HARDLY does the issue need to be named, yet many in the church today are falling for something that was only eradicated seventy years ago – the rise of a fascist threat on the global stage that promises clandestinely (at this stage) to take no prisoners; the church in its wake, ensconced.
It is appalling that people within its structure cannot see segments of the church go so easily to a potentially despotic regime. Yet, none of us should be surprised. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. These cycles shouldn’t astonish us, for they’re clearly visible in God’s Word, and these events litter humanity’s short history. Not being astonished, however, such a history-repeating-itself should be abhorred.
A day is coming – a day humanity should all fear – and it’s not the Day of the LORD.
The Disgustingly Redolent Day the Church Fell, Almost as One, to a Dictator
Hear this echo in the words of church historian, Justo L. González:
“Hitler felt that Christianity, with its teachings of universal love and turning the other cheek, was antagonistic to his ultimate goals of conquest and domination – but he sought to use the church to support those goals.”
Can anyone alive today possibly recall what that era was like? Only those who lived through it. Experience is the greatest teacher. Despite the history lessons, we’re destined the temptation to disbelieve what we never experienced. (How many people believe the Holocaust is a myth? Six million Jews murdered – systematic genocide – and some people still prefer a conspiracy theory.)
I see church leaders, lobbyists and Christians, some from unlikely sources, falling. You can stink the ignorance from years out. The key test is a political one: if a President sanctions one or two policies that church leaders, lobbyists and Christians believe so ardently in, those church leaders, lobbyists and Christians may throw their entire lot in with him or her, as if our innumerably diverse world could be reduced to an issue or two. Since when did the entire world revolve around one or even a few ethically-loaded issues?
And what is the price for flattery, one to another? Flattery is its own blank cheque sanction. Flattery, propagating a bloated façade, demotes all who partake, swooning them into the enemy’s arena of treason. More on flattery later.
Any discussion about Hitler leads to contemplations on the scourge of Fascism.
Fascism for Novices
FASCISM: (noun) a form of radical authoritarian nationalism. The term has roots from 1924, as a despicable era developed.
British Fascisti emerged out of the shadows of an Italian movement from 1922-1943 giving rise to Mussolini’s power, and features nationalism in the tones of ultra-royalism, social conservatism, and anti-socialism.
I want to show that, for us Westerners, who may erroneously think that we’re above falling for the evil of authoritarianism, that the roots of fundamentalism as a pathology are ever present, even in our culture. Perhaps at some point even a country’s constitution may not stop it. Fascism is not just a concept of Nazism. Enter the narcissist through international power and watch Fascism be fanned ablaze!
Any ultra-or-anti-anything should raise heckles. Such movements are set on control of every institution, carte blanche, through fear and monocracy.
The Merging of Church and State
Among the freedoms being eroded in our bipolar day is that of free speech within religion and without.
Another Justo L. González quote:
“Hitler’s own program included the unification of all Protestant churches in Germany, and then using them in order to preach his message of German radical superiority, and of a divinely given mission.”
Hitler’s regime used unification, by getting them all under possession of the Third Reich, to weaken not only the Jews.
Don’t forget that Germany was at its zenith as a zeitgeist for theological thought. And with all that theological might in their tenure these leaders, one by one, denomination by denomination, were still duped and/or coerced into capitulation. We should not imagine this time was easy to resist for any leader or person of faith. It must have been seemingly impossible to resist.
What should strike us like a Tsar Bell is the amount the state controlled the church. The Third Reich controlled the German church years before war broke out in 1939.
State control over the church doesn’t need to be overt. There are already rumblings that ministers and churches have been required to hand over their sermons to have them vetted by bureaucrats. State control over freedom of speech and religion is at a volcanic change point – even bureaucrats are confused where lines are appropriately drawn. One moment there is an abuse of human rights, only for a response of political correctness (read, overreaction) to ensue. One response is an abomination, the other an assault on good sense.
An element that confuses all of us even a little more is the fact we live in a postmodern world where truth has fluid relativity. In ethical settings, division is the predictable outcome. At a time when we’re most unified globally, technologically speaking, we live in a world never more divided. That is because everyone has a voice, and revolutions occur daily, not least through social media. Such tipping points into chaos are inevitable.
