Could it happen here in America?
[read in Lamplighter (pdf)]
The question posed in the title of this article is one I have often asked people, and the answer I have always received is a resounding, "NO!"
The reasons given usually include such things as:
- America's strong Christian heritage.
- Our nation's commitment to freedom and liberty — both in our constitution and in practice for over two centuries.
- The high level of education and civilized culture that characterizes our nation.
Those are good reasons, and on the surface, they seem invincible. But they are not.
We need to remind ourselves that pre-Nazi Germany had a strong Christian heritage. It was, in fact, the heartland of the Reformation Movement.
Germany also contained a highly educated and erudite population, and was a land of literary giants and scientific geniuses. It was, in fact, one of the most advanced civilizations on earth.
And Germany also had a democratic government. In fact, Hitler was elected to power.
So, what happened? The nation's economy was destroyed by World War I and the draconian reparations Germany was required to pay after the war. Racked by a runaway inflation and widespread joblessness, the German economy created the kind of despair that will motivate people to seek desperate solutions.
Our nation is a sitting duck for the same type of peaceful transition to the form of totalitarian dictatorship that Hitler instituted.
Just think about it for a moment.
In the 1960s we began to jettison our Christian heritage. It happened quickly and decisively, and it continues to accelerate to this day. The culture war has been won by the secularists and pagans, and we can no longer claim to be a "Christian nation." Without the inhibitions of Christian morality, the demons have been let loose. And so, on a daily basis, we witness senseless killings and gross immorality.
Churches have gotten in bed with the world, endorsing such biblical abominations as homosexuality and same-sex marriage. And they have surrendered to the demands of "tolerance" by embracing such heresies as "many roads to God." Polls show that the number of Bible-believing Christians in America is no greater than 9%. The Church has ceased to be a restrainer of evil.
Our level of education is certainly very high, but we have kicked God out of our educational institutions from the pre-school to the graduate level. The result is a pagan education that teaches our children that there is no God and that they are simply the accidents of evolution. In short, they are being taught that they are nothing more than a higher species of animal, and they are acting like it.
Our culture is becoming increasingly depraved. Immorality is being encouraged by our governments, and it is being celebrated in our movies and television programs. Hedonism and materialism are the driving forces in our culture. The dollar has become our god.
Our democratic heritage is also being rapidly undermined by the centralization of power in the national government and its ever-increasing welfare programs. More and more people are becoming wards of the state, and when it comes to voting, their only concern is which candidate will promise to give them the most "free stuff."
Our governmental leaders, particularly at the national level, have become so corrupt that we can no longer believe anything they have to say.
Our nation is becoming increasingly polarized. The two coasts are battling the center of the country. The young are fed up with having to support our exploding class of senior citizens. Blacks and Hispanics are at each other's throats. Pagans continue to try to silence Christians.
The Needed Spark
All that is needed is a spark to set off a new civil war that will lead to the suspension of civil liberties and the institution of martial law.
I believe that spark will most likely be an overwhelming economic collapse — one far more severe than the one we experienced in 2008. I believe that because, as I said before, the dollar has become our god, and the true God of this universe is a jealous God who delights in destroying false gods.
That economic collapse will most likely be triggered by a major terrorist attack, possibly involving nuclear weapons. Just imagine the national chaos that would occur if a nuclear device were to be detonated by a suicide crew on a merchant ship in New York harbor. It could easily happen.
The Bible makes it clear that God never pours out His wrath on a nation without warning. He will send both remedial judgments and prophetic voices to call the nation to repentance before He will deliver it to destruction.
God is doing that in America today. He responded to our Sexual Revolution in the 1960s with the Vietnam War that ended up plaguing the soul of our nation. He has sent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, man-made disasters like the 9/11 attacks, and economic calamities like the stock market crash of 2008.
And God has sent the prophetic voices calling the nation to repentance and warning of impending judgments. The first major voice to be anointed was that of Dave Wilkerson, who told in the 1970s about his vision of New York City burning.
In recent years the prophetic voices have been greatly multiplied and magnified because we as a nation have dug in our heels and refused to repent.
In previous issues of the Lamplighter magazine we have focused on two of the prophetic voices God has anointed to call us to our senses — Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn (May-June 2013) and Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress (November-December 2013). You can find both of these issues on our website.
I now want to call your attention to another major prophetic voice that God has called to warn our nation — namely, Erwin Lutzer, the Pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois.
He has been speaking out strongly and fearlessly for several years, unafraid of whose toes he might step on.
