The Sin of Silence
a message to American pastors and their congregations

An address delivered September 6, 2000 at
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO
by
Dr. Laurence White
Senior pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church
Houston, Texas

(Reproduced With Permission from Bott Radio Network)


DR. MICHAEL WHITEHEAD:

Our special speaker today is Reverend Laurence White. Iíve heard his testimony about his love and his passion to disciple first his family, his sons and his daughter.  Heís a pastor's pastor. Heís been involved in shepherding his local church, but also shepherding and encouraging and inspiring pastors around the country to be both salt and light, not one or the other. Not just preach Jesus but preach everything that Jesus commanded us to do. And so it is my great pleasure to invite to our platform at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, our brother, the Reverend Dr. Laurence White. Welcome brother, letís welcome:

DR. LAURENCE WHITE:

Thank you, and thank you, Dr. Whitehead. Itís a pleasure to be here. Iíve never been introduced by an attorney before, this is a new experience. Much less an attorney who is the President of a seminary, that is truly a unique experience. Thank you for your kind words. It is a joy to be here with you today. In a place where God has done great things, in a place where once again you stand for the truth of Godís Word; for the verbal inspiration of Scripture; for the inerrancy of that which God has written from the first chapter of Genesis to the 22nd chapter of the book of Revelation. And I applaud you for that stand, and I stand with you in that faith.

On the basis of that word today, we confront that which is happening in our culture. Now Iím a Lutheran Christian, that means that my historical and theological roots go back to Germany. And I find a context for what is happening in America today in that which took place in that great homeland of the Reformation in the 1930's and the 1940's.

Let me begin with a story about an incident that took place a few years ago as a prominent Evangelical pastor was invited to a Christian university on the East Coast to address the student body. And upon his arrival on the campus, he was greeted by the President of that institution, a distinguished looking older gentleman, with upswept white hair, who spoke with a decided German accent. As they walked to the chapel that day, the President requested permission to say a few words to the students before the service itself actually began. And of course, you donít say no to the President on his own campus and that permission was granted. After the student body had gathered, the old gentleman walked to the rostrum with the ramrod straightness that only a German has and he looked out over the students assembled there, the picture of dignity and composure. 

Gazing intently into the eyes of the young people in front of him, he began.  "For you," he said, "today is a day like any other day but it is an extremely important and painful day for me." Silence fell over the room and the students noticed that as the old gentleman spoke, tears were streaming down his face. This uncharacteristic display of emotion stunned the student body and riveted their attention.  

"Today is November the 9th" he continued "the 50th anniversary of "Kristal Nacht," the Night of the Broken Glass. On this day in 1938, Nazi thugs moved through the cities of Germany smashing the windows of German homes and shops, burning the synagogues. Innocent people; men, women and children were beaten and killed simply because they were Jews.

"I was there as a young man," he sobbed, "and I can still hear the sound of the shattering glass. There were many of us who were Christians then but we did nothing. We looked the other way and we did nothing. That was the beginning of the Holocaust because the Jew haters knew then that no one would stop them, no one would stand in their way." The old man went on to quote the words inscribed at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, a place where so many died. "Never again," he pleaded, "Christian young people we must never let it happen again."

My friends, it is happening again. It is happening again today in our beautiful America. So richly and abundantly blessed by a gracious God. It is happening today as the innocent are slaughtered in a twenty-seven year Holocaust that has seen nearly forty million little boys and girls brutally done to death. It is happening again as families are fractured and marriages are broken, while self-obsessed people pursue the immediate gratification of their every desire. It is happening again as militant homosexuals pursue absolute approval, complete acceptance, and preferential legal treatment for their perversion. It is happening again as our young people lost their way, and often their lives, in a maze of alcohol and drugs and the corridors, and classrooms of the high schools of our land are littered with the bodies of murdered teenagers. It is happening again as the nation's leaders wallow in decadence and deceit, while the people look on in apathetic indifference. It is happening again.

