Insight on the News
Look to the Churches for Peace?
● When political leaders fail in their efforts to build peace, can the churches be counted on to motivate their members in the ways of peace? Not if history is any barometer of their actions. In his recent book “A History of Christianity,” historian Paul Johnson reports that during the Hitler era both Catholic and Protestant churches, “in the main, gave massive support to the [Nazi] regime.”
He writes: “Bishop Bornewasser told the Catholic youth in Trier Cathedral: ‘With raised heads and firm step we have entered the new reich and we are prepared to serve it with all the might of our body and soul.’ In January 1934, Hitler saw twelve Evangelical [Lutheran] leaders . . . [who] issued a communique which pledged ‘the leaders of the German Evangelical Church unanimously affirm their unconditional loyalty to the Third Reich, and its leader.’” The sacrifice of millions of Catholic and Protestant lives on both sides of World War II proved these churches’ loyalty to Hitler. Loyalty to the “God of peace” was not in evidence.—Phil. 4:9; Isa. 2:4.
However, Johnson says that of the religions who “stuck to their principles enough to merit outright persecution,” the “bravest were the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Because of their peaceful neutral stand politically, “they refused any [political] cooperation with the Nazi state . . . Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service.”—Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England).
“The Age of Spirituality” ???
● New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art recently held an exhibition of “Early Christian Art” titled “The Age of Spirituality.” In its review of this art display, “The Wall Street Journal” observed: “Fortunately for the course of art, the early Christian belief that had rejected imagery and pomp as idolatrous soon faded, as the wealth once supporting the centers of paganism was redirected by the Christian emperors. No doubt the visual splendor of the new churches and the incorporation of many pagan motifs into Christian art converted many non-believers. . . . The intermingling of pagan and Christian themes and symbols is intriguing.”
Of course, this “intermingling” of true Christianity with false worship was to be expected, as Christ himself predicted it. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-40) The Bible shows that even in the time of the apostles, it could be said that “rebellion is at its work already, but in secret,” until “the one who is holding it back” would be removed, allowing non-Christian beliefs to flourish. The apostle Paul, as part of “the one [the apostles as a class] who is holding it back,” warned: “I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. . . . men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them.”—2 Thess. 2:7; Acts 20:29, 30, Catholic “Jerusalem Bible.”
● When youths from all over the world were invited to tell Pope Paul VI “whatever you believe he needs to know to make his work for people your age significant,” 1,200 responded with a wide range of complaints. “The church seems to be suffering from the same thing lawyers are, functional illiteracy,” wrote a 16-year-old Catholic youth. “This means that when you make a statement, it may be understood by bishops, but to normal people it is just so many words.”
However, rather than clarifying spiritual matters for the laity, clerics seem bent on keeping them in the dark. Benedictine priest Colman Barry recently recommended that Latin be used in all writings by theologians to avoid disturbing the laity with their speculations. Thereby “theologians would be judged by their peers,” he declares, “rather than by ecclesiastical incompetents.”
But instead of being considered “ecclesiastical incompetents,” should not all those in the Christian church be taught the Word of God on an equal basis, as were the first Christians? And as the apostle Paul said, “if your tongue does not produce intelligible speech, how can anyone know what you are saying? You will be talking to the air.”—1 Cor. 14:9-11, Catholic “Jerusalem Bible.”