By Laurie Higgins, IFI DSA | Illinois Family Institute
There are some battles in which all Christians and all who are
committed to truth are called to engage: all Christians should have
opposed slavery; all Christians should have fought for the civil rights
of blacks; all Christians are called to oppose abortion; and we are all
called to oppose the rancorous, pernicious demands to affirm homosexual
acts as moral. The question as to why so many Christians, particularly
church leaders, refuse to engage in this battle is a vexing question. Leon Podles has provided the answer to that vexing question in the July 2009 issue of Touchstone
magazine in an article entitled "Unhappy Fault: on the Integration of
Anger into the Virtuous Life." Dr. Podles' article is of critical
importance to both the life of the church and Amercan society.
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In his book Kingdoms in Conflict, Chuck Colson
writes about the failure of the church to oppose the extermination of
Jews and the government usurpation of control of the church in Nazi
Germany. Immediately following the naming of Hitler as
Chancellor of Germany, the persecution of the church began in earnest.
In response, a resistance movement sprang up headed by Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Initially, they had the support of the dominant Protestant group, the
German Evangelical Church, but as the persecution increased, so did the
cowardice and concomitant rationalization of cowardice on the parts of
most church leaders. In Germany only a remnant, who came to call
themselves the Confessing Church, remained standing courageously in the
gap for truth.
- The German Evangelical Church acted in ways most Christians now view as ignoble, selfish, and cowardly:
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- Pastors resigned from the resistance out of fear that they might lose their positions in the church.
by the boldness of the resistance movement, church leaders issued
public statements of support for Hitler and the Third Reich.
pastors believed that a "'more reasonable tone would be more honoring
to those with different views.'" One bishop told Martin Niemoller that
those pastors who refused to join the resistance were "'trying to bring
peace to the church'" rather than "'seem like . . . troublemakers.'" In
response, Niemoller asked "'What does it matter how we look in Germany
compared with how we look in Heaven?'" The bishop responded, "'We
cannot pronounce judgment on all the ills of society. Most especially
we ought not single out the one issue that the government is so
sensitive about.'" In
a conversation with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one young pastor justified
capitulation like this: "'. . . [T]here are no pastorates for those of
us who will not cooperate. What is the good in preaching if you have no
congregation? Where will this noncooperation lead us? We are no longer
a recognized body; we have no government assistance; we cannot care for
the souls in the armed forces or give religion lessons in schools. What
will become of the church if that continues? A heap of rubble!'"
What is alarming about the account of the German Evangelical Church's
reprehensible failure is its similarity to the ongoing disheartening
story of the contemporary American church's failure to respond
appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of
homosexuality. Don't we today see church leaders self-censoring out of
fear of losing their positions or their church members? Don't we see
churches criticizing those who boldly confront the efforts of
homosexual activists to propagandize children and undermine the
church's teaching on homosexuality? Aren't the calls of the
capitulating German Christians for "a more reasonable tone" and a
commitment to "honor different views" exactly like the calls of today's
church to be tolerant and honor "diversity"? Don't pastors justify
their silence by claiming they fear losing their tax-exempt status
(i.e. government assistance)? Don't they rationalize inaction by
claiming that speaking out will prevent them from saving souls?
What is even more reprehensible in America, however, is that church
leaders don't currently face loss of livelihood, imprisonment, exile,
or death, as they did in Germany, and yet they remain silent.
The church's failure to respond adequately to the relentless and
ubiquitous promulgation of profoundly sinful ideas reveals an
unbiblical doubt in the sovereignty of God; an unconscionable refusal
to protect children; a willful ignorance of history; and a selfish
unwillingness to experience the persecution and hatred that God has
promised the followers of Christ that we will experience and that we should consider joy.
Who do we look to for inspiration today? Is it the cowardly, apostate,
accommodationist, jejune, impotent, emasculated church that feebly
attempts to justify its refusal to speak, or is it God's church, that
which Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, Martin Niemoller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer loved and sacrificed their comfort and lives to defend?
We reassure ourselves that if we had lived during the age of slavery or
in Germany during the rise of Nazism or during the post-Civil War era
when virulent racism still poisoned American life, we would never have
stood idly by and done nothing, but I'm not so sure. Look at the
church's actions today when homosexuality and gender confusion are
affirmed to and in our nation's children through our public schools
using our hard-earned money. Where is the church? Where is the outrage?
Where are the church leaders who rejoice in being persecuted?
I've asked this question before and I will ask it again: How depraved
does the behavior have to be and how young the victims before the
church, starting with those who have freely chosen to assume the mantle
of pastor or priest, will both feel and
express outrage at the indecent, cruel, and evil practice of using
public money to affirm body and soul-destroying ideas to children?
Will the contemporary American church rise to this occasion to defend
children and biblical truth, or will we become like the acquiescent
church that failed to help William Wilberforce battle slavery, or the
atrophied "moderate white church" that failed to help Martin Luther
King Jr. battle racism, or the apostate Protestant church in Nazi
Germany that failed to help Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
And why is this happening again? Leon Podles, author of the books The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and Sacrilege, senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity,
and founder of the Crossland Foundation, has identified, rightly in my
view, the central problem, the problem that infects the church and
prevents it from being salt and light in a fallen, suffering world and
that renders the church complicit in the destruction of countless lives:
Dr. Podles writes that "Christians have a false understanding of the
nature and role of anger. It is seen as something negative, something
that a Christian should not feel."
He expresses what should be obvious: we should "feel deep anger at
evil, at the violation of the innocent, at the oppression of the weak."
He describes the suppression of hatred and anger as "emotional
deformation" and exhorts the church to remember that "growth in
virtue," which must include the integration of "all emotions, including
anger and hate," is the "goal of the Christian's moral life."
Dr. Podles quotes Catholic psychiatrist Conrad Baars who had been a prisoner under the Nazi regime:
. .[T]here is a is difference between a person who knows solely that
something is evil and ought to be opposed and the one who in addition
also feels hate for the evil, is angry that it is corrupting or harming
fellow-men, and feels aroused to combat it courageously and vigorously.'How often do we hear in our churches anything akin to the idea expressed by early church father John Chrysostom:
"'He who is not angry, whereas he has cause to be, sins. For
unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters
negligence, and incites not only the wicked but the good to do wrong.'"
And wouldn't the church and society look very different if they
embodied Dr. Podles' conviction that "sorrow at evil without anger at
evil is a fault."