For while the killing goes on and the nation is led down the path of destruction, the church and her pastors stand silent and afraid. This country that we love, our America, is fighting for her life. Not against the military power of foreign enemies, but against the principalities and powers of this dark age. You and I, as sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ, but even more so, those of you here today who are pastors of the church of Jesus Christ, are being called upon to take a stand in this moment of crisis. And let there be no one among us who doubts the urgency of this hour. To compare what is happening in America today to Nazi Germany is no mere flight of rhetorical exaggeration. 

This nation is heedlessly stumbling toward third millennium darkness. Look around you and read the signs of the times. Look beyond the walls of our beautiful sanctuaries, and the comfort of our padded pews to see the chaos, the corruption, and the confusion that reigns throughout our culture.  

We live in a society where passions are riderless horses, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, in which there is a desolation of decency. In which love has become a jungle emotion, lust exalted to lordship, sin elevated to sovereignty, Satan adored as a saint, and man magnified above his maker. 

Americans have come to dwell in an Alice in Wonderland world of fantasy and self-delusion. Everything has been turned upside down and inside out in our America. Right is wrong, and wrong is right, good is bad, and bad is good, normal is abnormal, and abnormal is normal, true is false, and false is true. We are fast degenerating into a decadent culture obsessed with selfishness and sin, death and destruction.

In the face of this relentless onslaught of evil, the church of Jesus Christ has grown timid and afraid. We have abandoned the truth of Godís Word, compromised the stern demands of His Law, tailored our message to meet the felt needs of sinful men, (as if sinful men ever knew what they actually needed) and prostituted ourselves and the Gospel that we profess to proclaim, for worldly popularity and success. 

We, as Christian pastors, seem to have forgotten that God did not call us to be popular or successful, God called us to be faithful. Faithful preaching never comes in the form of safely vague, pious platitudes. Faithful preaching must identify and denounce the false gods of this world that call upon our people to bow down before them every day. God did not call us to be successful CEOs, protecting institutional peace and tranquility, bringing in the bodies and the bucks by avoiding controversy, and telling everybody what they wanted to hear. 

God called us to proclaim His Word, to be vigilant watchmen standing high upon the walls of Zion, sounding forth the clear clarion call of the trumpet, calling out Godís people to war against the host of evil advancing all around us. We as the Christians of America, we as the pastors of America, have failed in this responsibility before God, and our country is paying a dire price for that failure. Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, we are responsible. 

The great reformer Martin Luther once declared that the preacher who does not rebuke the sins of the rulers through Godís Word spoken publically, boldly and honestly, strengthens the sins of the tyrants, and becomes a partaker in them, and bears responsibility for them. 

Now note carefully Lutherís words. They ought to sear the conscience of every pastor in America today. The preacher who does not speak out becomes a participant in the wickedness of the tyrants and bears responsibility for it. We cannot shift that responsibility to anyone else today. We cannot blame the liberal media, or the corrupt politicians, or the apathetic public for that which has overtaken America. This is our fault, for we are the ones whom God placed here at this moment in our nationís history to be the stinging salt and the shining light. We are responsible for what has happened to America. In this year of our Lord, 2000, there is no Pontius Pilotís basin that can cleanse the hands of Americaís pastors from the guilty stain of innocent blood.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, he scornfully dismissed the church, and her pastors, as an irrelevant force which posed no threat to the Nazi agenda for that great nation. "I promise you," he boasted to his inner circle, "that if I wish to I could destroy the church in just a few years. It is hollow, it is rotten, and false through and through. One push and the whole structure would collapse."

"We should trap the preachers," he said, "by their notorious greed and self-indulgence. We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years reprieve, why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantage. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves, they will betray their God for us, they will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and incomes."

