PASTORS AND CHURCHES AND RESISTANCE
Hitler’s agenda for the domination of Germany included the introduction of Nazi philosophy into, and Nazi dominance over, Germany’s churches. Predicting his success in this, 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.”
Hitler was right. Around 95% of Germany's pastors willingly and enthusiastically allowed their congregations to be Nazified and become part of the “official” church of the Third Reich. But about 5% of Germany’s churches refused to go along. They took their stand courageously, publicly and on as large a scale as they could.
These churches, which came to be known as the “Confessing Church,” were courageous and committed to Christian principle regardless of the outcome. They were led by pastors who formed what they called the “Pastors’ Emergency League” to resist the Nazis. Many of these men would be imprisoned and tortured. Some, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, would be executed by the Nazi regime. In May of 1934, they met to draw up and publish the “Barmen Declaration” which was printed in major newspapers throughout Europe and in the United States. This document constituted a crystal clear renunciation of Nazism and a denunciation of the churches that had become subservient to it. In it, the “Confessing” churches claimed legitimacy as the true church in Germany, and denied the legitimacy of churches that had departed from the faith and fallen into the camp of the Third Reich.
Just as Hitler, with the cooperation of pastors, brought about the Nazification of most of Germany’s churches, Satan has brought most of America’s churches under the domination of the spirit of worldliness. One Christian apologist put it like this: “American Christianity is worldly. It is shaped more by worldly culture than it is by the Gospel Anything goes among evangelicals. Hardly anything is unthinkable.” This I think, more than anything else, explains why America is in the mess it is in, and under the judgment of God that it is under.
For decades, more and more pastors have bought into the spirit of worldliness that now permeates churches all across our land. They have, through their pulpits and personal example, fast-tracked congregations into a state where they are not only conformed to and comfortable with worldliness but always ready to contest anything that threatens the worldliness of their lives. Nationally, they appear to have little inclination to speak against, much less lead any kind of resistance against, the atheistic socialist/communist element that now threatens to take over our country. Instead, they have adopted the policy adopted by 95% of Germany's pastors in the 30's and 40's who, when confronted with Nazism, opted to "go along to get along."
Is it possible that there’s a need right now in America for something like a Pastors’ Emergency League? Do churches need to take the position of Germany's Confessing Church and "come out from among" (2 Cor. 6:17) churches that are conformed to the world and "going along in order to get along" with godless and tyrannical government? Is there an urgent need in America now for pastors and churches to stand for Christian principle with courage and commitment regardless of the outcome? I think so.
Germany’s problems were rooted in, and driven by, evil — the same evil that confronts us politically and religiously in America. The Word of God says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with Good” (Rom. 12:21). Evil belongs to the spiritual and the supernatural realm, and can only be overcome by that which is spiritually and supernaturally good. Christianity that mimics the world in attitude, ambitions, aspirations, fads, fashions, etc. isn’t good. It’s salt has lost it’s savor and it’s light is snuffed out. The power of goodness is absent from it. An across-the-board resistance to worldly Christianity regardless of the outcome is needed before there can be any hope of overcoming the evil that is now engulfing our country.
There are some things in terms of ecclesiology and ecumenicalism with which we may not be able to relate where Germany’s Pastors’ Emergency League and Confessing Church is concerned.
But there are also things we can learn, and may need to emulate.