96 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2010
George Santayana (along with numerous other philosophers over the centuries) said, "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." By understanding the past, you can see the trends that lead to specific trends that transform a culture--for good or for evil.
In When a Nation Forgets God, Erwin W. Lutzer takes this sentiment to heart, revealing to readers seven societal trends that led to the rise of Nazi Germany, and how Christians should respond.
The purpose of this book is not to fuel anyone's political agendas, nor is it saying that America today is like Nazi Germany or ever will be. Rather, with great skill, tact and wisdom, Lutzer is showing readers the importance of trajectory--in particular, showing where certain trends could lead America, though, as he stresses, not necessarily would.
As religious faith is increasingly privatized, particularly with regard to Christian belief and practice--as church and state are increasingly separated, laws creep in that actually circumvent justice and morality. Freedom of speech is lost in the name of political correctness and a confused view of tolerance. As economies melt down, people can become increasingly willing to give up their civil liberties in exchange for comfort. Media is increasingly used to define the cultural norms of society and sets the moral boundaries. Public school systems increasingly take over the role of training children from parents and in the process have the potential to indoctrinate them with groupthink.
These are the techniques that Hitler used to gain control of Germany. An economically crushed nation, desperate for some glimmer of hope latched onto what it perceived to be a strong leader, one who promised to give the people their national pride back. And he did. In the process, he systematically took complete control of the creation of civil law, made it government-sponsored education compulsory (homeschooling was illegal), turned the people against the Jews, put laws into place that made it not only legal, but acceptable, to murder them.
In essence, he sought to create a Germany in his own image, after his own likeness.
Today, there are some parallels in America, according to Lutzer, and as a Canadian it is fascinating to read his concerns. "Political correctness has now affected the general culture and created an aura of censorship and a climate of fear," he writes on page 27. In addressing the recently approved hate crimes legislation, Lutzer writes,
The bottom line is that we are going down a dangerous path as "hate crimes" are linked to "hate speech" and thus our First Amendment rights are curtailed. . . . From "Hate Crimes" the next step is for the courts to prosecute those who are deemed guilty of "Hate Speech," which one of our senators called "domestic terrorism." Thus, what we think and what we say are both open to prosecution. Hate speech in this country will mean . . . simply stating an opinion that the government thinks should not be expressed. (p. 28)
In Canada, we're already there. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has prosecuted Canadian citizens for publicly stating their belief that homosexuality is a sin. It attempted to prosecute journalist Mark Steyn and Macleans magazine after receiving a complaint that he was painting an unfair portrayal of Muslims in an article published in 2007 (you can read a bit more about the CHRC issues here). This is but one example.
The parallels that Lutzer addresses--increased government control in economic issues (such as propping up major corporations that are on the verge of bankruptcy due to gross mismanagement) and the devaluing of human beings through the legalization of abortion, the "evolved" form of tolerance that is used to bully people into silence out of fear of being called a `bigot" for disagreeing with a lifestyle, sexual orientation or religious viewpoint (unless it's Christianity) and pushes to see moral absolutes become relative preferences in the school system--paint a disturbing picture.
It's tempting for many Christians to respond to these issues in a way that is profoundly unhelpful. The "we're gonna take this nation back for God!" approach. The problem is, political ballyhoo doesn't work. It never has.
"[W]ithout the cross, we pound a nail into our coffin! There is a danger that we become so overburdened with social/political agendas that our message is lost amid our many cultural skirmishes. The church has always faced the temptation to modify the Gospel or make it secondary to a given political, philosophical, or cultural agenda. When this happens, Christians have exposure to the culture, but the cross does not. . . . In the evangelical community, psychology is substituted for theology and cheap grace has replaced what Bonhoeffer described as "costly grace." . . . . We are self-absorbed rather than God-absorbed." (pp. 135-137)
So how should Christians respond? By focusing on the cross of Christ.
We are coming to a time when Christianity in the western world might actually face real persecution, like it has in every other culture for centuries. Lutzer admonishes readers,
"As Christians we can welcome an assault on our freedoms as long as we see this conflict as an opportunity to bear an authentic witness to Christ. . . . We must be confident that Christ will set the record straight." (pp. 140-141)
Lutzer practices what he preaches. He never demonizes those he opposes. His arguments are genuinely humble and pastoral. He seeks to bear witness to the grace of Christ and be salt and light in a world that desperately needs it. His admonishment is difficult, but one not to shy away from.