The dictator's words proved to be tragically accurate. The great majority of Christians in Germany looked the other way and minded their own business. They kept their religion and their politics strictly separate from one another, and refused to vote on the basis of single issues which would have set them apart from the rest of the electorate. They blended in and they went along and they followed the path of least resistance. They did that which was expedient and practical and safe, while their country was dragged down into a swirling maelstrom of barbarism and death.

Only a few lonely voices were raised in protest. In 1940 Nazi Germany was near her zenith, the nationís power, prestige, and prosperity unparalleled in history, her armies invincible on every front. The Jews had been systematically excluded from the life of the nation, deprived of the protection of the law and citizenship, gradually disappearing into the spreading network of concentration camps. In that year, 1940, at the height of Hitlerís power and popularity, a courageous, young pastor, named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, denounced the churches failure to speak out against the evil.

In 1940, that lonely voice of truth proclaimed, "We the church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough the message of the One God who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus, and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions. She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was crying aloud to heaven. The church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred, and murder. And that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims. And has not found way to hasten to their aid. 

"The church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of Jesus Christ. The church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet, possession, and honor to which she has no right. She has not born witness to the truth of God and by her silence, she has rendered herself guilty, because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right." 

Bonhoeffer's warning went unheeded. He was dismissed by most of his colleagues as a single issue fanatic. In less that five years, he was dead, hung naked from a piano wire noose, in Flossenburg concentration camp.

Germany lay in ruins. Her great cities bombed out of existence. Cathedrals that had stood for a thousand years reduced to piles of broken brick, rubble. In the face of monstrous evil, he who keeps silent fails in his responsibility before God and shares in the guilt. 

The moral meltdown that has overtaken America has been met with a deafening silence from the pulpits of America, and the people-pleasing preachers who presume to stand in them. This desolation of decency could not have occurred if the pulpits of this land were once again aflame with righteousness. To use Alexis De Toquevilleís famous words, "By our apathy, by our acquiescence, and by our ignorance, the church of Jesus Christ has consigned itself to irrelevance and impotence in the ongoing struggle for the soul of America."

Our political leaders deal in trivialities and superficial nonsense, practicing the feel-good politics of deliberate ambiguity, while the destruction of our families, the perversion of our most basic moral principals, and the murder of innocent, unborn children goes on, and on, and on. 

Those candidates in the presidential primaries who denounced the evil of abortion, and stood unequivocally for moral values, against the corruption of our times, never rose out of single digits in the polls. And therefore, they were never considered serious contenders in this election cycle, and the moral issues for which they stood were pushed aside in favor of more practical considerations. We have come to this sorry state because Christian voters were more concerned about electability, than about integrity. The result, to use the words of former President Gerald Ford is, "We have an election in which candidates without ideas, hire consultants without convictions, to carry out campaigns without content." 

Throughout the mind-boggling series of scandals that have gushed out of Washington like filth from a sewer in recent years, the endless refrain of the beltway establishment and the media elite has been, "Weíve got to get on with the nationís business." Well folks, there was a time not too long ago, when righteousness and decency and justice were the nation's business. And unless that time comes again soon, this nation will not endure. John Adams once warned that the problem with democracy is that you get the leaders you deserve. This sad spectacle ought to remind us that a people who cannot control themselves, cannot govern themselves. Itís not the economy, stupid. Itís the morality, stupid.

The issue before us as Christians and as Christian pastors is faithfulness to the Word of God, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To speak to the great moral issues of our day is an integral and essential part of that God-given responsibility. To fail to do so is nothing less than a denial of the Lordship of Jesus.

Pastor Martin Niemueller was yet another of that lonely band of Christian heroes who stood against the tide of evil in Nazi Germany. He was arrested by the Gestapo for faithfully preaching the Word of God. Now Niemueller was what we would today call a celebrity. He was a national hero. He had been a U-boat commander, highly decorated, in the first world war and only then, after the war, did he enter the ministry. His congregation, in the Berlin suburb of Dahlum, was one of the wealthiest and most influential evangelical churches in the land. Its membership made up of high government officials, generals, and so on. And the arrest of this pastor from that church was highly controversial. 

