For better or worse, the Christian religion is getting more coverage in the news these days. It could have to do with the presidential political campaigns. The general reporters’ knowledge of religious motives, history and daily situations appear a tad thin.
Examples: Trial of a Morman for his views on plural marriages. Fear of Muslims taking over the country. (Obama is not a Muslim, by the way.) The daily report of the Ten Commandments not being allowed here and there. These are important, but trivial. There are more dangerous trends by those who misunderstand why church and state need to be separate.
Professor Fritz Stern, University professor Emeritus at Columbia University, said some profound words about Christianity and Hitler in a talk titled “National Socialism (Nazi) as Temptation.”
Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in the 1930s is amazing in the way he induced so many Germans to embrace his ideas and programs. Programs based on a shaky foundation in a misinterpreted Christianity.
Christianity, as Hitler saw it, was one of the reasons the rise of the fascist state. Stern wrote that the populist manipulator believed that Providence had called him to be the savior of Germany. A leader “charged with executing a divine mission.” Hitler drafted God into his extreme politics.
Hitler brought his racial dogma to a discouraged and depressed German nation. His words, tinged with Christian trappings, were immensely powerful as a plank in his electoral campaigns. Stern goes on to say, “Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it.”
There were heroes of the faith who did not fall for Hitler’s line. Many paid with their lives. (Deitrick Bonhoffer was the only pastor in Germany who openly opposed Hitler. Others joined him before he was executed.)
Hitler persuaded the voters that his interpretations of the Christian religion were closer to the truth than what they were used to. In his first radio address to the German people, Hitler declared: “The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”
The question comes, could such a demigod repeat the same scam and fool the people as Hitler did in the 1930s? The answer is no. The American Bill of Rights and a Constitution keep America from becoming a runaway train wreck. We have weathered many “isms,” threats and even some self-proclaimed “savior” politicians and preachers, but we have what Nazi Germany did not have, a tested and strong written Constitution and Bill of Rights which keeps the president, congress and the Supreme Court on an even keel.
Founders of our Constitution broke the centuries-old mold. They saw the dangers of full control by church edict or full control by the state being under the same tent. Men and women died to keep church and state in separate spheres. John Hus was killed in 1415 for promoting the idea any citizen could read the Bible for himself. The state, taking its cue from the Roman Church, burned him at the stake. Some Protestant did like wise to those they saw as heretics. Both with the blessings of the state.
Roger Williams, a Baptist, was hounded from New England for his opposition to a state church in the 1650s. Henry Dunster, then the president of Harvard College, decided not to have his fourth infant baptized because he had come to accept adult baptism as a part of his faith. The state forced him to retire. This was before there was a Bill of Rights.
The state cannot harass or discriminate against people because of their religious convictions. The other side of the coin is equally true, religious leaders are not use their pulpits to promote a political agenda. Woe to either extreme.
Christians, and all other religions in America are free to worship, in a barn, a tent or a cathedral. They are not free to insist their “laws” must be the law of the land. Politics works better when religion stays personal. A good life is better than a dogma or sermon.
To Christians I would suggest living an example will make for a better nation.
Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author. He welcomes reader feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.