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... Despite their opposition to the Nazi regime, they said: “We accuse ourselves for not having been more courageous in confessing our convictions, more faithful in saying our prayers, more joyful in expressing our faith, and more ardent in showing our love.” These clergymen hoped that this declaration would be a distinct trumpet call to action, triggering a fresh start.
A Religious or a Political Trumpet—Which?
Possibly embarrassed that their church did so little in opposing Hitler, many German Lutherans today are quick to attack governmental policies. Lutheran clergy, for example, were among the early organizers of Europe’s antinuclear movement. In 1984 a group of North German Lutheran pastors began urging men of draft age to refuse military service. The church condemned this action, however, saying it showed “considerable political intolerance for the feelings of Christians who think otherwise.” At its 1986 general synod, the church defended its right to discuss political issues and then did so. It expressed disappointment at the results of the superpower summit in Iceland and debated at length government policy on refugees, unemployment, and nuclear power plants.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this political activism. Luther, were he alive today, would surely condemn it, according to Professor Heiko Oberman, an authority on the Reformation leader. And Rolf Scheffbuch, Lutheran deacon, complains that nowadays the genuineness of Christian faith is too quickly measured by one’s attitude toward apartheid or missile deployment.
It is obvious that political differences are dividing the church. It is also obvious that the “longtime love affair” between Church and State is showing “signs of fatigue” and is getting “rusty,” as Bishop Hans-Gernot Jung recently expressed it. This explains the reprimanding words uttered by a ranking German politician in 1986: “When dying forests are discussed at greater length than Jesus Christ, the church has lost sight of its real commission.”
Protestantism, as its name indicates, arose from a desire to protest against what had gone before. Thus, from its founding, Protestantism has tended to be liberal, receptive to new ideas, open-minded in its approach, willing to adapt to the norms of the moment. Nothing illustrates this better than Protestant theology. With no final authority to rule on doctrine—such as the Vatican in the case of Catholics—every theologian has been permitted to blow his own trumpet of theological interpretation.
Discordant Theological Trumpeters
This has resulted in some very strange sounds. Time magazine reported an example in 1979: “Do you have to believe in God to be a Protestant minister? The answer, as in so many cases these days, is yes and no. Germany, in particular, has been a veritable font of Protestant doubt for decades. But last week, deciding it had to draw the line somewhere, West Germany’s United Evangelical Lutheran Church . . . unfrocked the Rev. Paul Schulz for heresy. . . . Since 1971 he has preached that the existence of a personal God is ‘a comforting invention of human beings.’ . . . Prayer? Mere ‘self-reflection.’ . . . Jesus? A normal man with good things to say who was later glorified into the Son of God by early Christians.” Indicating that “Schulz’s notions are not new, or even rare” was the fact that during the hearings he “played to a sometimes cheering gallery of theology students.” And despite its action, “the commission insisted that it still favors ‘a wide spectrum’ of individual interpretation.”
Pointing to this wide spectrum of individual interpretation, a newspaper editorial says that Protestant theology lacks “conceptual clarity and theoretical exactness” and calls it “elementary hodgepodge theology that comes across no less sterile than stale dogmatism.” A Swiss Protestant newsletter adds: “The ‘either-or’ of Christian perception” has been “replaced by a ‘this as well as that’.” No wonder theologians disagree!* [Karl Barth, one of this century’s more prominent Protestant theologians, reportedly described some of fellow theologian Paul Tillich’s theories as “abominable.” He also violently disagreed with theologian Rudolf Bultmann, who questioned the literalness of some Bible accounts.]
Is Luther’s House Heading for a Fall?
The crisis in the church is in reality a crisis of faith. But can faith be developed in persons nourished on “elementary hodgepodge theology” and guided in a wishy-washy, “this as well as that” direction? Can Protestantism expect to motivate its troops into Christian action with such an indistinct trumpet call?
As far back as 1932, theology teacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer complained: “It [the Lutheran Church] tries to be everywhere and thus ends up being nowhere.” Is it too late for the church to find its identity? Most church officials agree that the usual methods of revitalization will not work. Something new and different is needed. But what? Retired Bishop Hans-Otto Wölber says: “The future of the church is not a question of methods, but of contents. . . . It is the message that matters. . . . In other words, we stand and fall with the Bible.”
