Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day and today is the anniversary of the Civil Rights Era lunch counter sit-in. It’s also the week we travel banned another six countries, all nations of color or majority Muslim, while a POTUS’s defense for his self-admitted criminal actions was “America is not a democracy or a republic, but a dictatorship where a president can do what a president wants, because that person is the president.”
A friend said to me, with genuine bewilderment, “I just don’t understand how they ended up there.” What she meant was, how rational, normal people ended up murdering 6 million of their friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc in unspeakable ways.
“Really?” I said. “It’s pretty simple.”
It typically starts with a segment of society feeling as though they’re economically disadvantaged and socially disregarded. And those are often aren’t just feelings. It’s typically true. They are totally correct. Social disregard for those suffering economic inequality within a society can become a catalyst for change (the Civil Rights Movement) or morph into a corrosive toxin (a Nazi dictatorship).
Which direction nations end up going generally has to do with just one thing in the Western world. How Christian people go about looking for answers.
When Christian people look for answers by examining their own hearts and lives, then look critically at their society and government, they make personal changes and they work to make societal and political changes. That’s how you get a democracy that grows and changes, but remains true to its tenets. That’s how you ended up with a cell phone, instead of phone box on the corner.
On the other hand, if Christian people aren’t open to looking at their own lives, society, and style of government, they look instead for someone else to blame. That’s how you get to Nazis. Specifically, they look for someone, a single white man, who will them:
“You don’t have to change. It’s not you. There’s nothing wrong with our capitalism or democracy. It’s certain people in our society, who don’t belong here, are controlling those mechanisms, and certain other nations that are against us and holding us back. And if you elect me, I’ll get rid of those people and deal with those nations. Your lives will get better. And you won’t have to do anything except vote for me. I’m the answer.”
Most cults aren’t this obvious.
That’s how people become invested in dictators and surrender all their power to what is actually a cult leader. Some groups of people are more prone to doing this than others. In a sense, if you belong to a religion, it’s most likely because you believe that religion has all the answers and if you just do what you’re told, all will be well. You’re already in a cult, so a would be dictator can basically just tap into that mentality.
I’m not against religion. I’m a practicing Christian. But there are people who don’t think about their religion. They don’t treat the sacred text they read as wisdom, which can be applied to all situations. They treat it as dead letter law to be obeyed. They let other people tell them what it says. They give up their own power to decided what it says, what it means, how it should be applied in a new situation, and just blindly obey the people in charge.
The Reformation was an attempt to break from this “I’ll tell you ignorant people what’s good for you” thinking and kicked off the trend to democracy. Once Guttenburg printed a Bible, people could read what Jesus said for themselves. And things changed. They ditched the community phone box because they got themselves a direct line to God. In reality, the line was always there and free. But the people making pay-to-call phone boxes benefited from keeping people in the dark about that.
Why do people today choose to to let others think and decide for them? They do this because they hope to get something out of it, hopefully a reward and, if not, at least the chance to escape punishment by claiming: “I only did what I was told.” Is any of this sounding familiar to you?
Sometimes I ask people to describe a Nazi. They often say, Germans. It’s a blanket term. People use it because it covers up a “far too close to home” reality they don’t want to face. People don’t want to look at the people who were closing the gas chamber doors and admit the hard truth, “Yep, those are white people who’ve embraced nationalism and racism, who go to church every Sunday and consider themselves devoted Christians.”
Before you write me in anger, check that rage. I’m from a German Catholic Christian family. My family members were flying over the Rhine dropping bombs on Nazis. And, my more distant family members were in Germany being killed by those bombs. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, sadly, you’d be mistaken. But back to what I was talking about…..
Next time you walk into your church (if you’re white and go to church), look around and imagine those white people all wearing Nazi uniforms. Because that’s what you would have seen a church in Germany during WWII. Imagine the man singing a hymn praising God next to you had been shoving people in a gas chamber all week. Because that’s what your reality would have been.
Real people did those unspeakable things. Not generic “Nazis”. And those real people that did those real unspeakable things were all white and all Christians. It freaks people out when I say things like this, but I say them because they are true. Because it’s important to the world, to Christianity, to humanity, that we acknowledge this is the central truth. I don’t care if these things are hard. Woman-up and look at the truth.
Nazi uniform belt buckles were emblazoned with a logo that said God with us. They considered themselves a Christian army for a Christian nation. They were taking back Germany from the subversives and free thinkers. Nazi ideas included a Reich that would last 1000 years. Do you know where that idea of 1000 year reign come from? Straight from the Bible, from the 1000 years Christ is supposed to reign on earth.
