A Radio Interview with Erwin Lutzer
Kevin Swanson: We are going to be looking at the pattern of Nazi Germany today on this edition of the Generations Radio broadcast, because there are some similarities between the rise of the Third Reich and what is going on in our country today. To talk about this very important subject I have Erwin Lutzer on the line with me. He is the author of many wonderful books including a new book called, When a Nation Forgets God: Seven Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany. He has been Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980. Erwin Lutzer, welcome to the Generations broadcast.
Erwin Lutzer: I’m so glad to be with you today, Kevin.
Kevin Swanson: It’s good to have you with us. And you are coming to Denver, Colorado for our Christian Home Educators of Colorado Conference in June of 2013. Folks can schedule that into their calendars right now. We are looking forward to you coming out to Denver.
Erwin Lutzer: Well I’m looking forward to it too.
Kevin Swanson: You compare America to 1920s and 1930s Germany. Are there clear comparisons?
Erwin Lutzer: Oh yes, there are. I point out in my book that it would be very dangerous for us to make the parallels too strict because America isn’t Nazi Germany. But what I talk about in my book are cultural streams. That is to say, cultural streams that formed the “Nazi river.” For example, when God is separated from government, there is judgement. What Hitler tried to do is to scrub the state clean of any Christian influence. He never discouraged people from going to church. He couldn’t have cared less if they went to church, just as long as it didn’t mean anything.
Kevin Swanson: As long as it didn’t affect the culture. It seems like that’s happening here too.
Erwin Lutzer: And then of course he had certain rules. One of our heroes is Niemoller. Niemoller was tried for “abuse of pulpit.” That was the charge against him. Abuse of pulpit is something like hate-speech laws today. Niemoller was accused of saying things in the pulpit that were contrary to the Reich, and you weren’t supposed to do that. And today you can see that; you can see the alienation of the Christian worldview. Now, I’m from the city of Chicago, and I think of our own mayor who made the statement that Chick-fil-A was not welcome in the city because the [restaurant’s] owner made a statement that he was in favor of traditional marriage. What our mayor said was that these are not Chicago values. Can you even imagine that? What’s next? Christian bookstores sell books that are opposed to same-sex marriage. So you can see that we are in a period of transition where Christianity is being marginalized and pushed into a private life-style within the walls of the church, which is another way to say, into irrelevancy.
Kevin Swanson: What was the moral condition of Germany in the 1920s just prior to the Nazis taking over? Does that have any bearing on this?
Erwin Lutzer: I’ll tell you what the real moral condition was: namely, there was a tremendous amount of anger because World War I ended and Germany had signed the Treaty of Versailles, and so what you had then was the collapse of the economy. There’s no way that Hitler could have risen to power apart from an economy that had gone to seed and where you had this rampant inflation. When people are starving, when they’re lining up in soup lines in the cities, they are willing to follow anybody who has a plan, who is a good leader, who uses propaganda well. Hitler was able to do mighty miracles in stimulating the German economy. I remember a German who told me that there was such a sense of euphoria regarding Hitler that people were willing to override their conscience. And those who stood against it lost their lives.
Kevin Swanson: It sounds to me like people started seeing the state as the savior and Adolf Hitler as the messiah, as though he would step in and save them from the economic turmoil and trials of the day.
Erwin Lutzer: And you know, at first it appeared as if he had. In other words, he stimulated the economy. People were willing to work fifteen and twenty hours a day for the sake of the state. In fact, in my book I have a quote from a pastor who said, “Let us no longer speak about the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament, let us speak of the miracles of a revived Germany.” There was such nationalism in Germany, such a commitment to the state. And unfortunately they followed the state right over the cliff.
Kevin Swanson: Do you think Americans today look to the state as their savior as those at the time of the Nazis did?
Erwin Lutzer: Well, I wouldn’t put it in the same category, but the answer is yes because what you have is more and more reliance upon government funding. Dependence upon the state is very important in America and of growing importance. And so what you have is a society where the government begins to limit freedom because the government does all of these things for you.
Kevin Swanson: In your book you talk about two kinds of churches in Germany at that time: the liberal churches and the pietistic churches. You find problems with both of them.
Erwin Lutzer: The liberal churches had given up the gospel, and they were so nationalistic that they actually began to promote Hitler. The pietists were very interesting. They held on to the gospel and they wanted to have warm hearts of obedience to Christ—which they did—and they are to be commended. But they also believed that the church should not get involved in all of these political issues. So in my book I tell the story, which is true, of a train that ran close to one of these pietistic churches. They knew when the train was coming, so they made sure that they were singing songs when the train rumbled by so as to not think about it, because they knew those trains were filled with Jews on their way to a concentration camp. Now here’s the point: we can be very critical of them, but what would we have done? We think that the church failed and we would have done something different. I don’t think we would have. We have also become paralyzed in our churches.
Kevin Swanson: I guess we should take opportunities to intervene, whether that be from the pulpit or through politics, when we have those opportunities. Can you think of ways that Christians might act right now while they yet have the opportunity?
Erwin Lutzer: I think first in the area of education. We need to find out what’s going on here. We need to instruct our children and combat the indoctrination that is happening in the schools. And then let’s not forget the power of the gospel. We have to remember we have a very precious treasure, the fact that Jesus died for us as sinners. We need to give that message of hope, forgiveness, cleansing, and deliverance to a nation that is confused and has lost its way. And I think we have an obligation to instruct our people both biblically as to what the Bible says and, wherever possible, to prescribe a course of action. I don’t think that’s contrary to the gospel, I think it’s living out the gospel.
Kevin Swanson: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I recommend the book to you, When a Nation Forgets God, by Erwin Lutzer. Thank you so much, Erwin Lutzer, for joining us on Generations. We appreciate you.
Erwin Lutzer: Thank you and God bless you.
Homeschooled himself in the 1960′s and 70′s, Kevin Swanson and his wife, Brenda, are now homeschooling their five children. Kevin has 35 years of experience in the homeschooling movement and serves as the Director of Generations with Vision – a ministry he founded to strengthen homeschool families around the country. As a father who wants to leave a godly heritage for his own five children, Kevin’s passion is to strengthen and encourage the homeschooling movement all over the world, and to cast a vision for generations to come.
For the complete version of this interview go to GenerationsRadio.com. Generations Radio is a daily radio broadcast covering many everyday issues from the perspective of a biblical worldview and within the framework of a relational model of living: worldview and relationships. This article originally appeared in Generations Magazine, © 2012 by Generations with Vision. Generations with Vision is a registered DBA of Christian Home Educators of Colorado. This publication is free to any who request it. Donations are gladly accepted. To add or remove your name from this mailing list, please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Generations is published by Generations with Vision. P.O. Box 1398, Elizabeth, CO80107-1398. Volume 3. Used by permission of Kevin Swanson.
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