[Box on page 7]
Who Sounded a Distinct Trumpet Call for Christian Neutrality?
“We still know very little about the fate of World War II conscientious objectors; until now only the following is known: Among Lutherans, Hermann Stöhr and Martin Gauger uncompromisingly refused military service . . . Seven names of Catholics can be mentioned . . . German Mennonites, traditionally pacifistic, did not choose to ‘exercise the principle of nondefense’ during the Third Reich, based on a decision made by a meeting of elders and ministers on January 10, 1938. Two Quakers in Germany are known to have refused military service. . . . Seven members of the Seventh-Day Adventists can be named who refused to swear the oath of allegiance . . . and were put to death. Jehovah’s Witnesses (Bible Students) mourned the largest number of victims. In 1939 there were about 20,000 persons in the ‘Greater German Reich’ belonging to this . . . religious organization. It is estimated that in Germany alone some 6,000 to 7,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to do military service during World War II. The Gestapo and the SS therefore gave this group special attention.”—Sterben für den Frieden (Dying for Peace), by Eberhard Röhm, published in 1985.
The Bombing of Germany 1940 - 1945
In World War II approximately 410,000 German civilians were killed by Allied air raids. From July 1944 to January 1945, an average of 13,536 people were killed every month. In Hamburg alone about 49,000 civilians were killed by Allied bombing, and in Berlin about 35,000. During a single attack carried out at night from February 1st to 14th 1945, more than 20,000 civilians were killed in Dresden . But not only cities had fallen victim to the Allies' strategic bombing.
The medium-sized town of Nordhausen lost about 20% of its population in one night attack in May 1945, Pfortzheim lost 22%. Numerous cities, medium-sized towns and small towns had been the target of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the US-Air Force (USAAF), amongst them Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Essen, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Emden, Duisburg, Hamburg, Saarbrucken, Düsseldorf, Osnabrück, Mainz, Lübeck, Münster, Kassel, Cologne, Schweinfurt, Jena, Darmstadt, Krefeld, Leipzig, Dresden, Brunswick, Munich, Magdeburg, Aschersleben, Halberstadt, Chemnitz, Halle, Plauen, Dessau, Potsdam, Erfurt, but also towns like Cailsheim, Freudenstadt and Hildesheim.
The Gulf War began with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on 16 January 1991. For 42 consecutive days and nights, the coalition forces subjected Iraq to one of the most intensive air bombardments in military history. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tonnes of bombs, which widely destroyed military and civilian infrastructure. The air campaign was commanded by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Horner, who briefly served as US Central Command's Commander-in-Chief – Forward while General Schwarzkopf was still in the US.
Critics of use of the term "collateral damage" see it as a euphemism that dehumanizes non-combatants killed or injured during combat, used to reduce the perceived culpability of military leadership in failing to prevent non-combatant casualties.
Collateral damage doesn't include civilian casualties caused by military operations that are intended to terrorize or kill enemy civilians (e.g. some of the strategic bombing during World War II)
originally posted by: whereislogic
Since 1914, two world wars and over a hundred smaller conflicts have spilled an ocean of blood. A century ago, French writer Guy de Maupassant said that “the egg from which wars are hatched” is patriotism, which he called “a kind of religion.” In fact, The Encyclopedia of Religion says that patriotism’s cousin, nationalism, “has become a dominant form of religion in the modern world, preempting a void left by the deterioration of traditional religious values.” (Italics mine.) By failing to promote true worship, false religion created the spiritual vacuum into which nationalism was able to pour.
Flag salute. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that bowing down to a flag or saluting it, often in conjunction with an anthem, is a religious act that ascribes salvation, not to God, but to the State or to its leaders. (Isaiah 43:11; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21) One such leader was King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon. To impress the people with his majesty and religious ardor, this powerful monarch erected a great image and compelled his subjects to bow down to it while music, like an anthem, was being played. However, three Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refused to bow to the image, even on pain of death.—Daniel, chapter 3.
