Assassination


In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, I’m reprising this article that is a lot about him, but also about authority and . . . (gulp) race.

Some years ago I read a biography by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy. You may know that Bonhoeffer was one of the Germans involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler.

Everything I’d heard about Bonhoeffer was positive. Specifically people refer to his strong Christian beliefs. I have a copy of his book The Cost of Discipleship, though I’ve never read it. You see, I have this problem with plotting an assassination.

Granted, Hitler was an evil man, but so were the Roman Caesars under which the early church came into being. Yet Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to be subject to rulers and Peter echoed the concept:

Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to the king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him . . . (1 Peter 2:13-14a)

So I’ve always had a problem thinking of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the Christian faith or even of the human race. Is it ever right to do wrong?

Our times are troubled, too. When the 2016 political conventions drew near, the news referred to the tightening of security and the barriers and the buffer zone those tasked with keeping the candidates safe had to erect. Of course they replayed footage of a crazed spectator at one of Donald Trump’s rallies jumping onto the stage, and another clip of the police leading away a man who said he came to shoot Mr. Trump.

Shortly thereafter assassinations of the five Dallas policemen (and the wounding of more officers and a few civilians) made the news.

I thought back to the assassination of President Kennedy (yes, I can remember it). He’d been elected by the slimmest of margins, but the whole nation mourned his death. I suspect if there were to be such a tragedy today involving our President or any of the candidates, we would not pull together. We might actually see a deepening of the bitterness and hatred that has been seething in our country.

All this brought to mind another assassination—perhaps the worst crime in America—that by John Wilkes Booth of President Abraham Lincoln. I say “the worst crime” because I believe, apart from slavery itself, the period after the Civil War is most responsible for the roots of racism and poverty and injustice we see in America today.

President Lincoln had a plan for reconstruction of the South. Had he continued to serve as President until the end of his term, I suspect there would not have been Carpetbaggers or Shanty Towns or Ku Klux Klans or Jim Crow laws or black voter disenfranchisement or segregation.

Change would not have been easy but there were already allies President Lincoln could have called on to implement his ideas for reconstruction—hundreds of white abolitionists who had taken up the call to eliminate slavery and an untold number of heroic white station masters and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

Before the war was over, President Lincoln had begun to put into place piece of a reconstruction plan that would address the new societal realities—Southern plantation owners without a work force, and often with homes and outbuildings burned to the ground; and freed slaves without jobs, uneducated, and homeless.

He established temporary military governorships that would administrate the Southern states. He established The Freedmen’s Bureau which helped

African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write, considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as the government. Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations, urged freed Blacks to gain employment above all, kept an eye on contracts between the newly free labor and planters, and pushed both whites and blacks to work together as employers and employees rather than as masters and as slaves. (Wikipedia)

The Bill that set up the Freedmen’s Bureau expired in a year. Congress voted to extend it, but the new President, Andrew Johnson, vetoed it.

How might history have been changed if President Lincoln had lived! It’s impossible to know.

Considering the possibilities, though, I’m mindful of the influence of one life, one life on an entire nation.

How might the world be different if President Lincoln had lived? How might the world be different if Hitler had died?

Above all the machinations of leaders and rebels and assassins stands our sovereign God. No, He wasn’t pulling strings like a puppet master, but He superintends all that is His—which is everything. So the struggle in our society today isn’t off track any more than the struggle the first Christians endured at the hand of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

Humanly speaking we can look at causes and effects. We can play the “what if” game or the “if only” game. But God does more with less, and brings life out of ashes. He restores and redeems.

I wish He had seen fit to heal the racial divide in our country right out of the starting blocks, before the ink was dry on the surrender Robert E. Lee signed.

More so, I wish slavery had never become an American institution.

But I imagine many Germans wish Hitler had never happened, or that East Germany had never happened.

It’s the old story of evil and evil men seeming to flourish while the righteous helplessly cry out to God to be their refuge.

So I wonder. Does it take the progression of evil to make the righteous cry out to God? I don’t know. But I think we’re at the place where crying out to God to be our refuge makes perfect sense. In reality, no matter what our circumstances, crying out to God makes sense. But in times like these, we need an anchor.

