When a Nation Forgets God
You may be acquainted with my book Hitler’s Cross, in which I attempt to answer two questions: how could Nazism have arisen in Germany, a country that prided itself in its freedoms? And, why was Hitler not condemned by the pastors of Germany with a unified and consistent voice? Of course, I also paid tribute to those who did courageously stand against Hitler’s agenda.
I have taken this study a step further in my new book, When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany. Parallels between Nazi Germany and the United States can easily be overdrawn, but this danger should not stop us from learning some hard lessons from that dark period when the church struggled to find its identity and had to suffer for what it believed. We need to realize that the gas ovens of the Holocaust were the end result of certain cultural, political, and religious trends that made the horrors possible.
I don’t expect that America will ever gas millions of people because they belong to the “wrong” race, but the same values that destroyed Germany are being taught in our centers of learning today. Our freedoms are being eroded and, as I demonstrate in the book, we are being betrayed by the elite. Those who should be guarding our liberties are bowing to cultural currents that will—barring a miracle—eventually destroy us.
Whether Nazism, Marxism, or Secularism, the state is always in conflict with religious freedom. And the more power the state has, the more laws it will pass to diminish the role of the church. What makes this so difficult is that these changes are made under the rubric of freedom and “what is best for everyone.” As in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, slavery is defined as “freedom” and suppression is defined as “the quest for peace and fairness.”
There are ominous signs that the freedoms we once assumed were ours, are disappearing. Forces of secularism lead inevitably to a totalitarian state to which everyone is expected to submit.
What are we to do? Wring our hands and wait for the return of Christ? The return of Christ is a cherished dream of every Christian, but meanwhile we have a job to do. And rather than fearing what is to come, we need to see the unfolding future as an opportunity to bring glory to God through our steadfast commitment to what will never pass away.
With the Bible in one hand and history books in the other, let us discuss what we can learn from Nazism so that we will not repeat the same mistakes. And, let us commit ourselves to obedience to Christ, no matter the cost. For more on facing the future with realism and hope, see the center of this newsletter.
Facing the Future of Our Nation
Can we win the “culture war?” What are our responsibilities as Christians when our nation increasingly seeks to get rid of God? Is there any hope? Pastor Lutzer offers insight and hope on these vital questions.
Q: In writing When a Nation Forgets God, are you not contributing to the polarization we see in America today? Are you not afraid that political activists from one political party or another will use your analysis and call one another “Nazis?”
A: That is a danger I considered. Here in America I think it is disingenuous for one politician to call another by such names; the atrocities in Nazi Germany were of such a magnitude that they belong to a class by themselves. But I wrote this book to show the cultural trends that allowed the Holocaust to happen. Unfortunately, we see some of those same trends in America today.
Q: In your book, you list seven lessons ranging from issues in the economy, to our courts, to propaganda. The average Christian is overwhelmed by these issues. What can we actually do in light of this information?
A: An excellent question. At the end of every chapter of the book I briefly encourage the reader to learn from our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. It is not necessary to win our cultural battles in order to be faithful to what God has called us to do as a church and as individuals.
Q: Do you think we can reverse the trends we see in our society? Can we really win this “cultural war?”
A: No, I don’t think we can reverse these destructive trends in America; in that sense, the culutral war is lost. That’s not why I wrote the book. I wrote it to outline what we need to be willing to endure if we are faithful to what God has called us to do. We must simply face the future realistically and commit ourselves to represent Christ even at great personal cost.
Q: What is the one lesson you want readers to take away from this book?
A: I want the reader to realize that our battle is essentially spiritual, not political, and that only the Gospel can change the heart, and rescue individuals from themselves and from eternal death. Politics is important, but it cannot do what the Cross of Christ can do. We have forgotten that the Gospel, lived out in the lives of ordinary Christians, is a potent force that can have a positive and permanent impact in America and the world.
Q: After being the pastor of The Moody Church for 30 years, what changes have you seen in society and in the church?
A: To answer that, I’d have to write another book! When I became the pastor back in 1980, there was a general agreement as to what a church should be, the styles of worship it should adopt and even the kind of preaching one could expect. Now all of this has changed, and everything seems to be up for grabs. Not all of this is bad; God knows that many changes have been positive, but I’m also very concerned about the next generation.
Also, back then, the Moral Majority and our “culture wars” were just beginning. Now we’ve learned that we cannot win the culture war politically; we must return to living out the Gospel and win the confidence of a skeptical world.
Of course technology has changed everything. Once again, many of the changes have been good, others have been detrimental. But I’m greatly encouraged by a verse that is prominently displayed above the choir loft at The Moody Church: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
These messages, based on the book of Romans, show that in the gift of salvation we see God at His best; the cross is God’s farthest outreach to us. Here we see the full range of His attributes, all converging together in an ambitious rescue plan for us as sinners. The overriding message of the series is that when we understand the Gospel properly, we see why we need it every single day—not just on the day of our salvation. We must depend on Christ to represent us to the Father daily, hourly. There is hope for great sinners and instruction for struggling saints.