(Rev. John K, Rev John L are some) and troublesome attendies and some with leaders that caused me anxiety. I hung out with the believers that made me feel comfortable. I overlooked our belief “differences”. I tried to support all I could in their Faith. I have long been the attendee that went for a good message and good food after. Still I longed for the group that I could develop a life long friendship with. I finally found one. Their are still problems sometimes but I remember that the group I chose is not the “be all and end all” of my Faith. As long as the benefits outweigh the disappointments and I feel safe it is OK.
I still stay in touch with my friends that I met at other Houses of Worship.