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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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.

President Obama, Impeachment, And Hitler


Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

I couldn’t help myself. I was in the middle of a blog tour and needed to vent, so I turned to Facebook.

You see, a couple with “Impeach Obama” posters and pictures of the President with a Hitler-style mustache, planted themselves outside the US Post Office which I frequent. As I came out, they drew me into a conversation. I only intended to say they ought not use such slimy tactics to voice their disagreement. I figured they’d hear me because I began by saying I was not a supporter of President Obama.

While they didn’t defend the Hitler allusion, they did boisterously and rudely defend the impeach idea. Such nonsense. I had to rant.

But lo and behold, some of the comments I received on Facebook supported the idea that Mr. Obama should be impeached and some even that it was right to compare him to Hitler.

Support for this kind of character assassination and slander is horrifying to me.

President Obama has done nothing that would equate with what Hitler did. Some might suggest that the millions of babies aborted is absolutely a parallel with Hitler’s genocide. I wouldn’t argue that point, but the fact is, the decision was not President Obama’s.

Abortion has been the law of the land for more than forty years, so one President is not solely responsible for those deaths in the same way that Hitler was responsible for the six million Jews gassed in the extermination camps and the millions of Catholics, disabled, Gypsies, Slavs, Ukrainians, many of Germany’s own citizens, and civilians and soldiers all across Europe. In the abortion issue, if anyone’s to blame, we the people are for not voting a Constitutional amendment to prevent it.

Americans are rightly horrified at the beheadings committed by the ISIS soldiers. Multiply that by millions and you have an idea what Hitler was like.

It’s despicable to compare President Obama to that kind of violent, megalomaniac. What’s more, it’s slanderous, and therefore sinful. Yes, it is sin to say that President Obama has guilt for something he did not do.

Of course, someone might be speaking from ignorance. Perhaps they don’t know what Hitler put the Jewish people through—how he treated them like cattle and forced them to live in inhuman conditions until he came up with his Final Solution.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941 the Nazi government began to conceive of a plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect of the plan, which came to be called the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. (“Final Solution,” Wikipedia)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

By the end of the war, Hitler and his henchmen had managed to kill an estimated two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.

No, President Obama is not Hitler. To put the two names together is to slander President Obama and to denigrate the millions who lost their lives because of the Nazi power grab and subsequent effort at ethnic cleansing.

What’s more, people who make such connections between a despicable, violent, evil man and a President who holds to liberal beliefs, weaken any attempt to show voters why liberal politicians aren’t good for our country. The more unreasonable the opposition, the more likely reasonable people will assume all opposition has such illogical and irrational underpinnings.

Same for the impeachment issue. President Obama should not be impeached because he bombed Syria without receiving Congress’s declaration of war (the contention of the man in front of the Post Office). President Truman, President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Reagan, President Clinton are all former presidents who authorized military force in a foreign land without a Congressional declaration of war. President Obama is following precedent.

Further, on Facebook someone brought up the IRS scandal and the Benghazi attack and cover up. “If President Obama knew . . .” the comment read. Well, that’s it, isn’t it. Usually a person is not tried unless there’s some evidence that he took part in the crime. Until there’s an investigation that uncovers real criminal activity, such as the Watergate investigation turned up, or the evidence that President Clinton lied to the grand jury, then there is no grounds for impeachment. Hearsay, supposition, rumor—none of that provides legal cause for bringing President Obama to trial before the Senate.

But it gets worse. God tells us to honor our leaders. Honor! Not because the man is right or because we agree or we think he’s doing a good job. We are to honor him because of the position he holds as our leader.

It’s a fundamental attitude toward authority that we are losing in the US. The Bible tells children to honor their parents, but today kids disobey and backtalk, and society censors parents for spanking. Workers (servants) are told to do what our bosses say (masters is the actual term) not only when they are good and gentle but even when they are unreasonable.

And the admonition to honor the king came from Peter, for one, during the first century when Rome was hauling Christians into the coliseum and feeding them to lions.

Yes, this is counter-intuitive. And I certainly don’t expect non-Christians to get it. But the truth is, God is in control. God. And He has bigger things in mind than putting band-aids on a well-meaning but fading democracy in the US. Sure, it would be great if the US would be the shining city on a hill, but guess what? That’s actually the role God gave to the Church.

So ought we who profess faith in Jesus Christ as our resurrected Lord who we look to return in power and glory—ought we not be about His business? And how can we claim to be doing so if we spurn such a simple command as honor your king.

I mean, really. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean endorse him or approve of his wrong policies or agree with him when he says something harmful. It does mean we speak about him in a respectful manner and we pray for him—not just that he’ll fail, either—and we praise him when he does right.

If Christians are to be light to the dark world, we need to start with some of our most public expressions—showing that we would rather obey God than the impulses of our hearts.

Published in: on October 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Hitler Should Not Have Been


Adolf_HitlerA good many people seem to have forgotten that if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we’re doomed to repeat them. There’s a lesson we should have learned from Hitler coming to power.

Hitler’s coming into being is not at issue, but the phenomena over which he presided—the creation of the Third Reich; Germany’s invasion of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland; World War II; the Holocaust—should never have taken place.

At the end of World War I, known at the time as the Great War, Germany underwent a revolution which brought to power a moderate government that walked the line between socialists and communists on one side and extreme right wing forces that believed democracy would weaken the country on the other. The new government took the form of a parliamentary republic system and became know as the Weimar Republic.

