First They Came For the Bakers and Florists…

Update: As Nick Matzke pointed out in the comments, I misattributed that famous poem. It was, of course, Martin Niemoeller, not Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote it.

The Christian right seems to be uniting around a theme on all this “religious liberty” nonsense. In the last few days I’ve seen several articles declaring that this is the “Bonhoeffer moment” for Christians. You may recall Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the German Christian who resisted the Nazis and wrote that famous poem:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

So now it’s “first they came for the baker” and “first they came for the florists.” But in fact, first they came for the slaveowners. Virtually identical rhetoric was used by the Confederacy and its advocates in the church. The heathen federal government, which hated Christianity and wanted to destroy it, was coming for the noble slaveowners of the South, who were only following the word of God in holding slaves. That was widely believed and preached in the 1850s and 60s, and in fact continues to be preached today by southern nationalists and neo-confederates. And the Christian apologists for the status quo lost the battle and were forced to assimilate.

And then they came for those good Christian men, trying to dilute their influence by giving women the right to vote. This would destroy families because the husband and wife might disagree politically, you see, and it was all a plot by — again — the anti-Christian federal government to destroy Christianity. The Bible, after all, made very clear that the wife was subordinate to the husband and that he made the decisions. Thus it was sinful and un-Christian to allow women the vote. And the Christian apologists for the status quo lost the battle and were forced to assimilate.

And then they came for those Christians in the South who were only doing their religious duty and protecting the white race, which God favored above all, by oppressing blacks. The heathen, anti-Christian federal government was sending its jackbooted thugs into the South to force the God-fearing Christians to allow black people to vote, to be served by their businesses, to be educated in the same schools. And the Christian apologists for the status quo lost the battle and were forced to assimilate.

And now they’re coming for those Christians who think gay people are less than human. Their Christian faith demands that they discriminate against gays and lesbians, that they refuse to serve them in their businesses, that they oppress them at every turn. After all, the Bible makes clear that they are an abomination to the Lord. And once again they are losing the battle. And once again they’re making exactly the same arguments that have been made for more than 150 years, that it’s the Christians who are being oppressed when we stop letting them oppress those that their religion teaches them to disapprove of and rule over.

When you start the Bonhoeffer quote where it ought to start, it kind of loses its power.

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  • david

    The communists, socialists, and trade unionists were jailed (in Nazi Germany) for seeking justice for all, and for opposing a state-imposed fascist ideology.

    The “Christian” florists and bakers are punished (today) for refusing justice to a minority, and they demand a state-imposed ideology.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Given the vast majority of good christians who stood by (or helped) while the Nazis killed Jews, that’s a really dumb thing to raise.

  • John Pieret

    Gott Mit Uns!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.matzke nicholasmatzke

    This is not completely on point for your present purposes in this post, but —

    Pretty sure the quote is by Martin Niemoller, not Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Niemoller was a more senior & conservative pastor (he was a U-Boat captain in WW1), but he got in trouble for sermon with the title “Gott ist mein Fuhrer” or something like that. Unlike Bonhoeffer, Niemoller survived his concentration camp experience and said the quote afterwards.

    The quote itself has an interesting history of evolution, not least because apparently Niemoller himself had various versions over the decades. And then there are the mis-quotes that add Catholics etc. that were not really targetted by the Nazis.

    This is the definitive page IIRC:

    http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/niem.htm

  • raven

    There is one group that always shows up to oppose Hate Crimes legislation.

    Fundie xian ministers.

    Hate is important to them. It’s the basis of their perversion of xianity. No hate = No fundie xianity. And they know it.

    They are also too dumb to know what Hate Crimes are. Hate is perfectly legal under Hate Crimes laws. Hate Crimes are crimes that require two things, hate and crimes.

  • raven

    Who else are they going to add to their To Hate and Discrimate Lists?

    To take off on the quote.

    First we hated the gays.

    Then we hated the Atheists and Pagans.

    Then we hated the scientists.

    Then we hated women.

    Then we hated nonwhites.

    Then we hated heretics: Fake xians, Catholics, Mormons, Mainline Protestants

    Then we hated divorced people, adulters, and nonvirgin brides.

    Then we hated nonxians.

    Finally there was no one left to hate. So we hated each other. And we hated ourselves.

    This is basically what fundie xianity is and always has been.

  • kantalope

    They really need to update their references: first they came for the gestapo, then they came for the brownshirts…

  • raven

    I’m sure the discrimation is my right and my religion folks will add other groups to their list.

    At the least it will be nonxians, Pagans, and atheists.

    Shrug. It does work both ways. I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby or chick-Fil-A. We used to have something called the Xian Yellow Pages. I always thought it was a good idea to find out where not to shop. To be sure, I don’t refuse to patronize stores and services just because they are owned and run by xians. Just the out and loud hater groups.

  • Artor

    “When you start the Bonhoeffer quote where it ought to start, it kind of loses its power.”

    On the contrary, when directed appropriately, I think it becomes much more powerful. That’s a piece of poetry I can stand behind.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And now they’re coming for those Christians who think gay people are less than human.

    They do not. Look, it’s a zero sum game. Every bouquet they’re forced to give away to gayhomos leaves one less bouquet for Normal Americans. Imagine all the broken hearts all across America, when manly men can’t get a bouquet that matches their favorite NASCAR team or new shotgun.

    That’s not my America!

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Finally there was no one left to hate. So we hated each other. And we hated ourselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBKIyCbppfs

  • dingojack

    ‘I think it’s important we have a sense of perspective, in Kenya they hang you for the crime of being Christian’.

    Just ask Tom Cotton… @@

    Dingo

  • Michael Heath

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s poem conveniently ignores the fact that the Nazis went after homosexuals about the same time they want after communists, which was prior to their going after Jewish people.

    Mr. Bonhoeffer knew his audience and where they drew the line. If he’d written it a few decades later I’m confident he’d have left out the Communists.

  • eamick

    @4: It was indeed Niemöller, not Bonhoeffer.

  • iangould

    I prefer to think of Bornhoeffer as the war criminal, Fascist and antisemite who supported the Nazis right up to the point where their desire to kill or deport German Jews conflicted with his desire to forcibly convert them to Christianitry.

  • sabrekgb

    @5 raven

    There is one group that always shows up to oppose Hate Crimes legislation.

    To be fair, there are others who, and good reasons to, oppose hate crimes legislation that have nothing to do with bigotry or religious domination. Hateful christians may oppose them for the wrong reasons, but there are other right reasons to do so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1360322113 aaronbaker

    First they cam for the poinsettias, but I was not a poinsettia, so I did not speak out;

    Then they came for the gluten-free flour . . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1360322113 aaronbaker

    @15:

    I think you’re mixing Bonhoeffer up with someone else. I think he was a consistent anti-Nazi from the start. He also RETURNED to Germany from a safe academic post in New York–thus his arrest and eventual execution.