First They Came…..

First They Came….. October 11, 2019

In a recent article in another blog here on Patheos, on the subject of not voting as a matter of principle, the following comment was posted by Greg Wertz:

The problem here is that no matter how fervently you believe you are part of some magical Kingdom in the sky, you are most definitely part (of) whatever country you happen to live in here on Earth. And like it or not, not voting is still voting. So if you think candidate X is horrific, but can’t vote for his opponent on principle, then if candidate X wins you absolutely do own everything evil that comes with him. Thus the (poeticized) confession of Martin Niemöller…

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The story of Niemöller is an interesting one. He was a German Lutheran pastor born in 1892. He was an on-and-off supporter of Hitler, whom he knew personally. Hitler had assured him that he would protect the Church, and that he would not persecute the Jews. Later, when Hitler broke both of those promises, Niemöller came out against the Nazi regime and was imprisoned for many years in various concentration camps. He was released by Allied troops in 1945, and became a leading voice in criticizing the churches in Germany for not openly opposing the Nazis.

In 1946, he made the following “confession speech:”

…the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers. Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians – “should I be my brother’s keeper?”

Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. – I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? — Only then did the church as such take note.

Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible?

The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers. … I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out.

We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 – there must have been a possibility – 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30-40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now.

Since then, Niemöller has been both praised and criticized for his actions, but he paid a steep price for his eventual opposition. He spent more than seven years in Nazi concentration camps.

The excerpt above is taken from this Wikipedia article with a detailed account of his life:…

The parallels to our current situation are stunning…with a President who has vast support in this country, especially from Evangelical Christians, despite his obvious moral shortcomings, disruptive and incoherent foreign policy, and bigotry.(see note) And yet, some of them say that Trump was “anointed by God” to be President. Will their leaders be making similar confession speeches in a few years?

NOTE: Trump claims he is not a bigot, but his actions speak louder than words…and so do the actions of his supporters:

"Which is why I stated that we could be like God, not be God."

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