Eric Metaxas was born in New York City in 1963. He grew up in Danbury, Connecticut, attending public schools and later graduated from Yale University. At graduation, Eric was awarded two senior prizes for his undergraduate fiction. He is a best-selling author whose many biographies, children’s books, and works of popular apologetics have been translated into more than 20 languages.
Perhaps his most well-known work has been “Bonhoeffer,” which was named “Book of the Year” in 2011 by the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). Called a “biography of uncommon power,” “Bonhoeffer” has appeared on numerous “Best of the Year” lists.
The book that has my attention right now is “Letter to the American Church,” where Metaxas lays out the parallels between today’s mostly silent (lethargic?) American Church and the German Church of the 1930s, just before the Nazi atrocities began. Bonhoeffer saw that if the Church did not awaken and speak out forcefully against what was happening, tragedy was looming.
We are at the same tipping point in America. How did we get here? Metaxas lays out 3 pivotal points in recent American history that are noteworthy:
1954 – the passage of the “Johnson Amendment” where churches would retain their 501-3C tax-exempt status in exchange for never again taking a public stand on political topics and candidates.
1960s – when prayer was prohibited or at least severely limited in public schools, which has been extended to the public square and public events.
1973 – when a Constitutional “right” to an abortion was legalized. Recall this right to murder has not been overturned.
After Bonhoeffer’s fiery speech on Reformation Day, November 6, 1932, things started to get shaken up. A group of Christian Leaders drafted and published what was called the Barmen Declaration, standing up for the Confessing Church. An estimated 3,000 pastors signed it, declaring they represented the true church of Germany. They would only submit to God and were free from Nazi (government) interference. Apparently, an additional 3,000 pastors stood “staunchly” with Hitler (think Public Health Officials of 2021 – masks, social distancing, mandates, closings). More interesting, there were about 12,000 pastors who preferred to “remain as neutral as possible.” They were not willing to take a stand one way or another.
How many pastors during COVID-19 opted to just shutter their doors instead of standing with God to remain open (Fear Not!) and stand against those who labeled worship services as a ‘non-essential’ business that were also closed? How many remain closed, even today? How many still advocate for worthless masks and shots?
In my opinion, the lack of commitment, strength, and leadership among the 12,000 who decided to play it safe made more of an impact on history than perhaps even Bonhoeffer’s boldness. To be fair, no one had any idea how bad it would get. But anywhere along the 12 years of the politics and the war, hundreds, if not thousands of pastors, could have coalesced and moved into the resistance.
These words, attributed to Bonhoeffer, are equally true today: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. God will not hold us guiltless.”
What would Jesus do? We frequently ask this question, almost tongue-in-cheek. But what would He do if He was alive today and attending some of the churches in America? Metaxas reminds us that Jesus turned over tables, made a whip from cords to drive out animals, and called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” during rants that today we would call ‘toxic masculinity.’ But this was God’s perfect masculinity. He wasn’t one bit concerned about offending anyone. Why are we?
The strongest difference between today’s Church and the German churches of the 1930s is we have the advantage of history to see what occurs when we don’t speak out against the sins of today: abortion, same-sex marriage, human trafficking, gender confusion and transgender mutilation, social marxism, pedophilia, zoophilia, and on and on.
Call to Action
As Metaxas says near the end of his book, “What part of the tottering wall has God called you to push? Are you to speak out in a situation (perhaps in your Church? ) where others are being silent? Are you to risk your job, your neighbors, your family members?”
To do what God asks takes a certain amount of wildness and a whole lot of courage. Given the hostilities brewing in the Middle East, how brave and bold are we all willing to be?
Dear Father, we have been complacent, allowing sin to creep in and be tolerated in our culture, our country, and our churches. We find so many excuses for giving a nod to actions and circumstances that go directly against Your Word. Give us the courage of other imperfect humans had — David, Jonah, Gideon, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Reagan, to name a few — who looked evil in the eye, called it out, and stared it down. Help us to become aware of our specific tasks. May the Holy Spirit give us the bravery and courage to follow through on Your calling on our lives. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.