Read When a Nation Forgets God. Wrestle with the implications; be challenged by it--and consider how you will respond. Will it be with silence or with grace and humility as your eyes are focused on Jesus?
This book was provided for review by Moody Press.
57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
This book was not always an easy one to read. I imagine it was an even harder one to write. But when your subject matter details the parallels between the political and social climates of Nazi Germany and modern-day America--and when you bring up hot button topics like abortion, censorship, homosexuality and hate speech--author and reader alike would do well to not expect an easy ride. Though I didn't agree with every comparison, Erwin Lutzer made some poignant insights in When a Nation Forgets God.
As Lutzer explains, "Nazism did not arise in a vacuum. There were cultural streams that made it possible for this ideology to emerge and gain a wide acceptance by the popular culture." In particular, it was disturbing to read how inept the majority of the church was during the rise of Nazism. While this is a short book, he deals with some heavy material as the chapters headings suggest:
1. When God Is Separated from Government, Judgment Follows
2. It's Always the Economy
3. That Which Is Legal Might Also Be Evil
4. Propaganda Can Change a Nation
5. Parents--Not the State--Are Responsible for a Child's Training
6. Ordinary Heroes Can Make a Difference
7. We Must Exalt the Cross in the Gathering Darkness
At times I felt he pressed his comparisons too far, but he was close enough to the mark often enough that the ideas must be dealt with whether one agrees with his conclusions or not. This book would not be one I would loan to my non-Christian friends, but every Christian should read and pray that our hearts would be softened and our spines would be strengthened.
This book was a free review copy provided by Moody Publishers.
56 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2010
This review can also be found on [...] THIS BOOK IS GREAT!!!! That should sum up my thoughts on this new publication from Erwin W. Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church, and Moody Publishers. Three sittings and 48 hours later I have now finished this stroke of genius. Lutzer writes, "I believe it is disingenuous when political opponents here in the United States call those who disagree with them "Nazis" or "Hitler." That alone told me this book was going to be different from the normal conservative speak that comes from so many in our churches today and that this book would not contain the finger-pointing and name-calling that I have quite frankly grown sick of. No, in a very tactful and succinct way, Lutzer in 141 pages points the reader to the facts, documents, and Christian writers who lived through the Nazi regime and uses their experiences and warning to parallel some of what many Americans see today as the abandonment of our countries inhibited history. In chapters named such as "When God is Separated from Government, Judgment Follows," "It's Always the Economy," & "That Which is Legal Might Also be Evil," Lutzer uses historical evidence to remind us that ideological and philosophical takeover is not done over night, but is rather a systematic and expertly crafted formula. This leads to his last chapter. As I stated above, what drew me into this book was Lutzer's refusal to point fingers at our contemporaries. That remained so until the final chapter. In the final chapter, Lutzer removes his gloves and begins throwing punches. Not at Obama or Pelosi. Not at Bush or Glenn Beck. Not at CNN or Fox News. No,Lutzer, and rightfully so, comes directly into the face of today's Christian. Building off of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous "Confess, Confess, Confess" radio address in Nazi Germany, Lutzer jumps into the face of today's Christian. He reminds us that the only way Nazi Germany was allowed to take place was because the Christians, primarily the pastors and preachers, in that area decided to bow to the Reich and hide the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pointing out the compromise that is already taking place today in the church, Lutzer unabashedly calls these wolves in sheep's clothing to repentance. I personally pledged to myself to read this last chapter everyday for the next month because therein lies, outside of scripture, one of the most powerful sentences I have read in some time. Lutzer writes: "In an effort to be 'relevant,' we now face the temptation of being diverted from our mission and becoming involved doing what is good while bypassing what is best." Stop reading, back up, and read that sentence again. I personally read it three times to myself and three times to my wife I was so taken by those words. Lutzer's final plea is to return to the cross. In our teaching, preaching, praying, and living, return to the cross. He asks that we stop veiling the cross in nationalism (enough with the founding fathers argument), party lines, and protest. All of these things avert from our true message we are called to teach: Christ crucified. Lutzer points out that our railing and arguing all accomplish the goal of making the Christian seen, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to make the cross, not the Christian seen. Lutzer avoids making any doctrinal assertions in this book and any believer in the true gospel should be able to get on board with the message in this boo
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The first thing to note about this book is that the subject matter - the Nazi terror - was not all that long ago. People are still alive today who lived through this horrible period in recent history. Yet our memories are so very short, that it seems like just a distant memory.
