by Rev. Dr. Dennis Hill
Each week I meet with a group of pastors at Bob Evans. Our conversation is much stronger and rich than their good mellow coffee. In fact, we usually drink deeply from the well of our theology and faith. Given the good rapport we share, we do not hesitate to challenge, disagree, and even laugh at one another, as we quote scripture, our teachers and good books. This week someone asked, “Speaking of the evil that causes us to be silent in the presence of evil, who was it that said, ‘when they came for the Jews, and the Communists, I remained silent; because I wasn't a Jew or a Communist. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.’” Several said, “It was Martin Neimoller, the Lutherine pastor during Hitler’s reign.”
The conversation continued, “Why was it that German Christians allowed Hitler to take over?” “The Nazis took over Germany while many Christians were silent, for the same reason that we are sipping coffee here and not out in the world confronting the evil forces of our own day!” “It is unpopular to stand against the majority, and it is often very expensive.” “It doesn’t take much to stir-up a tempest, if you identify commonly accepted ways of thinking as inspired by the devil.
Someone said that it was always easier to talk about the sin of smoking, dancing or drinking than it was to talk about caring for the poor. Another asked how the church can be relevant without addressing the political issues that effect the things that Jesus cared about and died for – the hungry, sick, and powerless.
Another asked if the church should have anything to say about the community campaign to “STOP GOODWILL?” Another asked about providing the same health care for the poor that the Congress receives?
“But a pastor can get fired if he insults someone one who is influential!” “So we pastors are left in the painful position of risking to address the sins of the day, or safely pretending that they are of no concern to the church.” “And that is what happened in Germany in the 1930’s. Did you know that Hitler even addressed the Baptist World Alliance in 1938?” “Why did the Christian church hunker down in Germany and try to go along?” “But every Christian did not become silent! Some were sent to work camps or death for opposing Hitler.” “Hitler was so popular in the ‘30’s. He got the trains running on time.” “And he made a scapegoat of the Jews for all of the financial problems in Germany.” “A lot of Americans supported Hitler and even urged FDR to take over like Hitler was doing.”
“It is our calling as pastors to identify evil when we see it and to help our congregations to not get swept in political propaganda, and not to get snookered by evil that is all decked out in fine clothes, or singing a popular song.” “God help us!” “Could I have some more coffee, please?”
Dr. Dennis Hill is the pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, NC. This article originally appeared in the March edition of their church newsletter.