As examples of what he is saying to our nation, I would point you to two sources in particular. One is a sermon of his that you can find on the church's website. It is titled, "America's Spiritual Crisis." The other is an outstanding book that was published in 2010. It is titled, "When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany."
A Powerful Sermon
In his sermon, Lutzer begins by going directly for the jugular, by providing a no-holds-barred definition of the problem:
Despite its foundational Christian heritage, America is rapidly degenerating into a godless society. The Church in America, although highly visible and active, appears powerless to redirect the rushing secular currents. Mired in moral and spiritual crisis, America's only hope is a national revival, like God has graciously bestowed in the past.
He proceeds to emphasize the way in which our leaders are doing everything they can to erase God from America's consciousness.
The powers in America today... have chosen a path of rejecting God and His ways. Federal courts have interpreted our constitution as requiring that the Bible, prayer and religious discussion be removed from classrooms, community buildings and places of public gatherings. Government officials and educators across the country are systematically eliminating any vestiges of God from society. Militant secularists will not be satisfied until God is expunged from every fact of American life.
As for Christianity in particularly, Lutzer declares that "society is becoming openly hostile to Christian values." In this regard, he points out that "the media trivializes and ridicules Christianity in the name of humanistic and pluralistic concerns." Commenting further on the influence of the media, he writes:
American culture is dominated by television and movies, whose profanity and lewdness tramp God's honor into the mud, inculcating non-Christian values from infancy. Public schools teach our children how to practice various forms of immorality. One school curriculum in America teaches acceptance of homosexuality in the first grade and mutual masturbation in junior high... America is reaping the dire consequences of rejecting God. Our society is morally bankrupt, and the problems seem resistant to government cures.
As a pastor, Lutzer is particularly concerned about the waning influence of the Church. He declares:
The Church in America, despite its many activities and apparent successfulness, has had no measurable affect in reversing the downward spiral... Sadly, the influence has been in the wrong direction, as we see evidence that our culture has begun to permeate our churches. The Church is seduced by the social agenda of wealth and pleasure, and has condoned sinful compromises.
An Insightful Book
In Lutzer's book, "When A Nation forgets God," he begins by asserting that "Yes, Nazi Germany has some lessons to teach us." Following up on that observation, he writes:
I am aware, of course that 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... those similarities are happening before our eyes...
Nazism did not arise in a vacuum. There were cultural streams that made it possible... Some of those streams — myths accepted by the masses — are in evidence in America today, and hence this book... there were circumstances and widely accepted ideas that enabled the population to become a part of an evil that was greater than that of any individual. The gas ovens were the end result of certain political and religious trends that made the horrors possible.
Lutzer then illustrates his point with a quote from the writings of Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), the famous psychoanalyst who was a Holocaust survivor:
The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment — or as the Nazis liked to say, "Of blood and soil."
Focusing once again on American society, Lutzer observes:
Today we face cultural pressures that are forcing us to combine Christ with other religions, or to combine Christ with a political or ideological agenda. The experience of the Church in Nazi Germany reminds us that Christ must always stand alone; He must be worshiped not as One who stands alongside the governmental leaders of this world, but as standing above them as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Whether it's Nazism, Marxism or Secularism, the state is always in conflict with religious freedom.
Following this disturbing introduction, Lutzer launches into the heart of his book by outlining seven lessons he believes Americans need to learn from Nazi Germany. The seven are listed below, with a quote from each section.
1) When God is separated from government, judgment follows.
And so it was that secularism was imposed on the German people. The role of the Church was minimized by privatizing faith and instituting laws about what could or could not be said from a pulpit.
2) It's always the economy.
When given a choice, most people probably will choose bread and sausage above the free market and individual liberties.
3) That which is legal might also be evil.
When God is separated from government, we are forced to accept arbitrary laws. Either God is the lawgiver or Man is; either we derive our laws from theistic universal values, or we say that the individual countries or cultures are the lawgivers. Either God is supreme or the state is supreme... a court can make abortion legal, but it cannot make it moral... Show me your laws and I will show you your God.
4) Propaganda can change a nation.
Perhaps the most enduring lesson of Nazi Germany is that ordinary people, simply concerned about living their own lives, can be motivated to become a part of an evil movement through the power of compelling propaganda, intimidation and mass euphoria.
5) Parents — not the state — are responsible for a child's training.
Today's law in Germany that makes home schooling illegal reminds us of a Nazi-era law instigated by Hitler back in 1938. He declared that public education was compulsory and that children could not be educated in the home. The state, not the family or the Church had first dibs regarding the child's education.