So why bring all this up? I bring it up because true Christianity forbids racism and nationalism. The Bible calls all nations grass and all people dust. When you come to Christ, you still have a nationality, but it’s not important. You’re not a higher form of Christian because you’re white, or English, or protestant, or whatever. Whatever you are, those are just part of your tool kit for Christ.
Paul considered his Roman citizenship a tool. It was something he could lean on to get to Rome, to get heard, to spread the Gospel. He knew his citizenship conferred certain advantages, but he didn’t consider that to mean he should use them to oppress others, or that was better than other people, other Jews, other Christians, other pagans. A lot of people claiming to be Christians have totally forgotten this.
Nationalism and racism can’t get a toehold if your Christianity is true. Once you cross over, and engage with nationalism and racism, you’re the gas chamber guy, singing in the church. You might think you’re a Christian, but Christ calls you a goat. You’re with the flock, but your “Just following orders” defense doesn’t fly with Jesus, whose orders you should have obeyed, and you get separated out for a different fate in the end.
One of the reasons dictators and their minions are so keen to be seen as Christian, is to corrupt Christianity. If you can’t corrupt Christianity, you can’t make nationalism and racism, and all the other bad -isms, fly. If you can’t get people to bite hard on nationalism and racism, you can’t take over and become an authoritarian state. People who adhere to true Christianity fight you. That’s what it came down to in the end, in the 1940s. Real Christians saw nazism for what it was, an anti-Christian, authoritarian dictatorship run by a crazy person hell-bent on destroying the world.
I’d like to say Christians today are wise to this tendency of politicians. You’d think they would be. But I think they’ve forgotten what the Founders knew all to well. The Founders remembered the Crusades, the 100 years war, the English Civil war, the endless problems that happened when government got their hands on religion and vice versa. So they wrote a Constitution to protect America from going down that road and hoped it would be a light for other nations still mired in such darkness.
I’d like to say that people who get swept up in bad Christianity that turns into an evil government eventually dig themselves out of that mind set. I’d like to say people eventually woke up to the Nazi movement. That they voted Hitler out of office before things got too bad. That they understood they’d taken a wrong turn and turned back. That they vilified the nationalism, racism, authoritarianism, etc that they once embraced.
Yes, I’d like to say that. But they never did. So I can’t. It took a world war with a lot of bombs, bullets and battles to stop the cult of the Nazis. And after that came the public trials and hangings. And still some people went on quietly clinging to their nazi beliefs, unable to see the irrational nature of their acts, unable to see the utter refutation of Christ’s message in what they did, unable to look in the mirror and accept the truth of themselves as murderers, dupes, co-conspirators, liars, thieves.
Sometimes individual people wake up and walk away from a cult. It does happen now and then. They know they’ve lost years of their lives, money, family relationships, but they at least get to live out the rest of their days free. Free to rebuild, and maybe restore and reconnect. Sometimes even go back and save someone else, or witness the truth to the world as a warning.
Sometimes a whole group of people leave a cult all at once. Seventh Day Adventists in the 1840s were convinced they knew the exact date of Jesus’s return to earth. Some Baptist pastor, William Miller, had calculated the date based on some wildly weird theological interpretation. Bad Christianity. Bad theology. But he was a pastor, so…. the flock bought into this idea— even though they could read for themselves in the Bible that Jesus said, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, no man knows that. Only the Father.”
Baptist Pastor Miller
If you read the newspapers of the day, you’ll discover that thousands of believers sold up all the possessions and gave away their money. Loads of good “Christian” people bought into this totally obviously anti-Christian teaching. And what happened? These people ended up standing a field, with Jesus a no show. You’d think this would teach them something. But ….
Even though many people walked away at that point, some didn’t. Why? Because Pastor Miller said he made an error, the day of Jesus’ return was actually a little further off. And people believed this. They’d already given up everything on the basis of this idea. They had nothing to go back to. They didn’t want to seem stupid…..ummm, yeah.
Not really a clear mathematical explanation.
So they continued this journey of madness. They continued to buy into the idea this clearly wrong pastor was right, and by extension they were all right and the world was wrong. They would be saved. The world and the worldly would perish. They convinced themselves that this pastor was right and that Jesus himself was a liar. And they ended up standing on a hill…. alone again, naturally.
I think I see Jesus. Do you see Jesus? Crap. Not again.
At that point the SDA church shrunk dramatically. It still exists today. It’s theology on Jesus’ return has shifted, a lot. But they still exist. Now they’re into prophets who teach vegetarianism and focus on going to church on Saturday. Although now they teach the Roman Catholic Church is the devil. Because there still has to be an enemy. A them, to keep the us viable.