Published in: on February 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm  Comments Off on Assassination  
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Election Choice For The Christian


2016-debate1

I find a lot of irony in the upcoming US Presidential election, particularly because the two candidates take such extreme positions.

On one hand Sec. Clinton, who was a left-leaning liberal during her husband’s presidency, has moved further left in her determination to defeat socialist Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

On the other hand Mr. Trump advocates for a fascist type government in which he calls the shots—about trade and treaty-breaking and immigration policy and . . . well, just about any subject he addresses—ignoring what the Constitution says about the powers of the President.

The irony in all this is that Germany in the aftermath of World War I also faced the same kind of polarizing forces, which played a part in Adolf Hitler becoming the powerful dictator who initiated such inhumane policies and led Germany into the second world war. For the purpose of the discussion about what Christians should do in the upcoming election here in the US, I think it’s important to note that the church was especially divided and unsure what to do about Hitler.Not just in Germany:

In August [American evangelical leader Frank] Buchman made his tragic remark: “I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism” . . . it did not reflect his wider thinking on the subject. Still, it illustrates how easily even the most serious Christians were initially taken in by Hitler’s conservative pseudo-Christian propaganda. (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, p. 290)

Hindsight is always so clear. We know now that Hitler needed to be stopped, that his abject racism was deadly.

But what would have happened if Communism had won the day? What if the German industrial-military complex had joined forces with a Joseph Stalin-ruled Russia? In other words, were there any good choices?

Some people found their choice in leaving Germany. Others ignored the politics, and the rumors of war crimes and death camps in the hopes that they would be left alone to go about their business as unhindered as possible. Still others chose one side or the other to support.

When Hitler was firmly in charge, a small group of Christians protested the obvious and egregious policies being carried out by the Nazis. For instance Jewish Christians who had already been ordained were banned from serving as ministers and later from attending church with “Aryans.” Bonhoeffer and others of like mind took a stand against this policy. But others in the church did not. In fact, many felt Bonhoeffer was off base. They had embraced the Nazis, as demonstrated by their church gathering which came to be known as the Brown Synod because it was more like a Nazi rally than a church meeting.

The time for schism had arrived. A church synod had officially voted to exclude a group of persons from Christian ministry simply because of their ethnic background. The German Christians had clearly broken away from the true and historical faith. (Bonhoeffer, p. 187)

It’s easy to look back and say, Why did those people who professed faith miss their departure from God’s word? How could they not see that they were supporting a government policy over the clear instruction of God?

I have to wonder, though, if many didn’t see their choices as limited. They were backing what they believed to be the lesser of two evils—the Nazis instead of the Communists.

Bonhoeffer didn’t take that route. He had the opportunity to leave Germany and in fact did so for a short time before he felt convicted he needed to stand with his fellow true Christians, come what may. He openly protested as long as that action was allowed. He found ways to skirt the laws meant to reduce his influence, and finally, he joined with others seeking an opportunity to overthrow the wicked empire Hitler had erected.

All this history influences my thinking about the upcoming Presidential election. What are the choices Christians have? We can leave. We can ignore the election, keep our heads down, and hope whoever wins won’t do anything that will dramatically affect our daily life. We can support one or the other of the candidates because we think it is the lesser of the two evils and believe the greater evil is unbearable. Or we can protest.

Today the idea of protest prompts thoughts of marching in groups, waving placards and disrupting traffic. Bonhoeffer didn’t protest in that way. He didn’t take a knee during the national anthem or any of the kinds of protest gestures people are making to call attention to injustice today.

Bonhoeffer instead built a sound Scriptural argument that he circulated far and wide. He countered propaganda with the truth. He taught—first in the seminar, and when no longer allowed to do so, in a one on one discipleship setting that he created.

Today we American Christians do have other choices. There are third party candidates that we can vote for instead of Mr. Trump or Sec. Clinton. To do so would be a protest. It would be a way of making our voices heard: neither of the major party candidates is worthy to be our next President.

Then, when one wins, we can counter the propaganda that will inevitably swirl around the winner by holding them to a high standard. It’s not OK to lie to the American people, to treat people unjustly, to play to either greed or entitlement. We need to lead the way in opposing policies that oppose Scripture—not because we want to make things “the way they used to be” or to create a comfortable life for ourselves, but because as God’s people, we need to stand for right, no matter which party is in power.