Thus Erwin Lutzer is to be thanked for refreshing our memories, and reminding us of the lessons we should have learned from this. But sadly it seems we are not learning our lessons. He offers seven key lessons from this period which are well worth taking to heart.
Of course in doing so he is not equating America (his home audience) with Nazi Germany. He simply sees some loose parallels with what happened back then in Germany and what is happening today in America, and so much of the West. Learning the lessons of history is always crucial.
One such lesson is how law, divorced from any transcendent foundation, can be used to empower tyrants and promote gross injustice. If there are no absolute and eternal laws which humans must submit to, then law becomes whatever any dictator or 51 per cent majority claim it should be.
Thus Hitler decreed that Jews were non-persons, and he enacted laws to treat them accordingly. He had already privatised religion in Germany, and morality and law became completely subjective - mere tools of the state. Thus the Nazis could proclaim, "Hitler is the law".
Of course at the war crimes trials held in Nuremberg, the Nazis simply said they were doing what was legal to do in Germany at the time. But they had to be reminded that simply following orders was not enough, and that there was a law above the law which they all were subservient to.
Today in the West we see the same withering away of the rule of law, to be replaced by positive law and judicial activism. Lutzer reminds us just how much contemporary Western law has been influenced by evolutionary theory and liberal theology, and how law is deteriorating as a result.
He also reminds us of another important lesson: the power of propaganda. The Nazis relied heavily on this, and were able to convince the masses to go along with their cause. Hitler was an expert at this, able to manipulate the crowds and mesmerise the people with hollow rhetoric and clever propaganda.
It could have been even worse: "It is chilling to think of what Hitler could have done if he could have used today's media to gain followers." Lutzer looks at how contemporary activists groups have also become experts in using propaganda.
The militant homosexual lobby is a case in point. They have perfected the use of propaganda to move the masses in their direction. He quotes from activists who have written about the effective use of propaganda to advance their cause. He even cites one leader in the movement who said his group had used Hitler's Mein Kampf as a model for a successful strategy in the uses of lies, propaganda and intimidation.
Lutzer also alerts us to how the use of state-controlled education can be effective in enslaving a people. Hitler of course early on outlawed homeschooling and private schools, insisting on compulsory state education. He knew that this could effectively counter any competing values instilled in children by parents or churches.
Thus state education became a tool of the Nazis to brainwash young children into the Nazi worldview. The purpose of the school was not for general education but for indoctrination. Good education was anything that further served the interests of the Reich.
Of course we see similar things happening in Western education today, with secular humanism the default position of the schools, and political correctness being force fed our children. Increasingly the secular state is seeking to crack down on independent schools and home schooling. Incredibly, German parents today who dare to home school are sent to prison, and their children taken away from them.
But the general lesson about apathy and indifference is perhaps the most important one found in this book, and the best way to discuss it is to simply close with this sobering quote from a German eyewitness, who reflected on why the church basically did nothing:
"I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks.
"We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars! Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we could hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.
"We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene."
This is an important book which deserves a wide reading. It very nicely illustrates the truth of Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Indeed, it is quite revealing that this saying can now be found on the plaque outside of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
33 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2010
'When a Nation Forgets God' was a very inspiring and encouraging book that concerning Hitler's reign and the present day government. Lutzer writes about Courageous Bonhoeffer and his stand against Hitler's evil tyranny. I really enjoyed reading the book and became very encouraged as a Christian UNTIL THE LAST PAGE! That is when Lutzer sudden takes on a conciliatory tone and seems to tell Christians not to be involved in the culture wars and to look at the 'rot' inside of us. He cannot be serious. As Christians we should always be courageous and not march to the cross and then duck our heads and run back. I was very sorry to read the last page because the rest of the book is very good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. That phrase has become cliché. Yet, the cliché usually holds true. For instance, during WWII Hitler made the same mistake as Napoleon and tried to conquer Russia in the winter. The result ended in the same way as it did for Napoleon: a devastated army forced to retreat taking with it any hopes of ruling Russia. Some might call a comparison between the United States of 2010 and Germany of 1932 hyperbolic. However, there are some eerie parallels between the two and in WHEN A NATION FORGETS GOD, Erwin Lutzer points out some of those similarities.
The book is written for a Christian audience. It explains how the German Church, by and large, was silent during Hitler's rise to power and instead of standing in the gap, allowed itself to be a willing accomplice to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. WHEN A NATION FORGETS GOD is a clarion call for Christians in America to be diligent so we do not fall into the same traps. The book also briefly tells the story of some Christian martyrs during that period.