They think the Catholic church will someday persecute them for their “sabbath-keeping” and try to take over the world and force them to worship on Sunday. They think they’ll be stamped with a number, like a brand, and be subject to death camps. That in the end only 144K will be left and they’ll be swept into the clouds when Jesus comes, but all the Catholics will burn in hell. So there’s that.
I have to say, being left on a mountain, broke and disabused of your notions of immediate salvation, was still not a bad outcome. It beats everyone ending up dead in a jungle, a la Jim Jones. A US Senator, California Democrat Leo Ryan — back when senators cared about American people — went to Jones compound in South America to see what was happening — at just the wrong time. He ended up assassinated.
How the majority of followers left the Jim Jones cult, in body bags.
After that, Jones had his followers drink poison. Some drank the poison freely. Others were forced to drink it (men, women, and little children). 909 people died. Even that horrible outcome is better than a cult grown so strong that it takes a world war to stop it. Which is why nations should do all they can to avoid going down that well-worn garden path. It doesn’t end well. It’s also why white Christians should be especially leery of anyone pitching them nationalism and racism as a cure,while hacking at the knees of their democracy.
A lot of white Christian people in the US want to believe that things are normal. They want to believe it because then they don’t want to face the reality. They’ve sold out Christ and his teachings. They’ve followed pastors with strange theologies. They’ve elected a dictator. They’ve betrayed democracy. It was all accidental. It was all incremental. But that’s what happened. That’s where they’ve ended up. But there’s still time to change, to fix it, to come back to Christ.
Many Christians want to believe they’re at the forefront fighting back the dark forces. They like the Marvel Hero aspect of Christianity. But they’ve got the wrong end of the stick. The dark forces aren’t Muslims, people of color, gay people, abortion, or secularism. The dark forces are those that corrupt Christianity, and makes Christians into mindless minions that gleefully spring to the defense of all that is anti-Christ — authoritarianism, nationalism, racism, and unrestrained unethical godless capitalism.
Sorry, Christian, this is not you.
I get that some Christians are unhappy with society. But that’s because they really don’t understand the game plan Jesus laid out. They don’t read or maybe don’t believe what Jesus actually said (a la Adventists). Christians forget they are always going to be in the minority. The yeast or the salt, not the wheat of the loaf. Jesus says this. You’re never the majority, the rich, or the politically powerful.
When God sends you strangers, there’s your opportunity to spread love, spread the Gospel. If instead you’re thinking, “Wow, this may be bad for me. I may lose money. The town won’t be white anymore” Uh, maybe your view of God is too small? Maybe God is giving you a chance to grow? Maybe God is asking you to change? Maybe “these people” have something to teach you about Christ?
This is you. Tiny, but potent in the mix.
When you close your borders to even those that need asylum? What is the God — who sent the Israelites to Egypt for asylum, and still blesses Egypt today because of this — to do with you except utter a curse upon you? Maybe instead of thinking, “Wow, too many Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.” You should be thinking, “Wow, I don’t have to go to the mission field, God has sent it to me. I can show the love of Christ to the world, right in my own town.”
White Christians in ancient Ireland took over the government. Trust me, it didn’t work out. God got so fed up he sent the Vikings to disabuse them of their weird theology and strange “Christian” notions. As a grace, he sent those white Christians as slaves to foreign, pagan, white people lands to discover true Christianity for themselves and spread the reality of Christ’s teaching. Hard lessons all round.
Jesus could have taken over the world, he chose not to. He could have crowned himself king, he didn’t want to go that route. What route did he want his followers to go? He left his life as an example. People forget that. Jesus died broke and alone, a humiliating death for a crime he didn’t commit, and they don’t want to end up like that! Christians choose to forget Jesus’s life, and his death, because the reality of it crashes through their cozy, safe, American prosperity theology.
Corrie Ten Boom
People want to forget what happened in WWII for the same reasons. Some people even want to deny it happened. It happened. Millions of innocent Jewish people died. And there were other groups that died as well. Gay people got gassed. People of color, ie Gypsies, too. The handicapped? A burden on the state. And let’s not forget that many true Christians, priest, nuns, pastors, humble lay people (like Corrie Ten Boom), all ended up in the camps and many of whom also died.
True Christians, who spoke out against the Nazis, were murdered in the camps along with the Jewish people. So yeah, when I see white Christian people embracing a authoritarian leader who’s selling nationalism, who encourages racism, who hates gay people, and …. Yeah, I see a whole bunch of white Christian people heading down the garden path of nazism. And I pray for them and I work to change things.
