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Parson to Person: Those who forget history are destined to repeat it
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George Santayana is credited with saying, "Those who forget history are destined to repeat it."

Currently I am reading a fascinating book by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. The title of the book is "When A Nation Forgets God." Dr. Lutzer draws on lessons from the recent past to sound a warning for us today.

The lesson from history that caught my attention is a reality that is being repeated today even as I write. In the early part of the last century we know that there was a world-wide economic depression. Out of the rubble a charismatic leader arose with the promise of "putting every man to work," and the promise of restoring his country to greatness. He accomplished marvelous things in a few short years through his economic recovery plan. Historians tell us that if Adolph Hitler had died before World War II, he would have been admired as one of the greatest men in history rather then being reviled for the villain he became.

Here is the thing that grabbed my attention. In his rise to power, Hitler convinced both the Germanic people and the German church that "religion was a private matter and for the good of the nation had no place in the public forum." Hitler was not a Christian by the way. You can put any label you want on a bottle, but it doesn’t change its contents. Hitler’s plan was to marginalize the church, silence its witness and then replace Christianity with the old pre-Christian era worship of the old Germanic gods. He saw Christianity as standing in his way.

Because of what he was accomplishing, both the German people and the church in general were willing to turn a blind eye to their gradual losses of freedom to a humanistic state. Little by little freedoms were removed from the populace "for the good of the nation." Given the bleak economic conditions Dr. Lutzer states that the German people were glad to trade their freedom for meat on the table.

I could not help but see a parallel to our day. In another book Dr. Lutzer writes, "Throughout history, nations, like people, have frequently fallen victims to lies — myths that become accepted as truth. How these myths begin makes little difference. But once they are disseminated they are difficult to combat because the populace seems eager to believe them. When uncontested, the myths take over. . . Subtly, if not overtly, myths are sold to the American public. Daily through television, the newspapers, and the decisions of the courts, we are bombarded with a certain understanding of the way things ought to be. These assumptions are often presented uncritically, giving the impression that no thoughtful person would contest their validity. . .(These) myths are subtly being forced upon us. If we accept them, we buy our ticket to repression and intolerance. And once the train is rolling we’ve got no choice as to where we are headed" (Lutzer, "Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America," Moody Press, Chicago, IL {ISBN 0-8024-5692-8} 1986 p.12).

Often I write on the importance the Christian conscious plays in society. Look around the world and it becomes obvious, freedom thrives where Christian principles prevail. The reason this nation has so much tolerance is because of the foundational beliefs of the Christian religion. While I am no prophet, mark my words: as the voice of Christianity is systematically silenced for the good of the state, more and more freedoms will be lost. The more we force the Ten Commandments into our proverbial closets, the more intolerant the humanistic state will become, and the more freedoms we will trade away for the "good of the state."

If the church does not regain her public voice once again and soon, it will soon be too late. It is not political correctness that can establish a nation, it is righteousness. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34, NIV).

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.