Assassination


cover_BonhoefferI started a new biography today: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy by Eric Metaxas. You may know that Bonhoeffer was one of the Germans who unsuccessfully plotted to assassinate Hitler.

Everything I’ve heard about Bonhoeffer has been positive. Specifically people refer to his strong Christian beliefs. I have a copy of his book The Cost of Discipleship, though I’ve never read it. You see, I have this problem with plotting an assassination.

Granted, Hitler was an evil man, but so were the Roman Caesars under which the early church came into being. Yet Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to be subject to rulers and Peter echoed the concept:

Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to the king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him . . . (1 Peter 2:13-14a)

So I’ve always had a problem thinking of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the Christian faith or even of the human race. Is it ever right to do wrong?

Our times are troubled, so assassination hit the news too. As the political conventions draw near, the news referred to the tightening of security and the barriers and the buffer zone those tasked with keeping the candidates safe have had to erect. Of course they replayed footage of a crazed spectator at one of Donald Trump’s rallies jumping onto the stage, and another clip of the police leading away a man who said he came to shoot Mr. Trump.

In light of the recent assassinations of the five Dallas policemen (and the wounding of more officers and a few civilians) the safety concerns seem legitimate.

I thought back to the assassination of President Kennedy (yes, I can remember it). He’d been elected by the slimmest of margins, but the whole nation mourned his death. I suspect if there were to be such a tragedy today involving our President or either candidate, we would not pull together. We might actually see a deepening of the bitterness and hatred that has been seething in our country.

All this brought to mind another assassination—perhaps the worst crime in America—that by John Wilkes Booth of President Abraham Lincoln. I say “the worst crime” because I believe, apart from slavery itself, the period after the Civil War is most responsible for the roots of racism and poverty and injustice we see in America today.

President Lincoln had a plan for reconstruction of the South. Had he continued to serve as President until the end of his term, I suspect there would not have been Carpetbaggers or Shanty Towns or Ku Klux Klans or Jim Crow laws or black voter disenfranchisement or segregation.

Change would not have been easy but there were already allies President Lincoln could have called on to implement his ideas for reconstruction—hundreds of white abolitionists who had taken up the call to eliminate slavery and an untold number of heroic white station masters and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

Before the war was over, President Lincoln had begun to put into place piece of a reconstruction plan that would address the new societal realities—Southern plantation owners without a work force, and often with homes and outbuildings burned to the ground; and freed slaves without jobs, uneducated, and homeless.

He established temporary military governorships that would administrate the Southern states. He established The Freedmen’s Bureau which helped

African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write, considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as the government. Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations, urged freed Blacks to gain employment above all, kept an eye on contracts between the newly free labor and planters, and pushed both whites and blacks to work together as employers and employees rather than as masters and as slaves. (Wikipedia)

The Bill that set up the Freedmen’s Bureau expired in a year. Congress voted to extend it, but the new President, Andrew Johnson, vetoed it.

How might history have been changed if President Lincoln had lived! It’s impossible to know.

Considering the possibilities, though, I’m mindful of the influence of one life, one life on an entire nation.

How might the world be different if President Lincoln had lived? How might the world be different if Hitler had died?

Above all the machinations of leaders and rebels and assassins stands our sovereign God. No, He wasn’t pulling strings like a puppet master, but He superintends all that is His—which is everything. So the struggle in our society today isn’t off track any more than the struggle the first Christians endured at the hand of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

Humanly speaking we can look at causes and effects. We can play the “what if” game or the “if only” game. But God does more with less, and brings life out of ashes. He restores and redeems.

I wish He had seen fit to heal the racial divide in our country right out of the starting blocks, before the ink was dry on the surrender Robert E. Lee signed.

More so, I wish slavery had never become an American institution.

But I imagine many Germans wish Hitler had never happened, or that East Germany had never happened.

It’s the old story of evil and evil men seeming to flourish while the righteous helplessly cry out to God to be their refuge.

So I wonder. Does it take the progression of evil to make the righteous cry out to God? I don’t know. But I think we’re at the place where crying out to God to be our refuge makes perfect sense. In reality, no matter what our circumstances, crying out to God makes sense. But in times like these, we need an anchor.

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