Journalist Heinrich Heine wrote in 1834: “Christianity – and that is [Germany’s] greatest merit – has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic love of war… Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage … will once more burst into flame.
“This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals.
“A play will be performed in Germany that will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.” (The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, 1834)
Heine also warned, “Where they burn books, they will also burn people.”
Nothing could be more profound than walking into a gas chamber at Auschwitz, where people were crammed in, poisoned, and then shoved into incinerators.
But that is what happened only a few years after Hitler burned books and eliminated Christianity from German culture. After invading Poland he said, “It shall be the priests’ task to keep the Poles calm, numb, and dumb.”
Recently I joined 110 ministers and faith leaders and Gov. Mike Huckabee on a tour retracing the steps of Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.
The first day, we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau and Gov. Huckabee pointed out that (view video) “innocent, unarmed people were murdered by the most educated, scientifically advanced, theologically trained, modernized, German citizens, who after incinerating people, went home every day and ate dinner with their family and played with their children.”
More than 50 million died in WWII because of one evil man and those who ignored his rise to power. Sadly, after WWII’s end, Poland was not liberated. As Pastor Brad Sherman wrote, the Allies didn’t finish the job. Poland’s occupiers only changed from German to Russian. Under Stalin, over 50 million more were slaughtered shortly after the war.
In Poland, the Soviets first destroyed churches and crosses. For 45 years they suffered, until, as Gov. Huckabee proclaimed (view video) Poland’s, and all of Eastern Europe’s freedom, came from “the spiritual energy of the pulpit.” In fact, the most influential political leader during pre-and post-Nazi and Communist-occupied Poland was Pope John Paul II.
Why? Because of the power of the cross.
One Polish Monsignor explained, “Why are Communists, why is totalitarianism, all against the cross? Because anyone can stand beneath the cross, and beneath the cross they receive strength to go forward to live.”
He said the Pope “defended the cross. Because he knew that to defend the cross was to defend men, to defend his values, to defend life.”
A Catholic pope may sound the least likely to inspire evangelical ministers—but his emphasis on freedom through Jesus Christ, and his people’s response, cannot be ignored.
Pope John Paul II asked a crowd of 3 million people “Is it possible to dismiss Christ and everything which he brought into the annals of the human being? Of course it is possible. The human being can say to God, ‘No.’ But the critical question is: Should he? And in the name of what ‘should’ he?”
They responded by singing, “We want God in the family circles, in the care of parents, in our children’s dreams.” They repeatedly sang, “Christos Vincint, Christos Regnant, Christos Emperat” (Christ is victorious, Christ reigns, and Christ is the true emperor).
May you all be blessed and encouraged this advent season as we pray for renewal and revival throughout our country. I ask that God give you the courage and spiritual energy in and out of the pulpit so that Americans also will boldly cry, “We want God!”
Here are a few pastors’ reflections from this part of the trip, and next week I’ll send Part 2 of my reflections from The Journey.