In our age, “nationalism’s chief symbol of faith and central object of worship is the flag,” wrote historian Carlton Hayes. “Men bare their heads when the flag passes by; and in praise of the flag poets write odes and children sing hymns.” Nationalism, he added, also has its “holy days,” such as the Fourth of July in the United States, as well as its “saints and heroes” and its “temples,” or shrines. In a public ceremony in Brazil, the minister general of the army acknowledged: “The flag is venerated and worshiped . . . just as the Fatherland is worshiped.” Yes, “the flag, like the cross, is sacred,” The Encyclopedia Americana once observed.
The aforementioned encyclopedia more recently noted that national anthems “are expressions of patriotic feeling and often include an invocation for divine guidance and protection of the people or their rulers.” Jehovah’s servants are not being unreasonable, therefore, when they view patriotic ceremonies involving the flag salute and national anthems as religious. In fact, when commenting on the refusal of children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to give homage to the flag or to swear the oath of allegiance in U.S. schools, the book The American Character stated: “That these daily rituals are religious has been at last affirmed by the Supreme Court in a series of cases.”
While not joining in ceremonies that they view as unscriptural, Jehovah’s people certainly respect the right of others to do so. They also respect national flags as emblems and recognize duly constituted governments as “superior authorities” serving as “God’s minister.” (Romans 13:1-4) Hence, Jehovah’s Witnesses heed the exhortation to pray “concerning kings and all those who are in high positions.” Our motive, though, is “so that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with complete godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Timothy 2:2.
Voting in political elections. ...
INFLUENTIAL FAMILY FLEES “BABYLON”
With all Watch Tower literature except The Golden Age now banned, the work had to be done cautiously. Brothers had to be careful, discreet in their comings and goings. Despite there being no regular organized meetings, those who did take up the truth were courageous and determined individuals.
The Ok family are an outstanding example. They were all Seventh-Day Adventists, well educated, and economically well off and they had an outstanding reputation in the community. Ok Ji-joon’s father was an elder in the church and the principal of an Adventist school, and his wife Kim Bong-nyo* was the local school’s auditor.
“One day in 1937,” Ok Ji-joon tells us, “I happened to find a magazine, The Golden Age, in the trash can. Since I was very religious, I was interested in the religious articles in it and read them thoroughly. ... Later, on reading them I found many points that contradicted my Adventist faith. ...
“The Sariwon Adventist Church in Hwanghae Province, now in North Korea, made trouble for me because I kept on asking questions about this newfound truth. The minister tried to evade answering and haughtily said that asking such questions of the minister, especially one who was an intimate friend of my father, was disrespectful. But I thought personal relations should not interfere with Bible discussions and that he owed me an answer. My younger brother also recognized the truth and came along with me, as did my older brother. Finally we stopped attending church.
“My father opposed us. When my older brother and I closed down our prosperous farming-tool factory in order to have time for the preaching work, he was furious and put us out of the house. However, we did not give up but kept trying to persuade him with the information in The Watchtower.”
Brother Ok’s older brother, Ok Ryei-joon, next tells how their father’s eyes were opened to the truth.
“One day our Adventist minister visited us and told us that the intelligence section of the Police Bureau had ordered our church to attend the Japanese Shinto shrine to worship Japanese gods and to raise the Japanese flag at the church, salute the flag, and sing the national anthem before each service. The pastor’s own opinion was that the Adventists would have to conform or else the church would be banned and the Adventists would disappear. The minister asked the church’s headquarters about the matter, and then he visited us to tell us the answer. Their headquarters said they should obey the police order, though it would be a big trial. Our father was greatly disappointed in that decision.”
Their father wanted to know the view of the Watch Tower Society on this matter. To find out, he began to study the Bible with his sons. As a result, he recognized just how right Jehovah’s Witnesses were. The whole family—father, mother, four sons, and two daughters-in-law—stopped going to church.
“Later, in 1938, the Adventist Church sent an American missionary to our home, and he told us that their missionaries had decided to leave Korea because of the Japanese government’s oppression,” continues Ok Ryei-joon. “He also said that our family’s withdrawal from the church on account of the flag-salute problem and the worship at Shinto shrines was very commendable and encouraged us to keep strong faith in Jehovah God, even as all of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea do.”