As the government was being set up and a constitution written, fighting continued between the extreme forces inside Germany.

A Soviet republic was declared in Munich, but was quickly put down by Freikorps and remnants of the regular army. The fall of the Munich Soviet Republic to these units, many of which were situated on the extreme right, resulted in the growth of far-right movements and organisations in Bavaria, including Organisation Consul, the Nazi Party, and societies of exiled Russian Monarchists. Sporadic fighting continued to flare up around the country. In eastern provinces, forces loyal to Germany’s fallen Monarchy fought the republic, while militias of Polish nationalists fought for independence (“Weimar Republic”)

You might liken these circumstances to the sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq along with the Kurds who want their own homeland.

The fledgling German republic faced problems from outside, too. The conquering Allies presented them with a repressive peace treaty which limited the size of Germany’s armed forces, took away land, and required impossible war reparations payments. In addition they maintained a blockade which stifled trade.

Soon the value of the new republic’s currency fell. Inflation grew along with unemployment, and the extreme elements, both left and right, blamed the moderate Weimar government for signing the Treaty of Versailles and for not solving the enormous problems it created.

For a short period, as America extended some financial aid that alleviated some of the pressing problems of the reparations debt and France worked with Germany to solve the land disputes, the Weimar Republic stabilized to a degree.

Then came the Great Depression. With unemployment soaring, the Nazi party gained enough votes in the German parliament to foil attempts to create a working coalition which would allow the government to function. Instead through the use of the emergency powers granted to the president by the constitution, a chancellor was appointed to operate independently of the parliament. Eventually that body was dissolved and new elections took place, bringing a shift away from the republic idea of government.

For three years the chancellor tried to reform the Weimar Republic, often ruling by decrees issued by the president. His policies were unpopular. A new chancellor brought some change, including a second dismantling of the parliament and more elections.

The Nazi party doubled in size but still no party held a majority in parliament. Political maneuvers continued for a year, but in the end, the president appointed Hitler to be the chancellor of Germany.

By early February, a mere week after Hitler’s assumption of the chancellorship, the government had begun to clamp down on the opposition. Meetings of the left-wing parties were banned and even some of the moderate parties found their members threatened and assaulted. Measures with an appearance of legality suppressed the Communist Party in mid-February and included the plainly illegal arrests of Reichstag [parliament] deputies. (“Weimar Republic”)

Late in February the parliament building was set on fire. The following day, using the state of emergency as motivation, Hitler had the president suspend parliament. With the new elections, the last multi-party elections and the last under the Weimar Republic, the Nazis took control.

But where were the Allies?

During all the unrest, the war-weary, depression era governments adopted an appeasement stance with Germany. So when reparation payments stopped, nothing happened. When the military began to rebuild and munitions once again were churned out from German factories, nothing happened.

Having taken a repressive stand early, the Allies now took a permissive approach, letting Germany solve Germany’s problems.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had not treated Germany like a continuing enemy after the war ended, humiliating them and forcing their new government to agree to things that were bad for the country.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had done more to alleviate the economic plight of the country, before the Depression.

Hitler would not have created the havoc he did if the Allies had not appeased him for so long.

So here’s the history lesson. Yes, we are war-weary in the US. Yes, we can say it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place, especially when we hadn’t actually won the war in Afghanistan yet. But as one veteran of Iraq put it, if you break it, you buy it.

If the US doesn’t “own” the new democratic government in Iraq, it is destined to go the way of the Weimar Republic. And who knows what Hitler is waiting in the wings to rise to power.

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Defeated Foe


We’ve all seen it in the movies — the hero engages in an epic battle against the archenemy and after a superhuman effort, knocks him on his back. As he turns to check on his partner/his love interest/the latest victim, the villain pulls out a gun and fires off a shot at our hero. Sometimes, depending on the story, the hero escapes, but sometimes he’s wounded and in a few instances, mortally so.

The point is, defeated foes can still be dangerous.

In the spiritual realm, Christians have a defeated foe. Colossians 2:15 makes this clear: “When [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him.”

Paul is referring to the work of Christ at the cross and God’s raising Him from the dead three days later (Col. 2:12b — “you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”)

And yet Scripture also gives us instructions to stand against Satan, to resist him, flee from him, be alert to him, know his schemes. Why, if he is defeated? Because he is still armed and dangerous.

Hitler’s Germany was a defeated enemy soon after the Americans landed on the shores of France, yet they fought on for nearly a year. None of the allies was about to lay down their weapons or ditch their helmet or return home just because they knew Hitler was doomed. The victory was sure, but the battles still needed to be fought.

The same was true for the people of Israel when they entered the promised land. God told them the victory was sure:

Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them completely, just as the Lord has spoken to you” (Deut. 9:3).

Yes, God crossed over before them. Yes, God destroyed their enemies, and yet the people still needed to drive them out and destroy them. A defeated enemy needed to be defeated.

More specifically, God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho, leaving the enemy no chance to defeat the people of Israel. They were done as soon as the stone crumbled to dust. Except Joshua still needed to take his army into battle. They still needed to defeat the defeated enemy.

Satan is our defeated enemy. We have no need to fear him. In fact, Scripture clearly states, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b). But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still prowling about seeking someone to devour or that he isn’t still our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Because he’s planning to fight to the end, we need to take God’s direction to us seriously when it comes to handling Satan. God has defeated him and now it’s our turn.

Published in: on November 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (6)  
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