6) Ordinary heroes can make a difference.
"When God calls a man, He bids him come and die," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the dark days when the Church in Germany was being Nazified. And at the age of 39, he practiced what he preached; he was hanged on the gallows and died...
Today in America we need an army of ordinary heroes to stand against the gathering darkness in our land. We need people who will stand for truth courageously, consistently, and with humility and grace.
7) We must exalt the Cross in the gathering darkness.
... without the Cross we pound a nail in our coffin! There is a danger that we become so overburdened with social/political agendas that our message is lost amid our many cultural skirmishes. The Church has always faced the temptation to modify the Gospel or make it secondary to a given political, philosophical or cultural agenda... God is neither Republican nor Democrat. When the Cross is wrapped in the flag of a political party, it is always distorted or diminished.
In conclusion, Lutzer points out how we as Christians have allowed the culture to divert our eyes from Jesus onto ourselves:
In the evangelical community, psychology is substituted for theology and cheap grace has replaced what Bonhoeffer described as "costly grace." In short, we have lost our intellectual and spiritual center and replaced it with consumerism, self-help and the quest for personal advantage. We are self-absorbed rather than God-absorbed. And we can see the results.
We need to keep in mind that the potential for the evil of Hitler resides in all of us. The Bible states that "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus affirmed this when He asserted that all evil — both thoughts and actions — come out of the heart (Matthew 15:19-20 and Mark 7:20-23). Over and over the Bible asserts that the nature of Man is evil and should never be trusted (Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 118:8-9, and Romans 3:10-12).
This fundamental truth about the nature of Man was reflected in the most surprising quotation I ran across while doing research for this article. I found the quote in the writings of Charlie Chaplin's son, Charles Jr. He says that in 1940 while his father was filming his parody of Hitler, "The Great Dictator," he was "haunted" by the similar backgrounds of Hitler and himself. He explains:
Their desires were poles apart. One was to make millions weep, while the other was to set the whole world laughing. Dad could never think of Hitler without a shudder, half of horror, half of fascination. "Just think," he would say uneasily, "he's the madman. I'm the comic. But it could have been the other way around."
That profound insight is true of all of us. We are born with a fallen sin nature. We have to learn the difference between good and evil. That knowledge comes from God's Word, and we learn it either from our parents or from the Church, or both. When God is ejected from society and the Church is either marginalized or suppressed, evil is let loose, and "God gives the society over to a depraved mind" (Romans 1:28). That's where we are in America today.
We are literally begging for the fate of ancient Judah when that nation turned against God and refused to repent, despite the infliction of many remedial judgments and the warnings of prophets. Some of the saddest words in the Bible, recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, describe what happened:
15) The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;
16) but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
Wake up, America!
Getting Acquainted with Erwin Lutzer
Erwin Lutzer was born in 1941 in Canada and grew up on a farm near Regina, Saskatchewan. He earned a Bachelor of Theology degree from Winnipeg Bible College and then proceeded to Dallas, Texas to study at Dallas Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Theology degree. Later he received a degree in philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago. While he was a student at Dallas Theological, he met his wife, Rebecca.
In 1980 he succeeded Warren Wiersbe as senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago and has served there in that capacity ever since. He is an award-winning author of more than twenty books, a celebrated international conference speaker, and the featured speaker on three radio programs: The Moody Church Hour, Songs in the Night, and Running to Win. These programs are available on the Moody Broadcasting Network, the Bible Broadcasting Network, Trans World Radio and many Christian radio stations around the world.
He and his wife, Rebecca, live in the Chicago area and are the parents of three married children. They have seven grandchildren.
Pastor Lutzer’s parents were born and raised in the Ukraine in a German-speaking community. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Russian government began persecuting all people of German heritage living within its borders. His mother’s parents fled to Siberia; his father’s family went to Afghanistan. Both families ultimately migrated to Canada, and that’s where his parents met – at church.
A few years ago I was invited to be a co-speaker with Pastor Lutzer at two conferences held in the state of Illinois. I looked forward to meeting him personally, and I decided to do some research about his background. In the process I discovered that his father was 106 years old, and his mom was 100! I mentioned this when I met him, and he said it was true at the time the article was written, but that his dad had since died.
He then began chuckling to himself. I asked what was so funny. He said he was thinking about something his father told him shortly before he died. "Son," he said, "your mom and I were talking the other night about how long we have lived, and in the process, it occurred to us that most of our dear friends in Christ died 30 or more years ago. And that’s when we realized that by now, they must have all come to the conclusion that when we died, we went to Hell!"