An Uneasy Thanksgiving

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As I sit down to my Thanksgiving dinner this year, one of the things I am thankful for is that we still have Thanksgiving Day. And I find myself mildly surprised that we still do. With the ongoing, systematic drive to eradicate God from public life in this country, it is remarkable that Thanksgiving Day has been left alone.

Even Christmas has been attacked. You can put Santa and his sleigh on the courthouse lawn, but not a nativity scene. The government can formally acknowledge the birth of Martin Luther King, but can’t acknowledge formally, as a government, on government property, the birth of a man who set more people free than Martin Luther King ever saw. And King knew that as well as anyone. He was a minister of the Christian faith, so he knew.

I have given it a lot of thought, and I think the reason Thanksgiving has remained untouched is because no one dares. It is too uniquely American. But there are those who would still like to get rid of Thanksgiving Day because the day acknowledges God.

So we give thanks this Thanksgiving day, but we must not become complacent. This too can be lost. There is an enemy afoot, an enemy of everything godly or godlike, an enemy of life and an enemy of light. And that enemy is absolutely implacable.

But the enemy is not the ACLU, the Supreme Court, the Democrats or the Republicans. The enemy is not Madalyn Murray O’Hair. In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the Apostle Paul identified the enemy:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10–13

There are several important things to notice in this short passage. The first is the obvious one. The enemy is not flesh and blood. It is the devil and the rulers of darkness. The systematic, hardworking, deliberate enemy of everything godly is not a mere man.

The second important thing to note is that our role is not passive. We are not merely to stand, but to stand against. Paul’s choice of words in the Greek imply active opposition to the forces of darkness, not passive resistance. And then consider the armor:

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:14–17

When you think about it, if our defense is merely passive, why do we need a sword? But then never forget, it is not men that we actively oppose, it is the spirit of darkness. And our sword is the Word of God, not guns and bombs. Traditional weapons are not effective against the real enemy.

There is a spirit world out there, and in that world there are two great powers, one of light, and one of darkness. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus came up against the powers of darkness. When He had been praying in the garden, His betrayer arrived with a band of leaders from the Temple. And they were armed.

Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour,and the power of darkness

Luke 22:52–53

These people were not demon possessed. They were not insane. They knew what they were doing. They were intent on murder and they were fully responsible for what they did. But they were doing the work of the power of darkness. Paul noted in his letter to the Ephesians that all of us in time past walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).

There is a spirit in the world and it is constantly at work in men. Exactly how it works is not clear, only that it does. We do know that one of the ways that spirit works is by deception. The Devil is called a great dragon, that old serpent, which deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9). We know something else about him: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (verse 10). We know that Satan is a blackmailer. We also know that he has been actively opposed and overcome by the saints who overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

But never forget this one important thing. Satan is a blackmailer, an accuser. And he actively works at blackmailing us before God and in our own hearts. He tries to intimidate us, to silence us in his great war with God and the saints.

This came home to me last week in a curious convergence in some things I was reading. It was a little frightening when I considered the implications of it.

I was looking for a good read, and I noticed in a mail order catalog a book titled Explaining Hitler, by Ron Rosenbaum. The review of the book was glowing and declared that the book was intelligent, extremely well written and was a good read. Since the topic was of interest, I decided to give it a try.

The book turned out to be not so much about Hitler as it was about the people who have tried to explain Hitler. I have only gotten a quarter of the way through the book, but I am already deeply disturbed by what I am reading. The world has moved on and has mostly forgotten Hitler. But historians are still struggling with him. They have tried to find a cause for the man and the great evil that he wrought in the last century, but with mixed success. Some of the explanations are laughable, and troubling at the same time. They are troubling in that they try to see Hitler himself as a victim. Some event in his life, perhaps a disease brought all this to pass. Some mental pathology.

None of the explanations have ever resolved the question, certainly not for Ron Ronsenbaum. As I read, I kept thinking, it is not enough to explain Hitler. You have to explain a political party, even a whole nation. No one man could have wrought this evil alone. And I remembered that Scripture says that Satan deceives the nations. He goes after governments because there is more power there. It is in governments and political parties like the Nazis that the Devil can get the leverage he needs.

It was plain to me in reading that, with Hitler, we are dealing with human evil on a grand scale, but more than that. Nothing has ever so clearly epitomized the powers of darkness as the Nazi party, the brownshirts, the SS, and the cadre of evil men that formed the third Reich. The powers of darkness were at work there in a way that anyone can see.

