Dr. John A. Howard, president of Rockford College, said: “I invite you to take a little card and put it on your mirror or display it in some prominent place where it can serve as a daily reminder. I suggest that you inscribe on that card that phrase, ‘Truth is outraged by silence.'”
Twenty-two years we were a witness to history. The Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany fell. For months, East Germany’s beleaguered communist rulers had tried in vain to silence a growing opposition movement and stem the tide of people pouring out of the country. On the night of Nov. 9, 1989, an East German official held a press conference to announce new government travel policies but inadvertently announced that crossings to the West would be opened “without delay.” Within hours, thousands of East Berliners began lining up at checkpoints near the Wall. At first the border guards tried to check passports, but they quickly realized it was futile. The masses surged through. Many of them ran. Crowds of West Berliners waited on the other side, hugging strangers and popping champagne. The scenes were stunning.
Despite the growing cracks in the communist bloc, few people believed it would lead to the opening of the Berlin Wall. President Ronald Reagan was one of the few who did. Even before his famous speech near Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate where he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Wall, Reagan loathed the Berlin Wall and the evil it represented. On a trip to West Berlin in 1978, Reagan was told the story of Peter Fechter, an East German youth who had been killed trying to crawl over the Wall in 1962. The authorities left Fechter unattended for nearly an hour while he bled to death. “Reagan just gritted his teeth,” says Peter Hannaford, a longtime aide who was with him in Berlin. “You could tell from the set of his jaw and his look that … he was very, very determined that this was something that had to go.”
Yesterday and today, November 9 and November 10 also mark an important moment in German history. One that is not as good as the Berlin Wall crumbling, but one more sinister like the lack of inaction by authorities in the death of Peter Fetcher. November 9, 1938 marks the moment when hidden and unofficial Nazi violence against Jewish people went public. Over two hundred synagogues were looted, ransacked, and burned to the ground. Thousands upon thousands of Jewish businesses were broken into. The broken glass from the storefronts covered the sidewalks in so many places that it gave the name to this event— Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. These shops were shut down. Ninety-two Jews were killed on that night as some resisted the evil that was being perpetrated. Somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews were gathered together at gunpoint by secret police, loaded onto trains, and shipped to concentration camps.
The reaction in the days to follow? Despicable for sure. Some clergy applauded the actions of the German leaders and the people who had rioted. They commended the people for their antisemitism and used Luther’s birthday as an additional point of celebration. The German people who had rioted and broken into stores had also been the ones who had killed some of the Jews who died that night. Yet, there was little outrage. There was little resistance. It seemed that the Church who claimed to follow after a tortured, persecuted, and Jewish savior did not see or want to see what was happening. They did not want to consider their complicity in this atrocity. They did not see how atrocious it truly was.
The “success” of Kristallnacht for the German leaders paved the way for greater tragedy. The relative lack of outrage and resistance convinced them that it was entirely possible to perpetrate worse evil since they had seen that the Church would not resist or exercise its prophetic voice enmasse. The continued evil that followed may have been lessened or limited by an appropriately horrified response–yet, it didn’t happen and the Nazi war machine continued on fueled by the lives of the outcasts it consumed.
Edmund Burke’s statement, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing is a theme that runs throughout the history of mankind. Look to the Old Testament story of Abimelech in the Book of Judges. This is an interesting story of Abimelech, the illegitimate son of Gideon, who murdered Gideon’s legitimate sons in order to have himself enthroned as King. Only Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, escaped the slaughter. Abimelech, then appealed to his mother’s tribesmen, on the basis only of the fact that he was their flesh and blood, to support him in his quest for power. Abimelech also hired reckless, adventurous youths who became his followers. His approach to politics was nakedly tribal, he murdered potential competitors and he intimidated the populace by using an armed militia of unemployed youths. While this story seems to be mirrored a bit in some of our liberal leaders, their agenda, and in some ways those who are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, is Jotham’s words that bring to the fore the most chilling comparison with our situation today.
During Abimelech’s coronation ceremony, Jotham tries to warn the people by telling an interesting parable of a community of trees in a desperate search for a king to reign over them. First they approach the olive tree but it declines. “Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?” Next, they approach the fig tree but it also refuses to serve. “Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet,” it asks, “to hold sway over the trees?” Then they approached the vine which also declines saying, “Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?” In desperation, the trees turned to the thornbush and asked it to be their king. The thornbush, knowing their limited options, gladly accepts but with a caveat, “If you really want to anoint me king over you,” it tells the trees, “come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon.” Having thus warned the people of Shechem, Jotham flees into exile, but the people ignore him and proceed to anoint Abimelech king. His reign is marked by strife, oppression and civil war, as predicted by Jotham.