The world is seeking direction more than ever, but more than ever there’s so much noise. And less than ever people are looking to God, when they need Him most.
God’s Prophecy From One Source, One Only
I searched my mind and will for what the LORD would wish to say. He directed me to the Source, His Word. One prophetic utterance from Daniel 11:29-35 (HCSB):
“At the appointed time he will come again to the South, but this time will not be like the first. Ships of Kittim will come against him, and being intimidated, he will withdraw. Then he will rage against the holy covenant and take action. On his return, he will favor those who abandon the holy covenant. His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action. Those who are wise among the people will give understanding to many, yet they will die by sword and flame, and be captured and plundered for a time. When defeated, they will be helped by some, but many others will join them insincerely. Some of the wise will fall so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”
These are the signs of the times that could be coming; times that call us all to high alert, but times when some in key areas of influence, could be many, will perceive as high attraction. Could it be that some notable church leaders and lobbyists have already abandoned the holy covenant?
Even in a way that appears to be obedience to the holy covenant.
Hard to tell, exactly, but suspicion rises, as it has to in this Day. The church must watch for an autocrat who is not only prepared to punish naysayers, but who flatters supporters. Oppressors do that. With tyranny, they show disdain for a flouting audacity of a resistance that they, themselves, in their audacity, flaunt through provocation. Because they have power, as if power were a thing to appropriately abuse – where such abuses are not considered an abuse, but a right, for the fact that power’s residence gives them, they feel, unequivocal though self-assigned rights.
The Seventy Years
There is something very biblical about the seventy-year timeframe.
I simply wonder if there’s anything in the period 1946-2016, which, from a global viewpoint, we could call the dormant years. 2016 seemed like quite a remarkable year; the end of something, perhaps. Time will tell.
2016 highlighted more than ever a transition in the way our political world works. A latent toxin emerged, one that has always been there, one waiting for its stage to arrive.
The Toxicity of Today’s Political Environment in the Social Media Age
One reason the Despot thrives is he flourishes well in a toxic environment, even exacerbating and enchanting the trolls against him or her – paradoxically, it takes one troll to joust with another, for the way they bludgeon each other with murderous orotundity is bewildering.
Fury has words that should never be publicised, and yet with light-speed regularity Joe Public as well as Well-To-Do Celebrity eat away the middle ground of politics when they spray their venom. Their respective rancour contributes a volley of blows, as the extremities that crouch in the trenches convince the other ninety percent of the world by their behaviour (DON’T GO THERE; YOU WON’T COME OUT ALIVE!) not to bother entering the bloody arena so inanely sordid and scornfully alien to fecund goodwill.
The very unfortunate trend is good people are not entering politics, or do not survive, but the bullies are and do. The bullies are winning and they will rule over a world that buckles to them, because they confound reason.
The signs of trouble are obvious. Take three salient examples, for I’m hardly a politics-watcher: the rampant intolerance with the media, the egotistical use of social media, where the word “me” is so regularly used, and the nationalism of Make-America-Great-Again-and-to-hell-with-everyone-else-not-with-my-agenda, particularly with separatist overtones. Calling some News organisations “fake news” because they are anti should ring warning bells of déjà vu. Can a President of the United States use Twitter like he has?
Let us watch for signs of intolerance, national seeking of and striving for perfectibility, the undermining of minorities, and the type of groupthink that underscores humanity’s resemblance to sheep. The church has folded as one before. It may happen again before the end.
It may take years for this to occur, recalling that Hitler’s fascist rise took place close to a decade before World War II was in full swing.
Where are the Dietrich Bonhoeffers and the Martin Niemollers of our age – those who gave their lives for the truth they, by God, could see? Those Christian leaders who heap a surfeit of flattery on a dictator will not glorify God but will earn for themselves an infamy of ignominy.
One test of the thesis presented is direct sanction and punishment as a result, like prison or conscription, as happened to those who resisted in World War II and at other times. Can we see the signs in others who have resisted? I think we can.
George Santayana (1863-1952), philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, once said:
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Whatever happens, we can strap ourselves in for one hell of a ride.
Postscript: I pray that these words make a fool out of me in future years to come; that a certain Presidency is vaunted for its fruit.
Steve Wickham holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling.
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