Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Christianity And The Perceived Safety Of Silence

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Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, which reminds us of how and when the church of Jesus Christ began.

The historic account tells us a strong wind rushed down upon those who were waiting in the upper room and tongues of fire appeared over the heads of those who had become followers of Jesus.

It is important to recognize that while they were obediently waiting as Jesus had instructed them to do, they were also safely tucked away from the general public. The timidity that had caused Peter to lie to a little girl about his relationship with Jesus persisted among these followers. They were, after all, human. And they were not all that popular in the present culture.

They had followed a man who had claimed to be King, representing an eternal Kingdom, yet had been executed by the Romans, with consent from the religious leaders, for blasphemy, among other things.

A plan that had seemingly gone very wrong. Oh, they knew he had risen, but how could they possibly tell that story with any credibility?

As the wind blew and the fire manifested itself, something happened. Everything changed in ways that committee meetings, planning sessions and personal evangelization classes could not have accomplished in a generation.

The fear of public ridicule, peer rejection and even personal danger was gone. Silence was not even a thought, much less an option.

They moved into the streets and did things they had never done before. They communicated the Truth in languages and in ways they had never learned. The public was amazed. Stunned. Thousands believed the Truth about Jesus. The church was born.

They spoke to the culture in ways the culture understood. They defined sin and explained forgiveness and restoration. They spoke of a new life in Jesus Christ and of eternal hope.

They told their story of God's love, that was demonstrated by God's power.

Today there are more than 2 billion people alive in the world who claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Both the book of Acts and other historical documents tell us the early Christians "turned the world upside down."

Until they stepped out of the upper room, trusted God to enable them to do what they themselves could not do, and began to speak the Truth to the culture, they were sitting in the perceived safety of silence.

Let me tell you an eyewitness story, told to me personally, about a young Christian girl who loved the Lord and her country, but was ultimately caught in the perception that there is safety in silence.

Basilea Schlink is fairly well known for the books she wrote and her ministry through the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary which she and Erika Madauss co-founded in Darmstadt, Germany on March 30, 1947.

It is well known that Basilea's brother Edmund Schlink was a professor of theology and her father, Wilhelm Schlink, was a professor of mechanics.

It is also well known that she was educated at the Inner Missions Girls School in Berlin. She would become a teacher.

Most of her bio accounts tell you that some years later while living in "a badly bombed Germany with few resources," she felt it was important for her to repent for Germany's cruel treatment of other nations, particularly the Jews.

Thus she and Erika Madauss founded the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, to continue in their Lutheran faith and to commit their lives to intercessory prayer.

This is true.

However in 1985, I interviewed one of Basilea's closest confidants from their ministry on my television program. Basilea was still living, but unable to travel.

The Sister told me what I have written above, but then turned to me and said, "Gary, I feel I must tell you a story that is not so well known."

Basilea loved God and she loved her country. Her country had gone through some difficult times during her growing up years and she had heard and studied of difficult times as her parents were growing up.

Hitler was a rising star. He represented the future of the country. He was passionate. He claimed to be a Christian. He commonly used Scripture to affirm his views and vision for the country.

He spoke often of change---of a new world order. A new Germany.

Basilea, a young Christian woman was mesmerized by it all.

In 1933, when Basilea was 29, the Hitler Youth Movement had begun in Germany.

At first Hitler spoke of an educational program that would save the country and secure the future. He called for discipline and hard work that would remake Germany and create "A New Order."

But his message evolved.

In Nuremberg in 1934, Schirach, the man chosen by Hitler to organize the youth movement, sometimes referred to as the Christian Youth Movement, gave this introduction of Hitler to the thousands of young people who were attending the rally.

"At your command, my Fuhrer, stands here a youth---a youth that does not know class and caste. Behind you, follows the young generations of our people. Because you are the greatest example of unselfishness in this nation, this young generation wants to be unselfish too. Because you embody the concept of fidelity for us, we want to be faithful too."

With that he introduces his boss---"Adolf Hitler, the leader of the German youth and people."

NOTE. This is a link to the introduction, the speech Hitler made following the introduction, and several other parts of the speech Hitler gave. This is actual audio of him speaking, with an English translation of the text. Please note the passion of Hitler and that of the youth. Also note Schirach's one line defense when he stood before the Nuremberg trials in 1946.

Basilea, a young virtuous woman, believed that all people are created equal, none should be better than others. She believed God created us equal. She knew well that it was a Christian virtue to be unselfish and she believed in and had practiced fidelity and abstinence.

She bought in and joined.

Hitler's youth movement continued to evolve and become more sinister as he became more sinister.

Basilea began to feel uncomfortable, but most everybody was doing it. How would you explain a sudden departure. Committed people don't just drop out. That's not discipline. That's not commitment.

Finally it became unbearable. Basilea and others quietly began to move away and disassociate with the movement, without explanation, but the nation was caught up in the march toward Hitler's New Order. And it was very different than how it began.

Basilea wanted to tell people to reconsider, but who would listen? Besides, who was she to stand against such a social movement as this?

She remained silent.

Some, such as a young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, had spoken out, and had been found dead.

Some years later, living in bombed out Germany, Basilea began to feel the weight of her silence, several years after the World War had ended.

Her friend and confidant told me she always regretted joining the movement and was embarrassed that she and others had been so misled, but even more so, regretted remaining silent when she left it.

It was out of this, that she and her friend Erika would found a ministry committed to seeking forgiveness for these acts of silence and intercessory prayer.

I believe the Holy Spirit is beginning to speak to people's hearts in new ways, regarding the condition of our culture and the direction of our country.

For me personally, I cannot remain silent. The media, public education and other dominate forces are destroying the foundations of our culture---redefining marriage and the family, redefining Scripture to affirm deviant, perverted behavior, while stripping God from the culture, re-educating our children, while claiming to be God themselves, defining "truth" as it affirms their world view. And too many are following.

Some Christians and even pastors feel there is safety in silence.

If we are to see repentance and restoration in America, it, as we often tell each other, begins with the church.

Repentance begins in the heart---so I must ask---Will I repent of my silence, even if I believe it is "safe" silence?

Will I believe and trust God to use me with His fire of conviction and the wind of His leading in my life? Will I trust him to enable me to do what I cannot do in my own strength?

Or will we sit in silence and watch a river of perversion, apathy, spiritual confusion and political deception flow past into the cesspool we call our culture?

God help us.