I wonder, sometimes, what attending church would have been like in Nazi Germany. It varied, I know. While many German churches embraced and supported Nazi rule and ideology, there were some others that opposed the regime. By and large, however, it is my understanding that many of the churches in Germany marched lock step with the rest of German society: They accepted and supported Adolf Hitler, the Nazi regime, and the ideology of Aryan superiority.
It is in one of these average, mainline, German churches that I imagine a German preacher. We’ll call him Hans. A somewhat new preacher, he just graduated seminary, and has studied the Bible thoroughly. Perhaps he feels convicted about a few things going on around him in society, and in the government of the people and nation he loves so dearly. To be sure, he is patriotic, but some of the sentiments about Jews and other so-called “sub-humans” make him feel a bit queasy. He didn’t necessarily disagree with all the state propaganda, but did these people really need to be rounded up and sent off to camps to be… exterminated? He didn’t think so. That couldn’t be right.
But what could he say? No one else seemed to be talking about it, and he was a new preacher, so one day in his office he brought it up with two older men at his church that he trusted, Ernst and Karl.
“I have been thinking about this for a while now. No one in the church seems to be talking about it, but maybe I should preach a sermon addressing the Jewish extermination,” Hans began.
“Er,” said Ernst, “What would you… um, say about it?”
“Well, it is wrong, of course!” Exclaimed Hans.
Karl coughed, “Ahem, uh, Hans… I understand the sentiment. In fact I would go as far as saying I agree with you, but is that really a wise thing to preach about?”
“Well, I…” Hans began.
“What Karl means to say,” Ernst cut in, “It’s just, you see, not everyone will agree with you on this.”
“That’s right!” Karl continued, “It’s a noble sentiment, a good sentiment, but isn’t it the church’s job to minister to these people? How can we minister to them if they are offended by our message and leave?”
Hans was a bit surprised, as he had not necessarily expected opposition. “Gentlemen, I don’t really think it will offend people, I mean why would it? And what if the gospel is a little offensive to some people, does that mean we should not speak of it?”
At this moment Ernst furrowed his brow. He looked at Karl and then at Hans, and leaned forward in his chair. In a slightly lowered voice he said, “You know there are several in our congregation who work at the camps.” He nodded slightly as he leaned back, and Karl nodded along too.
Hans was taken aback, but before he could say anything Karl spoke, “Yes, and still others who have family or friends that work at the camps, and think of the troops!”
“Yes, the troops!” Ernst added seamlessly, “It might come off as unpatriotic and think of all the troops that are fighting for our country, many from this very congregation!”
Hans did feel he had to think of the troops. Both of his brothers were serving in the Army, and in fact he had sometimes wondered if he should have as well. “Would it really be unpatriotic?” He asked skeptically.
Karl and Ernst shrugged almost in unison, and then Karl said, “Listen… I am not saying it would be unpatriotic. It’s just that there are some who might see it that way. And I’m not saying I disagree,” [Ernst nodded along], “But do you really want to start offending people, and causing chaos in the church to talk about a group of people that many believe are sub-human?”
“They are humans!” Hans blurted out instinctively.
Ernst waved Hans down, and in a reassuring voice said, “Of course, of course they are humans. Ernst is not saying that they are sub-human, just that many people see them that way, and it’s not like you can prove that they are or not one way or the other.”
“That’s right,” said Karl, “You may believe they are fully human, and Ernst and I may believe it, but how could such a thing be proved?”
Hans’ mouth was agape.
“Of course,” Ernst agreed, “They are human. But it cannot be proved, it is just our belief, and anyone can disagree if they like.”
Hans felt that he should argue the point further, but he respected the two men in front of him, and he simply did not have an answer.
“Look,” Ernst continued in an almost paternal tone, “You are the preacher, and you should preach what you believe is right. If you feel that this is the right thing, then you should do it. Just know that you will deeply offend members of our church, members who need to hear about God. And if they run off how can you tell them about God?”
In his heart Hans felt he was right, that the Jews were not sub-human, and it was wrong to kill them or anyone else just because of their race or religion. But he kept thinking about the disorder, the chaos, the pain that would inevitably be caused by his bringing it up, and after all, it’s not like he would be able to change it just by speaking about it. And weren’t there plenty of other important issues to talk about? He couldn’t throw out everything else just to get hung up on this one issue, could he? He wanted to preach about it, but he decided – for the time being – to hold off.
The above account is entirely fictional, and not meant to prove anything, but to illustrate this point: The church in Nazi Germany failed horrifically. I recognize there were exceptions, but most did nothing in the face of the notorious crime against humanity, the Holocaust. It was shameful.
But I do not write this to shame the German church.
I write it to shame the American church.
In 1973 the Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision in the Roe v. Wade case, declaring abortion a right. Since that time there have been over 60 million abortions in the United States. No genocide in history compares. And it has all happened under the nose of the American church.
Generally speaking, the American church is opposed to abortion. I have never heard a pro-abortion sermon at church. Largely, it would seem that Christians in America are pro-life. They recognize children in the womb as human, and recognize abortion as a great evil that ought to be stopped.
And some churches act on this. In those churches you’ll regularly hear sermons in which abortion is mentioned, and you can find their members volunteering at birth centers, lobbying their representatives, and standing on sidewalks in front of abortion clinics to talk young women out of going in, and to provide resources for healing for those coming out.
But these churches are the exception.
In most American churches abortion is simply not mentioned in the pulpit. Their members aren’t involved in pro-life activities. They are not standing up against one of the greatest evils in history.
And why not?
They don’t want to offend. They don’t want to get “political.” Some of their congregants have had abortions. The pastor knows someone who had an abortion. He tried speaking about it once and he got so many angry emails that he swore to never do it again. It’s such a controversial issue. They want to talk about it, but they don’t want to scare away people who might disagree. Sure, abortion is wrong, but there are some things we really don’t understand – how can we prove to someone that doesn’t want to believe that children in the womb are human?
Sure, abortion is wrong, and we know it, but we don’t want to cause unnecessary pain or drama. We don’t want to scare people away. And there are other things to talk about, right? Why focus on this one thing, when the Bible is full of so much good stuff to talk about?
Brothers and Sisters in America, we are witnessing a genocide in which roughly one million children are slaughtered per year, and with some exceptions our response is silence.
Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
James 4:15 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
Leviticus 18:21 says, “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Moloch, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”
Our nation is sacrificing its children to Moloch, yet we call ourselves a Christian nation. We call ourselves a good nation, even a great one.
The American church may not be the Nazi church, but if our reaction to the legal murder of one million children per year is silence, then who are we?