Sound familiar in today’s political landscape? If politics is a dirty game, it is because we have left it to dirty people to play while we stand on the sidelines and complain. In the same way, many good people in the United States today have opted out of getting involved in public affairs and left the country to be governed by thornbushes. Our political leaders deal in trivialities and superficial nonsense, practicing the feel-good politics of deliberate ambiguity, while the destruction of our families, the perversion of our most basic principles, and the murder of innocent, unborn children goes on, and on, and on. We have come to this sorry state because voters were more concerned about electability, than about integrity. The result, to use the words of former President Gerald Ford is, “We have an election in which candidates without ideas, hire consultants without convictions, to carry out campaigns without content.” We are too busy producing our olives, figs and wine to get our hands dirty with political issues. And yet we get all upset when these thornbushes get elected to congress, misappropriate our tax dollars, and enlarge our government while being unable to pass vital legislation like a budget.
Despite all of this,we must get involved. And not just in the voting during this election cycle, but in the daily tedious task of building institutions and holding our leaders accountable. We must be willing to take risks and to pay the price to reclaim our country from those who have stolen it from under our noses. And if necessary, we must refuse to cooperate with a permanent political class that stands by and allows evil to happen.
This evil can be personified in the pro abortion atmosphere of our country. In this great nation, where since 1973 the innocent unborn have been slaughtered, we have grown accustomed to the killing and have gone on with our business, with our lives, and our ministries, while the little ones have perished, every day, 4,500 a day. November is a month designated to celebrate adoption, yet sadly enough abortions outnumber adoptions drastically in this country. This is what we have come to in America. And yet even in the face of this abomination, much of the people of America, are silent. Where is the cry of outrage!? Where is the indignation of the people of God? Murdered generations of American sons and daughters stand in mute testimony to the apathetic indifference of America as a whole.
In Germany at the time of Kristallnacht, apathy was rampant. Only a few lonely voices were raised in protest. The Jewish people had been systematically excluded from the life of the nation, deprived of the protection of the law and citizenship, gradually disappearing into the spreading network of concentration camps. In that year, 1940, at the height of Hitler’s power and popularity, a courageous, young pastor, named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, denounced the people’s failure to speak out against the evil.
If you look inside Bonhoeffer’s bible, you will see only one date written inside it. It is the date of the Night of Broken Glass. He wrote it next to Psalm 74:8:
They said in their hearts, let us plunder their goods!
They burn all the houses of God in the land…
0 God, how long is the foe to scoff?
How long will the enemy revile your name?”
That night Bonhoeffer also wrote in the margin “How long O Lord, shall I be a bystander?”
How long will we be bystanders? We too need to stand up and speak out against the evil that is permeating every level of our nation. How do we rise up? First, whether we are involved or not, we are still responsible. Politics has an important impact on the direction that our societies take. Politics is too important to be left to politicians alone. Second, if we do not get involved, others will make the decisions for us. All the decisions made by politicians affect all citizens alike. The Bible reminds us that we may not be of this world, but we are in this world. We should therefore not be too heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good. There are too many moral dilemmas in our time for us to remain neutral. Third, we must get involved because God expects us to get involved. Matthew 5:13 tells us that we are the salt of the earth. Salt both preserves and gives flavor to meat. Christians like to complain about the rottenness of society, but if the meat is rotten and tasteless, there must be something the salt is not doing.
The Christians of Germany realized only too late how much had been at stake and how much they had lost. But we still may have a chance. It’s not too late, yet, for our America. The New Testament speaks of unique moments of divine destiny, when God confronts His people with a challenge, and offers them an opportunity. The Greek word for such a moment of divine destiny is Kairos. I believe that America has come to such a time, a Biblical Kairos. A moment of divine destiny.
In light of all this, how then should we live? First, you should pray for the United States of America. Secondly, we should get involved in local political issues of our day – in our church, community, in our children’s schools, our local authorities and so on. As in evangelism, in the world of politics , the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. We should refuse to be lukewarm or complacent. God wants us to get actively engaged in rebuilding the walls around our communities to make them safe again in all respects.
In the Old Testament, Nehemiah had a good secure job in the king’s palace (Nehemiah 1), but this did not blind him to the sorry state of the land of his birth. He used his position to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem to keep enemies at bay and restore the dignity of his people. We are in a similar position today. Our beloved country lies dangerously exposed to thornbushes who owe allegiance to no one but themselves. We will soon go through the ritual of electing yet another lot and its up to us to make sure we will not sit in silence. We need to elect good consitutional conservatives who respect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happines and will stand up against evil alongside us.
If we fail to meet this challenge, and rise to this opportunity, our nation will not survive. It is as simple, and as stark as that. This is our moment, my friends. Our time of testing. I pray that we may be equal to the challenge of these days; that we may seize this precious opportunity from God; that we may be within this dying culture the stinging salt that stops the decay of death; the shining light that dispels the darkness of doubt and despair, that America may once again be the gleaming city set high upon a hill that President Ronald Reagan spoke of and that shines as a beacon light of life and hope for this nation, and to every nation.