We Just Sit Back and Let It Happen


Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day

Ronald Reagan once said, “History will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its good men do nothinghappening.” That happens far too often, and it is an indictment on us all. We in the comfortable West have allowed too many things to take place which never should have happened.

For example far too many folks – Christians included – allowed the evil of human slavery to occur. Few took a stand against it, and those who did were greatly vilified and attacked by those supporting the status quo – and that included way too many Christians.

Indeed, plenty of slave owners were Christians, and they railed against Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce. He was hated and despised not just by non-believers but by believers as well. He was even known as “the most hated man in all of England”.

But he was also known as “the conscience of a nation”. We need many more such champions. They are in the clear minority. The majority prefer to just sit back, comfortable and relaxed, unwilling to rock the boat. Whatever evil may be happening all around them, they will not speak up. They will not resist. They will not do that which is right.

History is full of such apathetic and callous hordes. At the very time when men and women should have stood up and raised their voices, they stayed silent. As a result they permitted horrific evil to occur. They in their silence are just as guilty as those who did the actual evil.

Consider Germany in the 30s and 40s. Most Germans said nothing and did nothing about the developing cloud of Nazism. Indeed, most supported it. And most Christians also kept silent. Those believers who stood against the evil of Hitler were in the clear minority.

A new article gives us a little glimpse into the lives of ordinary Germans during the rise and reign of Nazism. It tells of one young German woman who simply seemed to be oblivious to what was going on around her. As evidenced by her diary entries, she either did not know or did not care. And her story could be multiplied millions of times over. Here is the opening part of the report:

“Her neighbourhood was bombed by the allies, the Jews around the corner were being sent to Auschwitz and the Red Army had launched its final assault on Berlin. But Brigitte Eicke, a teenaged German, was unconcerned. She was far more interested in going to the cinema, dancing to gramophone records and trying to cope with a ‘disastrous’ perm.

“The 15-year-old Berlin schoolgirl, nicknamed ‘Gitti’, started keeping a diary in December 1942, when the German capital was being bombed nightly and the Nazi Holocaust was killing thousands. As a trainee secretary, she recorded her daily experiences to improve her stenography skills.

“Now, some 70 years on, her diary has been published for the first time in Germany and is being hailed as remarkable documentary evidence of how millions of Germans relied on collective indifference to endure the horrors of war and ignore the brutality of the Nazi rule.

“Entitled Backfisch im Bombenkrieg (teenaged girl in bombing war), Eicke’s diary is an often banal account of everyday life. She started writing it just months before Anne Frank began her diary, but the contents could hardly be more different. ‘Gitti is merely a cog in the wheels that kept Nazi Germany turning,’ is how Der Spiegel magazine described the author last week. ‘She is a young woman skilled in the art of blotting out ugliness, willing to believe what she’s told and, ultimately, one of the lucky ones,’ it added.

“Here is Gitti’s entry for 1 February 1944: ‘The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela’s and danced to gramophone records.’ In another raid on her Berlin neighbourhood in March 1943, two people are killed, 34 are injured and more than 1,000 are made homeless. Gitti writes: ‘It took place in the middle of the night, horrible, I was half asleep’.

“In November 1944, Hitler is trying to cripple the advances made after the D-Day landings by planning an offensive in the Ardennes, but Gitti – by now a member of the Nazi Party – is more concerned about her hairdo. She writes that she has just been given a ‘disastrous’ perm by her hairdresser and is worried about going to work ‘looking a fright’.

“Then on 2 March 1945, while Hitler’s troops are trying to halt the Red Army’s advance just 60 miles east of Berlin, Gitti, now 18, goes to the cinema. She writes: ‘Margot and I went to the Admiralspalast cinema to see Meine Herren Söhne. It was such a lovely film, but there was a power cut in the middle. How annoying!’”

OK, that was then, this is now. So how does that relate to today? The parallels are easily found. There is plenty of seismic evil occurring all around us in the West, yet we are sleepwalking through it all. Simply take the abortion holocaust as an example.

With 45-50 million unborn babies killed every year, this makes the Nazi killing machine look rather insipid. We are no different to the Germans of 75 years ago. We worry about our hair. We don’t like to be disturbed. We are annoyed by any interruptions to our life of pleasure and leisure.

“Margot and I went to the mall cinema to see a film. It was such a lovely film, but there was a pro-life demo just outside. How annoying!’” And it is not just the masses of unconcerned and morally numb unbelievers. Most Christians are no different. We have abortuaries close by to our megachurches, yet we are far too interested in being entertained, amused, and theologically coddled than to give a rip about the killing machines next door.

Most pastors will never mention this issue – after all, they have the crowds to please, the buildings to pay off, and the weekly offerings to be concerned about. Rocking the boat and causing offence is the last thing most pastors want to do.

So they will remain silent – deadly silent, about the most important human rights issue of our time. Sure, they may run with a PC sermon on asylum seekers or the “evils of capitalism” once in a while, but they will refuse to speak up for the unborn.

They are safe, secure, and totally in tune with what their listeners want to hear. They will not tell their congregations what they need to hear. Those in the pulpits and pews are well-fed, comfortable, entertained, complacent, lethargic – and dead.

They are those who have blood on their hands. They may know of the 100,000 killed each year in Australia, but they refuse to rouse themselves out of their slumber and damnable indifference. But it is the useless shepherds who are most to be condemned here.

Ezekiel laid it out so very clearly so long ago: “When a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself” (Ez. 3:20-21).

We, the people of God, and our leaders, have blood on our hands. We know great darkness is surrounding us, great evil is enveloping us, yet we say nothing – and we do nothing. But we will not be held guiltless. We will all one day give an account for why we did not obey our Lord.

We will be asked why we ignored verses such as Proverbs 24:11 (Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter) and Proverbs 31:8 (Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves). What will we say on that day?

“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.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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