The judge before whom he was arraigned on charges of sedition seemed genuinely puzzled why a patriot like Martin Niemueller would criticize Adolf Hitler, the man whom the German people hailed as their Fuhrer, an absolute leader, to whom unquestioning obedience was owed. The magistrate pleaded with the minister to end his attacks on the Nazi regime and upon the Fuhrer. He promised Niemueller immediate release, and the opportunity to return to his pulpit today, if only he would agree to do so. Niemuellerís reply was steadfast, "I cannot, and I will not be silent," he said, "because God is my Fuhrer."

Our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ must take precedence over any other loyalty in every part of our lives. If the Lord Jesus is truly our Lord, then we must serve Him. If the Lord Jesus is truly our Lord, then He cannot be safely compartmentalized to one place, one time, one day of the week, with one group of people, while we live like the heathen all the rest of the time. If the Lord Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, He cannot be left outside of the ballot box like an unneeded umbrella when we go in to vote. We must serve Him in all that we do. We must participate in this democracy that He has given us. Not as rock-ribbed republicans or yellow-dog democrats, not as liberals or conservatives, not as men or women, not as labor or management, not as senior citizens who want to protect social security, or as wage earners who want their taxes lower, not as whites or blacks, or Asians or Hispanics, but as sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

We must participate in this democracy as Christians. For only then, will America turn from the path of destruction. But as we participate, we must be careful to maintain our theological and moral integrity. 

God has not called us to be social agitators or reformers, He has called us to be faithful spokesmen for His Word. Politics is the art of the possible. Christianity is the art of the impossible. The politician always has his eye on the next election. The Christian pastor must always have his eye on eternity. There is only one Savior, and His name will not be appearing on any election ballot in this particular cycle or any other. 

We dare never labor under the illusion that the Kingdom of God is about to arrive aboard Air Force One. Nor may we ever allow the church of Jesus Christ to be reduced to the status of a sanctimonious shill for a political candidate, party, or philosophy.

The Roman statesman, historian, Pliny Legonier once observed, "The common people find all religions to be true. The philosophers find all religions to be false. The politicians find all religions to be useful." When we as Christian pastors participate in this democracy, our participation must be prophetic, not political. We must summon this nation and its leaders to repentance, as we relentlessly proclaim the truth of God. What America needs essentially, is not merely a change in administration, what America needs is a spiritual rebirth. 

There are a great many issues under debate in the political arena today about which the pastor should have nothing whatsoever to say. Where Godís Word does not speak, there His spokesman must be silent. When we profess to speak for God let us be absolutely certain that it is Godís will we express, not our own inclinations or opinions. But where Godís will does speak, on the fundamentals of life, morality, and family, there Godís pastors must address the issues. On the basis of Scripture, without equivocation, and without hesitation. 

God may have not endorsed a particular method for tax reform but of this one thing we can be absolutely certain, the Lord God Almighty hates the murder of innocent, unborn children. God is not the mascot of the republican or the democratic parties, but let there be no doubt whatsoever about this, the Creator instituted holy marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman. Any other combination, no matter how modern, innovative, or politically correct, is a perversion of the divine intent.

That prophetic witness will not be welcome by those politicians on either side of the aisle, who seek only to preserve their own position and power. We who profess to speak for God must proclaim the truth in the political world of diplomatic double talk and deliberate evasion. Once again, that wonít make us popular, but God did not call us to be popular, He called us to be faithful. And we as His spokesman, must be willing to pay the high personal price that that faithfulness requires. 

The morning after Pastor Martin Niemueller was arrested, the Lutheran chaplain was making his rounds in the city jail. And as he entered Niemuellerís cell he was astounded and dismayed to find his fellow clergyman sitting there under arrest. "My brother!" he exclaimed, "what did you do? Why are you here?" Niemueller, never at a loss for words immediately reacted, "My brother, given what is happening in our country, why arenít you here?" 

