Could America face its own Kristallnacht?

A letter from Teresa Morris

See also Bonhoeffer - Nazi Religion versus "Religionless" Faith

I'm reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It explains the terrors of the infamous Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) on November 9, 1938.[1] One Jew in Paris killed one German at the German embassy there, and Hitler and his S.S. took advantage of a handy "crisis" in order to initiate their planned persecution of the Jews. Two days after the killing,

"mob violence broke out as the regular German police stood by and crowds of spectators watched. Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into and wrecked Jewish homes, and brutalized Jewish women and children."[2]

Things in Germany were never the same after that, especially for the Jews. It triggered the beginning of a reign of terror. Since Hitler's propaganda masters had already trained the masses to hate, it took only a spark. Yet that brief moment has continued to serve as a tragic reminder of the power of tyrants and the speed of change.

I'm seeing the potential for a sudden, destructive transformation of America. One act of violence committed by one unstable person could become a catalyst, a useful crisis for unscrupulous politicians. They could do the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the fire, in order to use that crisis to trigger (and/or stage) events that give the President an excuse to declare martial law. And that could result in a de facto dictatorship.

Bonhoeffer was deeply concerned about the sickly state of much of the church in Germany. We have the same problem here in America, ranging from worldliness and lukewarmness to a level of apostasy that is just "unthinkable." Many (if not most) American church goers are neither willing nor prepared to take a stand against evil.

There are a variety of reasons for this. Some church goers are what Spurgeon called "professers" -- people who profess to be Christians, but are blind to His gospel. Others are weak Christians who have become confused or compromised by false teachings. And others are people who are outright apostate. They have no idea what true Christianity is.

Some so-called Christians are "practical atheists." Neither their personal life or their beliefs show the influence of God's Word or Spirit. Perhaps Hitler fit into that category. Notice his words and remember his "works" as described in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy [3]:

Adolf Hitler: "It's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest goal? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity." [p. 165]

"Especially early in his career, Hitler wished to appear as a typical German, so he praised the churches as bastions of morality and traditional values. But he also felt that, in time, the churches would adapt to the National Socialist way of thinking. They would eventually be made into vessels for Nazi ideology, so it little served his purposes to destroy them. It would be easier to change what already existed and benefit from whatever cultural cachet they possessed." [p. 166]

"...but all of this was far in the future. In 1933, Hitler never hinted that he was capable of taking a stand against the churches. Most pastors were quite convinced that Hitler was on their side, partly because he had a record of pro-Christian statements that reached back to the first days of his political life." [p. 168]

"Even when being brutal, the Nazis were canny and careful. They were exceedingly sensitive to public opinion, and their approach to the Confessing Church was mostly one of ever-increasing and ever-tightening regulations. Their methods were 'not so much aimed at banning the Confessing Church directly...but gradually liquidating it through intimidation and the suppression of individual activities."

"They forbade the reading of intercessory prayer lists from the pulpit... In July all 'duplicate communication' would be subject to the Nazis' Editorial Law and would receive the same treatment as newspapers.... The welter of inane regulations and unjust laws overwhelmed the Confessing pastors, who were constantly running afoul of one of them and being arrested."[p. 294]

"Serious Christians in Germany were at war with something that was unrepentantly evil, that would not listen to reason and would not compromise. One must act and be prepared to face the consequences."[p. 294]

Gullible and unprepared, the masses were easily deceived by Hitler's promises and resigned to his rules. At first, he seemed so wise, hopeful and "Christian." Few recognized the lies, discerned the evil, or anticipated the coming tyranny until it was too late. Would we have done better? 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."[2]

May the Lord give us the grace to "endure to the end" and to "be faithful unto death." (Mark 13:13 and Revelation 2:10)


1. Kristallnacht:

2. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy-- A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich, ( 2010 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2010)."The quote is from the inside back flap of the cover.

3. Ibid..

    "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

    "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand "'...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' So the people answered and said: 'Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods....'" Joshua 24:15-16

See also Nazi Religion versus "Religionless" Faith

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