Cyber Book Club Week 12–State and Church Collide

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

I can’t and won’t even try to pretend that I entirely understand the relationship between the German church and the German state during Hitler’s regime. But this chapter depicts how important it was to the Nazis to consolidate the church and control the messages from the pulpit. Hitler eventually strong-armed Nazis into church leadership. Perhaps the laity could have resisted this but hind sight is 20/20 and enough people were afraid to challenge those in charge and eventually the church fell under Nazi control.

Two days later it was all moot because the state intervened and all hell broke loose….Now the real church struggle would begin. On June 28, Müller ordered SA troops to occupy the church offices in Berlin. On July 2, an SA commando arrested a pastor. Those in the opposition held prayers of atonement and called for prayers of intercession. In the resultant chaos, Bodelschwingh met with Hindenburg to explain his side of the situation, and Hindenburg said he would convey Bodelschwingh’s concerns to Hitler. Bonhoeffer began to see that the opposition to Hitler and the German Christians was weak and divided, and he was gradually losing hope that anything positive could be done.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 179). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This was a crisis for Christians who didn’t want to accept the Arian Paragraph and Nazi theology. In the next chapter we see Bonhoeffer and his fellow Christians create their confession of faith and their response to Nazi ideas. People who supported the Nazis became known as the German Christians and those who opposed Nazi ideas became part of the Confessing Church.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Questions to Consider:

How does separation of church and state protect the church?

Who and how is church leadership decided upon in your church/denomination?

Why are confessions of faith important?

What do you think your family might have done if you in Germany at the time?

EBH

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