"I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
- Dutch writer Oscar van den Boogaard
"No more are we ready to keep silent at man's behest when God commands us to speak."
- Pastor Martin Niemoeller,cited from William Shirer's"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"
The year was 1937. Martin Niemoeller found his initial enthusiasm for a revitalized Germany overshadowed by a growing disenchantment, then alarm, and finally righteous anger.
With the implementation of the Reich's forced sterilization policy, the arrest of thousands of dissident Catholic priests and nuns, and now the installment of the first openly pagan bishop of the new "Reich Church," Niemoeller realized that the contest was all or nothing. While most of the so-called Protestant churches submitted to the Fuhrer's decrees and became state sanctioned, Niemoeller along with hundreds of other pastors condemned Hitler outright.
On June 27, Neimoeller gave what would be his final sermon to the faithful - exhorting them to continue resisting - before being muscled into a waiting Gestapo vehicle. He was whisked away to Sachsenhausen and then Dachau (concentration camps), where he would spend the next seven years.
In the five-month maelstrom of the Obama administration, the eye of the political hurricane is to be found in a most unlikely place - the local conservative Christian church. We of the congregational rank-and-file (yes, Mr. Obama, I'm one of those Bible clingers) have had spirited discussions about Obama's outrages, like bowing to Muslim dignitaries, nominating a "wise Latina woman" who would render better Supreme Court decisions than a "white male," and his recent Cairo University speech, in which he stated that the U.S. could be thought of as "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
But the silence from the pulpits is deafening.
When Obama declares repeatedly that "we are no longer a Christian nation," when he continuously appoints the constitutionally-unlearned to key administration positions, when he surrounds himself with mirror images who legislatively chip away at the nation's founding principles, there is a frightening stillness from the one place that should be the refuge of truth.
Our pastors brushed it off when the ancient symbols of Christ at Georgetown University were disgracefully covered by the Obama team prior to a speech there? This was a slap in the face to Christians everywhere. But the pulpits stayed silent. This administration would never have thought to demand religious symbols in a mosque or Buddhist temple be covered.
So-called "tax-exempt status" under the federal 501(c)3 has become a gag in the mouths of genuine Christian pastors. Very aware of the multiplied incursions of government, they preach under a pall of fear, carefully weighing every word lest they violate the mythical "separation of church and state." It's past time to get our priorities straight. If a church is forbidden to preach against injustice, if it allows itself to be regulated into silence, it does nothing more than take up space on a plot of ground.
As Christians, we've bought into the lie that religion and politics don't mix. Here's a news flash: Politics is life.
Every edict that comes out of Washington, D.C., or the state capital finds its way to my door. Keeping our mouths shut is what's gotten the country into this tailspin. Instead of surrendering our rights let's surrender our "tax exemption." The same Jesus who overturned the tables of the money-changers in the Temple also said, "You cannot serve God and money."
Leading up to the American Revolution, the colonies' churches were hotbeds of political passion. It was there current events were debated and a Scriptural response taught. The new nation would have been stillborn were it not for the "rebel priests" who had the raw courage to call George III to the carpet. Where now are the Muhlenbergs, the Caldwells, the Provosts, whose theological thunder reached from the pulpit to the British throne?
Free speech in the conservative Christian church is essential to a nation's liberty. Or have we slumped into the pathetic attitude that we've only been "good at enjoying" our freedoms?
If so, God help us.
Kevin Reeves is a Haines resident.