There are a few comparisons in the book that Lutzer makes that are a bit of jump. There are also some issues where some believers might disagree with Lutzer. However, most of the time Lutzer makes insights that are supported by the historical record and which shouldn't be dismissed outright.
I remember when I was in grade school and was first learning about the Holocaust and the Nazi atrocities before and during WWII. The question that was raised by many of my classmates and myself was, "How could the people let this happen?" That question was often asked by WWII veterans I met who had served in Europe and had seen the concentration camps. "How could the people let this happen?" The people remained silent because they were afraid and most didn't have the courage of their convictions. Seeing the things that have happened in the United States the past several years, it really isn't that far of a stretch to see how the same thing really could happen here.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2013
Books by Dr. Lutzer are always worth your time, this one I consider very important. I am very pleased that he doesn't mention any of the recent presidents or current political parties and current happenings. This is a well documented with excellent quotes. He forces us to grapple with our allegiance to government and our greater allegiance to God. People ask how could the whole German nation be blinded, including the pastors, save a precious few to what was going on and take a stand. Even our Media alters the consciences and worldview of entire generations for the sake of "freedom" and "fairness". God is separating the wheat and the chaff.
People are willing to march down the wrong path as long as they are assured of personal peace and affluence. Lutzer showed how Hitler made laws to provide jobs, create prosperity, restore Military might and bring everything under government control. The hard road is the one we must often choose.
Either God is the lawgiver or Man is. Christians have never had it so good, we can broadcast our gospel, witness to our neighbors, but remember Him alone do we worship.
This is not the first book that Erwin Lutzer has written on the subject, but I is well worth the time to read it and attempt to be all that being a Christian means today, no matter what the cost. God doesn't want us to be healthy and wealthy, he does not want community but committed Christians true to his word and the Cross. Don't let psychology replace theology or cheap grace replace what Bonhoeffer describes as "costly grace". This small book should be read by every Christian, and taken to heart
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2015
Dr. Lutzer is one of my favorite authors and the message in this book could not be more powerful or more consequential to anyone who "has eyes to see and ears to hear." It is a book that, once read, should be kept nearby because its truths need to be digested again and again. This man is the antithesis of the writers espousing progressive "Christianity" who worship their own intelligence. Dr. Lutzer, on the other hand, recognizes that he is a servant of the Living God Who is King over all things. There can be nothing more powerful than melding God's Truth to a believer's ability to convey that Truth using keen intellect, knowledge, and a heart that cares for others and wants God's work in this world to be revealed. Dr. Lutzer is the embodiment of those attributes! Read this book and do what I did: buy more copies to give to those you want to hear Truth. I look forward to reading Dr. Lutzer's latest work. (A note: I receive no advance copies of books or any type of compensation for my reviews. I simply buy my own copies.)
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2010
ANYONE interested or concerned about the direction our country is going should read this book.
13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2014
I came across this book while visiting my spouse's parents. It was lying on their coffee table and I was bored, so I decided to start reading.
I was pretty much horrified with the whole thing. For starters, it's not historically accurate at all. Gays and lesbians did not start the Nazi party. This is undisputed among historians and scholars. In fact, gay and lesbian people WHO WERE NOT JEWS (just gay) were routinely rounded up and tattooed with a pink triangle. They, along with Jewish people, were then gassed.
The author's "citations" to sources that support his arguments and "facts" were probably 95% from papers or sermons of questionable religious figures. None of the sources pointed to any type of peer-reviewed journal, which one would expect to find in a writing making such wild claims - especially when these claims purport to give the reader a history lesson.
Second, I was troubled by the author's suggestion that America had been in the past, and should be in the future, a theocracy. This is not true. The founders of the country, and indeed the framers of our founding documents, were mostly vaguely deistic, agnostic, or athiests. Again, this is a widely accepted historical fact. Our founding fathers were quite clearly trying to make a distinction between ones own religion and the way the people as a whole are governed.
His argument for a theorcracy is further complicated (in my mind) by the fact that the demographics in the United States are rapidly changing. Does this mean that in 100 years, the dominating religion should then change US law to accommodate their own beliefs, as the author advocates Christians to do? I doubt that the author would agree to such a suggestion. In my mind, this is yet another example of his ignorance of facts and his willful aversion of reason.