Those days have not yet come in America, but they are coming soon. We have already seen the ominous beginnings of attempts to muzzle Christian witness on radio and television, to label rejections of abortion and homosexuality as "hate speech." In Europe and Canada significant steps have already been taken in that direction. And if present trends continue, America will not be far behind.

Gentleman and ladies, it is only a short step from prohibiting that which is politically incorrect as hate speech in the media, to prohibiting in the pulpits of every church in America. My brothers, given what is happening in our country, why arenít you here? 

The saddest and most tragic feature of the Christian experience in Germany was the bitter expression of regret that came from so many afterwards, who realized their failure only too late. One such man was a University professor and a diplomat named, Albrecht Haushoffer.  He was a quiet, gentle man who wrote poetry in his spare time. As gradually he came to recognize the enormity of the evil of Nazism, he was drawn into the resistance and arrested in 1944 after the failure of the Stauffenburg plot to assassinate Hitler. 

In the final days of the war, as the Russian tanks moved through the outskirts of the city of Berlin, and the dictator hid in the Fuhrer bunker like a rat trapped in his hole, the SS Guards at the Mobed City Prison were given a list of those who were not to be allowed to survive the downfall of Nazism because they knew too much. Albrecht Haushofferís name was included on that death list. A group of seven or eight prisoners was taken out of their cells that morning.  They were told they were about to be released. Each of the prisoners was assigned an SS Guard.  They were led out of the jail into the nearby Tiergarten, the great park in the center of the city of Berlin. And as they came to the middle of that park, out of sight from anyone else, each guard stepped up behind the prisoner assigned to him and shot them in the back of their heads. The bodies were abandoned there in the snow and the mud of the ruined city. 

Sometime later Albrechtís brother heard rumors of what had happened, and he hurried into the park to search for his brotherís body. And when he found it, there clutched in his hand was a blood stained sheet of paper. Written on that paper was a poem that Haushoffer had composed just a few hours before his execution. It was entitled in German, Schuldig Bin Ich, I am Guilty. 

"The burden of my guilt," the condemned man wrote, "before the law weighs light on my shoulders. To plot and conspire was my duty to the people. I would have been a criminal had I naught. I am guilty, although not in the way that you think. I should have done my duty sooner. I was wrong. I should have called the evil more clearly by its name. I hesitated to condemn for far too long. I now accuse myself within my own heart. I have betrayed my conscience for far too long. I have deceived myself and my fellow man. I knew the course of evil from its start. My warning was not loud enough or clear enough. Today, as I die, I know what I am guilty of."

We, too, have known the evil from its start. In this great nation, where for twenty-seven long years the innocent unborn have been slaughtered, we have grown accustomed to the killing and have gone on with our business, with our lives, and our ministries, while the little ones have perished, every day, 4,500 a day. This is what we have come to in America. The Supreme Court of our land sanctions the horror of partial birth abortion, this most barbaric and grotesque killing of a child in the midst of its birth. 

And yet even in the face of this abomination, the churches of America, the pastors of America, are silent. Where is the cry of outrage!? Where is the indignation of the people of God? We, too have known the evil from its start. Dumpsters full of ravaged infant bodies stand in mute testimony to our failure and to our guilt.

The Christians of Germany realized only too late how much had been at stake and how much they had lost. But we still may have a chance. It's not too late, yet, for our America. The righteous judgment of God has not yet come upon us. The New Testament speaks of unique moments of divine destiny, when God confronts His people with a challenge, and offers them an opportunity. The Greek word for such a moment of divine destiny is Kairos. I believe that the Christian church in America has come to such a time, a Biblical Kairos. A moment of divine destiny. 