When the branch overseer from Japan visited, this entire family was baptized on November 19, 1937. Today, three of these brothers serve as elders. Because of his stand on the neutrality issue, their younger brother, Ok Ung-nyun, died faithful in a Japanese prison in 1939.
A TIMELY WARNING
originally posted by: whereislogic
Who Are Genuine Christians?
Religious leaders have completely departed from Jesus’ command to stay neutral in political affairs. In Jesus’ day, Galilee “was the heartland of ethnic nationalism,” states writer Trevor Morrow. Many Jewish patriots took up arms to gain political and religious freedom. Did Jesus tell his disciples to get involved in such struggles? No. On the contrary, he told them: “You are no part of the world.” (John 15:19; 17:14) Instead of remaining neutral, however, church leaders developed what Irish writer Hubert Butler describes as “militant and political ecclesiasticism.” “Political Christianity,” he writes, “is almost always also militarist Christianity and when statesmen and ecclesiastics come to terms it always happens that, in return for certain privileges, the Church gives its blessing to the military forces of the state.”
Churches Compromise with Communism
◆ Many wonder why some churches are free to operate in Communist countries and others are not. A recent issue of the Romanian Bulletin helps one to understand. “Full freedom of conscience is one of the civic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Romania,” it proudly proclaims. It then lists just fourteen religions legally authorized to carry on activity in Romania, including Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist and Baptist. The Bulletin notes that “all fourteen denominations belong to the Socialist Unity Front,” a Communist political organization.
originally posted by: whereislogic
a reply to: pthena
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warfare* [“We do not wage warfare.” Lit., “we are not doing military service.” Lat., non . . . mi·li·ta'mus.] according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”—2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
. . . German Mennonites, traditionally pacifistic, did not choose to ‘exercise the principle of nondefense’ during the Third Reich, based on a decision made by a meeting of elders and ministers on January 10, 1938. . . .”—Sterben für den Frieden (Dying for Peace), by Eberhard Röhm, published in 1985.
Of course, I could have just quoted the stuff about the German Mennonites that I bolded there. But then one might get the wrong impression of what that little phrase means: that they were not refusing military service in the Nazi army (Axis forces). They call it ‘defense’ (of the nation, even when the nation engages in a war of aggression and conquest).
... It is estimated that there are now about 1,300,000 Mennonites living in 65 countries. Yet, present-day Mennonites lament their lack of unity, as Menno Simons did centuries ago. During World War I, differences of opinion about the world’s conflicts caused major divisions. Many in North America refused military service on Biblical grounds. But An Introduction to Mennonite History says: “By 1914 non-resistance was largely a historical memory for the Mennonite churches in Western Europe.” ...
... In Bolivia, for instance, an estimated 38,000 Mennonites live in numerous remote colonies, each with different rules of conduct. Some colonies forbid motor vehicles, permitting only horses and buggies. Certain colonies forbid radio, TV, and music. Some even forbid learning the language of the country they live in. “So as to keep us under their control, the preachers don’t let us learn Spanish,” commented one colony resident. Many feel oppressed and live in dread of being expelled from the community—a terrible prospect for one who has never experienced life outside.
As told by Jacob Neufeld
... I was born in November 1923 in the Ukrainian village of Kronstalʹ, in a German Mennonite colony. In the late 1700’s, Mennonites had emigrated from Germany to Ukraine and were granted considerable privileges, including freedom of worship (but not to proselytize), self-government, and exemption from military service.
When the Communist Party came to power, all such privileges were taken away. In the late 1920’s, large Mennonite farms were turned into collectives. People were starved into submission, and any resistance was dealt with brutally. ...
By 1941, Hitler’s troops occupied Ukraine. For us, this was liberation from the Communist regime. However, eight Jewish families living in our village suddenly disappeared. All these experiences left many questions in my mind. Why did these things happen?
Honesty Saves My Life
In 1943 the German troops retreated, taking with them most of the German families—including what was left of mine—to support the war effort. By this time, I had already been drafted and assigned to the German SS (Schutzstaffel, Hitler’s elite guard) in Romania. ...