What Martin Niemoller Can Teach Us, Part 2

You can catch up on Part 1 here.

In his biography of Martin Niemoller, Matthew Hockenos offers substantial evidence of WWI German Emperor Wilhelm II’s relentless commitment to the German monarchy’s faith in “providential glory.” He believed they were chosen by God to be the hope of the world. He tied his understanding of the Christian faith with German patriotism, forming a nationalistic brand of Christianity that possessed a hold that was strong and misleading. Niemoller was held by it (and realized it later). Bonhoeffer was held by it (and realized it later). This belief laid the foundation in creating the antisemitism Germans formed and that in turn, formed them.

For instance, while dedicating a new Lutheran Church in Jerusalem in 1898, Emperor Wilhelm II said this in his dedication speech:

“From Jerusalem came the light in splendor from which the German nation became great and glorious; and what the Germanic peoples have become, they became under the banner of the cross, the emblem of self-sacrificing charity.” (19)

Social and political institutions, national policies, and moral values were all formed with this ideology working in the background. Some sort of ideology is always working in the background. It’s how civic life works.

The Emperor’s speech was met with thunderous applause by the 200 or so German Christians and pastors accompanying the Emperor’s voyage to the Holy Land. Of course if asked if the German Protestant pastorate was tied to party politics they would have responded with a resounding, “Nein!” (no in German).

In attendance at the speech in Jerusalem was Martin’s father. He was enamored with Wilhelm II, so much so he named a son after him. He was a pastor faithful to God and King.

Again, take that in. It’s subtle. Quiet. Formative. Seems innocent. Seems Christian. But in the end, it’s destructive.

Martin’s father raised him to embrace the same nationalistic brand of Christianity. No wonder Martin supported Hitler’s rise in power and antisemitic policies. Until he didn’t.

About Fred

Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience. Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas. Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
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