Like I said. I think this is why I wrote that post on Christians and the Holocaust, though I didn't know it at the time.
I'll be honest, I felt bad about writing that post. I felt like I was writing something that brought pain and not joy, and I don't like to do that. But I also felt like I was supposed to, because it was true.
I think we have a tendency--even now--to assume our fellow Christians will do the right thing. Or are doing the right thing. Yet Christians participated in the Holocaust. Christians owned slaves, Christians justified the very worst kind of slavery, Christians opposed the civil rights movement and bought into the "separate but equal" line.
Frederick Douglass said, "Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the greatest possible difference."
Jesus said "By their fruits you shall know them."
A bad time has begun in my country. I believe it will get worse. Yet there are prominent evangelical leaders who believe it's a good time, who are gloating over what they think God is doing in this country.
They are showing us the trajectory they have been on for a long time, and its logical end.
They thought they needed power, to take back this country for God. They thought such things were done by power. They fell in love with power. (Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, said God. My kingdom is not of this world, said Jesus. They didn't hear the still small voice. They were looking the other way.)
They ate the fruit, and it was sweet. Huge churches. Millions of followers. Political influence. They were already drunk with it when they met someone who promised them the kingdoms of this world. All you need to do is vow loyalty to me, to praise me and never criticize, he said. It's not really bowing.
(He demanded a loyalty oath of his CIA chief. You think he didn't demand one, in some way or other, of his evangelical council?)
Now they have a President who lets them into the halls of power, who caters to them. And also to Nazis.
Where is Jesus in this?
By their fruits you shall know them.
I see a separation coming. I pray it is clear. But it probably won't be. I pray God gives us eyes to see it. (By their fruits you shall know them.) I see a separation coming, between Christians who seek power and Christians who follow Christ. Who love their neighbor as Christ commanded.
Why a separation? Isn't it bad to have the Body of Christ divided? Well here's the thing. Here's the thing.
It's about who we trust. We trust other Christians. Instinctively. So did Christians under Hitler. That respected Christian leader seems all right with it. It's probably all right.
And not just any Christians. We trust people we consider to be the Right Kind of Christians. Who have correct doctrine, who move in the right circles, whom our families and friends trust, etc. People who show the cultural markers we
know from childhood, who feel familiar.
(Here's another secret belief I had as a kid. This one's even more embarrassing, and more revelatory. I tried once to figure out an easier test than some long doctrinal quiz for figuring out who was a Real Christian. Here's what I finally came up with: Well, at least if they shop at Christian bookstores you can be sure. You want to talk about cultural markers? I had intuited how it worked.)
This is dangerous now. Especially for us who were raised evangelical. Many, many evangelical leaders have eaten the fruit.
This is not a time for asking who has correct theology. Yes, theology truly based in Christ might have saved us from coming to this pass, but if a leader ticks the right boxes on atonement and resurrection? That's not what I needed to know. If a leader says the name of Jesus and all the right people approve of them? That's not what I needed to know. There's only one thing I need to know.
Do they hide Jews?
That's a metaphor, of course. (Unless it becomes literal. I know there are Jews who believe it may. They can't afford to dismiss the possibility. They will never dismiss it again.) What I mean is, do they respect, aid and protect those forced to live in fear, those threatened with harm by the violent and the powerful? Or do they look the other way and minimize and justify?
By their fruits you shall know them.
This is not some kind of "works salvation" here. I'm not even remotely talking about who is going to heaven. Who is going to heaven is frankly none of my business; it's God's. I am called upon to make exactly zero decisions about this.
I'm also not talking about who to respect or treat as our neighbor. Jesus is real clear on this: everyone is our neighbor. We are to love both our neighbor and our enemy. We are to love the child we meet in the street and the neo-Nazi wielding a club. (In different ways.) It's a hard religion, but at least it's clear. There is no one we are not commanded to treat well.
That's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about who to trust. That is a decision we're called on to make daily. I'm talking about who is currently following Jesus; who will not lead us away.
The name of Christian will not help us, anymore than it helped the Christians in Germany.
We American Christians have talked a lot about persecution. Some have claimed they were experiencing it. Some have sensed that if it did come it would renew the Church spiritually. In fact I've wondered if the two aren't connected. I think we have a certain sense that Christians are supposed to be persecuted, and a certain uneasiness when we're not, which some have tried to do away with by pretense. I think there's something to it. (The uneasiness that is.) I hope to write about that sometime.
But listen, here's what strikes me about Christians under Nazism. Under the Third Reich and under Nazi occupation, Christians were persecuted--if they obeyed Jesus.
If they didn't, they were fine.
If there's one thing I am utterly certain about in all this, it's that the next time Christians are persecuted in the United States, it will be exactly like that again. No-one will be threatened or harmed for claiming the name of Christ.
Only for obeying Him.
Only for loving their neighbors. Only for hiding Jews.
We must walk into this time with our eyes open. We must love our neighbors, and look into their eyes. We must respect, aid and protect those to whom evil is done or threatened by the violent and the powerful, always and no matter what. Yes, we must do it on the internet, but we must remember the real world is the place where real people live and die. Hiding Jews in the real world means this: we must be open at all times to what we see around us and to the leading of the Spirit, and ready to obey. What will it be, and who? We must look around our neighborhoods with open eyes. Know our neighbors, be ready to hear their troubles, tear down the "not my problem" walls in our minds. Like the family on welfare who hid six-year-old Isaac Levendel, we must live in such a way that if people we know have to ask themselves, suddenly and with no time to spare, Who would this child be safe with?--they think of us.
And what we do, we must do nonviolently. In word and deed. When our fellow Christians do wrong we must beg them to repent.
That's a post for another time. But I'll leave you with a quote from someone I write about, whose record for hiding Jews was pretty good.
"The duty of Christians is to resist, through the weapons of the Spirit, the violence they will try to impose on our consciences. Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty. Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate."
- André Trocmé
Sounds to me like what Jesus would do.
That's all for now, friends. God be with us all, and God be with those in Houston and the Gulf Coast today.