Warning, this path looks nice but ends really badly.
You may think I’m over reacting. Nope. Right now, today, we have GOP Senators who are about to vote to acquit a POTUS of crimes they all acknowledge he committed. Their defense for this is saying that America is not a democracy but an authoritarian state. That’s right.
They say a POTUS can’t commit a crime because he’s the POTUS. That’s absurd. We all know it. The only place that’s true is a dictatorship. And if that’s what the senators think, and that’s what they plan to support, then they are selling out democracy in favor of making the US a dictatorship with the GOP temporarily in charge.
And, no one has said this, but I will, if they acquit this POTUS of these crimes, do you understand that the next day, that POTUS can call Ukraine and demand an investigation of the Bidens, while withholding congressional approved aid indefinitely till they do? Because the GOP senate will have approved the idea that’s okay, that’s legal.
Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.
Then the POTUS could call Johnson in the UK and say, No, sorry. No trade deal till you investigate Bernie Sanders and creates some dirt on Warren? Then he could call China and tell Xi, unless I get a Trump tower in Beijing, I’m dumping the trade deal. And then he could call Putin and say, hey, I need you to interfere in the election on my behalf and in return, I’ll give you …. all our state secrets.
And all of that would be legal because the GOP senators failed to protect the nation by removing the POTUS for his self-confessed crimes. If GOP senators vote to acquit the POTUS of his crimes, in essence they are declaring America is now an dictatorship. And if they do that, they are supporting a POTUS, the same way a cadre of men supported Hitler’s rise and the turning of democratic Germany into a dictatorship.
Dictatorship. Not the right neighborhood for you?
And, dictatorships don’t end well for anyone. Have a peak at Venezuela or Syria. You think those nations are in great shape? The GOP senators are claiming they don’t want to overturn the votes of 45 million people. But 48 million people didn’t vote for the POTUS. So what they are saying is their afraid they’ll be turved out office by the shrinking GOP base that they turned into rabid POTUS supporters instead of reasoned GOP supporters.
Frankly, removing the POTUS just means he’s replaced with the Republican VP. There’s no overturning of any votes. The GOP would continue to hold the White House and the Senate. There is no change there. No, what the GOP senators and others are concerned about is losing their own power, their own seats. They think Mike Pence isn’t a good bet for them personally. He’s not going to excite the base.
Let’s be honest, Pence is there to reassure white Christians this is an administration that keeps white Christian desires top of deck. And that, white Christians need to keep voting for the GOP to keep that true. On the other hand, the POTUS is like the Joker, crazy, but good for turn out. So, the impeachment trial outcome has nothing to do with democracy or justice. The outcome is based purely on the GOP Senators own self-interest.
Karma. Not everyone gets it. But everyone gets it.
But ask yourself, what happens once the Democrats take the White House? Now that the GOP has said there can be no checks on the Executive branch? Are they ready for that? Will they complain about autocracy and dictatorship when it Dems are in office? I’m not sure why they would. They’ll be the ones that created that situation. They’ll be the ones the reshaped America from a democracy to an autocracy in the mad belief that they would be able to endlessly manipulate the law, the government, and the white Christians and cling to power.
White Christians are sewing the destruction of the world, of themselves, of the very faith they claim they own. They may not know it yet. They may not understand it. Or worse, they simply may not care. So long as they’re getting what they want (not what God actually wants, but what some twisted theologian they follow wants), who cares?
It’s amazing how giving people a veneer of power and status along with some money , makes otherwise sane people okay with stuff they would always have, in the past, risen up against. (This is where economically disadvantaged and socially disregarded people become oligarchs. )
I’m not okay with the corruption of Christianity by nationalist, racist authoritarians. A vote for nationalism and racism, is a vote for a dictator and against Christ and his teachings. A vote for a senator or congressperson or anyone that’s nodding their head to America First nationalism, to racism, and the authoritarianism for which it stands….is a vote for becoming a Nazi state.
I don’t care what party is promoting these corrupt ideas, they’re anti-Christ. If you support them, you’ve left Christ. You’ve chosen a new god. That’s how this works. You accept nationalism and racism, you’re corrupting your Christianity and replacing Jesus with an authoritarian dictator. If that bothers you, turn back. God is waiting.
It’s no coincidence there’s been a rise in hate crimes against Jewish people the past few years. That Jewish people are being murdered even as they worship in peace is not a surprise. What did people think would happen? Not just to Jews, but Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people, old people, migratory birds… there’s no bottom to this Moria. The GOP just keeps digging. And white Christians keep handing them the shovels.
Where do people think this will end if they don’t stop it? I already know. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I can never forget.