Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:
First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period. The fact is that pre-war Germany was not the same country as the Germany Niemöller speaks of here, it had changed and that change was gradual and progressive, and before they realized it, the change had gone too far to go back.
It serves no useful purpose to compare President-elect, Donald J. Trump to Hitler; they are not the same, and the Bible commands us to pray for those in authority. However, there are spiritual forces of darkness that have their roots in American history, that will always seek to manifest themselves given any opportunity. The Apostle Paul warned the church at Ephesus that the fight was not about flesh and blood, but about fighting those spiritual entities, through prayer, in the heavenly realms.
In America today, we see the ‘Butterfly Theory’ in operation. In 2008 America elected Barak Obama as President. It was the first time this nation had elected an African American to this position and was seen as a progressive move forward. 2016, and a complete reversal takes place, as those forces try to take back lost ground. We see a rise in racism, islamophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia. So how should the Christian respond?
Romans 12:1-2 tells us, “So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is–what is good and pleasing and mature. (Rom 12:1-2 CEB) Standing still, keeping silent is not an option. Either we are being transformed, or we are conformed. Being conformed means that we allow things to change, people and groups to be persecuted and harassed, the Jews, the Muslims and the Gay’s. Until they come for you and there is nobody left to speak up for you!
The transformer seeks knowledge and wisdom, is a person of prayer, both passive and aggressive, and speaks out for righteousness and injustice. But that could be costly; I hear you say. Yes, it may, but you will not be the first person that has paid the price with everything that had. Let me finish by paraphrasing Niemöller quotation:
First, they came for the Muslim’s, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Muslim. Then they came for the Gay’s, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Gay. Then they came for the African-American, and I did not speak out— Because I was not black. Then they came for me, the Christian—and there was no one left to speak for me.