Lessons on Tyranny from a Valkyrie Conspirator
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who refused to go along with the Nazi program during the WW2 era. He led a group of like-minded ministers in forming an alliance known as the Confessing Church movement, which was dedicated to standing in defiance and separation from the national churches of Germany. Those churches had capitulated and compromised with Hitler’s agenda. He was also later involved in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler. Of course, this attempt failed. Bonhoeffer was eventually hanged for his part in the scheme.
Let me recommend a new biography to you. It has been a tremendous source of challenge, affirmation, and encouragement to me as I’ve wrestled with what it means to be an under-shepherd in service to the flock of God, in the face of increasing tyranny and despotism from our own government. The book is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. (Paperback version here and Kindle version here.)
In addition to being a fine biography of a great man of faith, it is also an eye-opening first-hand account (through Bonhoeffer’s own writings at the time) of the German history of the period, and the rise of Hitler and his Naziism. I won’t spoil it for you, but the parallels between what was going on then and what is happening day by day in our own country are chilling.
What I want to focus on here is a simple three-part outline that Bonhoeffer came up with, concerning our duties as Christian patriots in the face of government-gone-mad. Imagine the government of the United States as an ancient war chariot, being furiously driven across our land. Here are Bonhoeffer’s three rights and duties of Christians in the face of that chariot.
First, Christians have the right and the duty to question the chariot driver about the direction he’s taking and how he’s driving. Modern churchy folks sometimes talk about “speaking truth to power.” That’s kind of what he was getting at. The church as a whole, and Christians individually, have a right and a duty to stand in the face of overwhelming public opinion and supposed “authority,” and to raise their Bibles and say, “You are wrong. You need to repent, change your direction, turn around. The word of the Lord tells me so.”
Secondly, they have a duty to come to the aid of those innocents who are being crushed under the wheels of that lunatic chariot. In Bonhoeffer’s day, that meant the Jews and converted Jewish Christians who were being systematically kicked out of their jobs and professional associations. They would be physically hunted later. In our day, it surely must mean the multitudes of victims of abortion, as well as (under Obamacare) those like Hobby Lobby who are being treated to some legal thumb-screws on account of their religious convictions.
Bonhoeffer’s third right/duty of Christians is the one that got him in trouble. He had the audacity to act on his beliefs. Imagine that. That is, he was convinced that if our mad chariot keeps destroying its own people, at some point it becomes the duty of Christian citizens to spike the wheels of that chariot. This is, of course, the concept that led to him taking his final breath at the end of a rope.
To many American evangelicals, that idea (spiking the chariot wheels) sounds radical, dangerous and even unchristian. In fact, a family drove an hour and a half last Sunday to visit our little church, and the reason was they had finally had it “up to here” with their own big-church pastor telling them that Scripture forbids them from even criticizing the current administration. They knew in their bones that couldn’t be right. They were thrilled to find a preacher of a different spirit nearby.
Centuries ago, one of the great minds of Christian history, Thomas Aquinas, wrote this:
“A tyrannical rule cannot in any reasonable construction be accounted lawful, and therefore the disturbance of such a government cannot be esteemed seditious, much less traitorous.”
But now we have hordes of pastors with soul patches and skinny jeans who resolutely refuse to go where men like Bonhoeffer and Aquinas ventured. I for one do not think that either Christianity or America is better off for those hipster hordes. They misuse Romans 13:1-7 to justify themselves, and to baptize you into their own apathy toward liberty. And let me stress this: It is a gross misuse, a craven mishandling, and they will give an account for it.
Arm yourself against them. Arm your family and your friends and your church members against them. As an aid to your patriotic vigilance, check out the Kindle book, Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christian Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers.
Let me end this with one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most challenging quotes. Modern Evanjellyfish need to take heed.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.