If we fail to meet this challenge, and rise to this opportunity, our nation will not survive. It is as simple, and as stark as that. This is our moment, my friends. Our time of testing. I pray that we may be equal to the challenge of these days; that we may seize this precious opportunity from God; that we may be within this dying culture the stinging salt that stops the decay of death; the shining light that dispels the darkness of doubt and despair, that America may once again be the gleaming city set high upon a hill, that shines as a beacon light of life and hope for this nation, and to every nation. 

I pray that we may serve the Lord Jesus Christ with courage, and with honor, for the glory of His name. That we may snatch our country back from the brink of destruction, and preserve this legacy of faith and freedom for those who will come after us. This is our moment of divine destiny, our Kairos.

In the winter of 1943, a group of university students in Munich, calling themselves the White Rose, began a desperate effort to awaken the young people of that nation to the malignant evil that had engulfed their country. Led by a twenty-five year old student named Hans Scholl, they distributed leaflets across the campus in a doomed effort to provoke resistance to the Hitler regime. Six leaflets were written. Number four in the series included this desperate plea, a plea which could have been written today, a plea which could have been addressed to us.

Scholl wrote, "Everywhere, and at all times of greatest trial, men have appeared, prophets and saints, who cherished their freedom, who preached the one God, and who with His help, brought the people to a reversal of their downward course. I ask you now, as a Christian, wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, why do you hesitate!? Why are you inclined toward intrigue, calculation, and procrastination? Are you hoping that someone else will raise his arm in your defense? God has given you the strength. God has given you the will to fight. We must attack the evil now, where it is strongest."  

Their valiant effort was crushed. After only a few weeks, Shoal and his young comrades were beheaded by the Gestapo.

They died for their faith but their words reverberate down across the years to us in America, today. To a nation that has been blessed more richly than any other nation in the history of mankind. Their words come to us. Why do you hesitate? God has given you the strength. God has given you the will to fight. We must attack the evil now where it is strongest. 

Christians of America, this is our Kairos, our moment of divine destiny. God has give us this time, let us use it to His glory. To that end may our gracious God bless you, and may God bless our America. Thank you.

DR. MICHAEL WHITEHEAD:

Amen. Well our spirit resonates with his spirit and the Spirit testifies what he has preached is truth which we now have the duty to obey. I am going to surprise Dick Bott and ask him if he would make his way to the platform. I would like him to lead us in a closing prayer. This taping of this chapel service will be recorded and then sent to the Focus on the Family headquarters. But itís our prayer that this was not just an event that would mobilize and motivate the folks here, but God would use this Chapel message to motivate Americans, American Christians, to do right and obey God, to be involved in the ballot box as well as in their homes, to vote Biblically as well as to live Biblically in their daily lives. And a man who has that passion in his heart is my dear friend, Dick Bott. Iíll ask Dick to close us in prayer, say any word you would like to in greeting, Dick, and then pray for us.

DICK BOTT:

What a pleasure it is to be here. Iíve not been here before but I have certainly followed, been so interested in, the ministry of this seminary. Certainly not just in the Kansas City area but across America. We meet in groups; churches, congregations and other gatherings. But the truth is we know that as Christians we are accountable to God individually. I heard this man speak in a sermon on Focus on the Family some months ago, I had not met him before this morning, but his words penetrated my heart, and being here today with you, and hearing this in person is just an honor and a privilege for me. Shall we pray. 

"Thank you, Lord, that we can know that You hear our prayer. And with that in mind, Lord, we ask You to fill our own hearts with courage, overflowing with commitment; to be just a little of what You would have us be, as an act of worship to Thee. Thanks for this seminary. Thank You for what it stands for. Thank You for its message in preparation of young men and women; preparing to be Your servants in such a wonderful way. Thank You for this meeting now, Lord, we pray that You will be with us as we go our way, never having forgotten what we heard here today. In Thy Name, Amen."


Food For Thought


His Way | P.O. Box 400, Ottawa, Kansas 66067 | (785) 746-5418 | buffaloridge@hiswayministries.org