But did all this come to pass without warning? Did no one know it was coming? Hardly. One man in England, Winston Churchill, saw it coming as clear as day. He warned anyone who would listen and nearly destroyed his political career in the process. But I got an answer from Rosenbaum to a question I have been asking for years. Where were the news media when this man was coming to power? Did no one see? Did no one report?

And the answer is that yes, they did see, and they did report. They were the men of the newspaper Hitler called The Poison Kitchen. The one newspaper Hitler hated above all the rest. It was a liberal paper, anti-communist and anti-Nazi, the Munich Post.

Rosenbaum tells us that the Munich Post journalists were the first to focus sustained critical attention on Hitler from the first moment he came out of the beer halls and into the streets. You never hear about them, because it is more comforting to think that no one really knew who Hitler was and what he was all about until it was too late, until after 1933, until he had too much power to resist.

But that is simply not true. The Munich Post writers and editors knew and engaged Hitler in mortal combat for 12 years. The Munich paper had been so much on Hitler’s case, that he dispatched a gang of his bodyguard, to vandalize the offices of the Munich Post…in 1923. Ten years before Hitler finally got the power to destroy them.

The story of the 12 year battle between Hitler and the Munich Post is an incredible litany of scandal, violence, murder, blackmail. That story is almost lost. Rosenbaum had to go to Munich and go through the archives in yellowing, disintegrating pages and on old microfilm to get at it.

The men of the Munich Post saw Hitler as a political criminal. Rosenbaum is at pains to draw the distinction between a criminal politician and a political criminal: Hitler’s evil he concluded. was not generated from some ideology that descended into criminality and murder to achieve its aims. Rather his evil arose from his criminality and only garbed itself in ideological belief.

Think carefully about this. The political structure of the time lent itself to adapting one’s programs, chameleon like, to the needs and wants of the people. The political promises made did not arise from real conviction, but from a drive to power. When politicians change their beliefs and positions to get elected, they are doing the same thing Hitler did. Except that Hitler did not sacrifice principles to get into power. He had no principles to sacrifice. But when a modern politician changes positions to get elected, he is playing the same game Hitler played. Perhaps with less malice for now, but the same game.

Remember, it was not merely Hitler. What the Munich Post saw was a homicidal criminal enterprise that grew up around Hitler as the center. Rosenbaum saw in the yellowing pages of the Munich Post the signature crimes of Hitler and the Hitler party: Blackmailing and counterfeiting (not just money, but history itself). The stories of political blackmail outlined in the Munich Post were an absolute snake pit. They blackmailed their enemies, they blackmailed one another, they blackmailed other countries.

And it was right here that I saw a terrible convergence starting to take place. For the signature crimes of the devil are blackmail and counterfeiting.

The investigative work of the Munich Post reporters is staggering. They had copies of documents, blackmail letters, threats, extortion letters. They published it all. Over twelve years, they cataloged every crime of the Hitler party for the German public. They maintained a daily log of murders. Cumulatively, what one saw in the pages of the Munich Post was the extermination of the best and bravest people in Germany. Hitler succeeded, according to Rosenbaum, by killing off his most capable opponents and by blackmailing the rest. When his two best generals would not go along with him, he blackmailed them out of the military and replaced them with men more pliant.

One of the saddest pages of this story is the fact that Hitler went from a politician on the wane, who had suffered an electoral setback, to the chancellorship of Germany in just a few short weeks. Many historians believe he blackmailed his way into the chancellorship. After one week of Hitler in power, the Post published their regular murder count. There were 18 dead, 34 wounded in that one week alone. In a matter of days, the Munich Post was stormed by the SA, trashed, the editors and reporters arrested, most finally killed. Two made it to France and lived to tell the story.

Nearly every crime of the Hitler Party was chronicled in the pages of the Munich Post in the twelve years leading up to Hitler’s final power grab. But the public in Germany were never impressed by any of this, and this may be the most astonishing thing of all. I can only conclude that they did not want to see. Other papers published some, not all, of this material.

What happened? The Hitler propaganda machine denied everything. They lied in their teeth and the people chose to believe it.

I said above that there was a remarkable convergence in my reading this week. With the ongoing political struggle over the election last week, there were two editorials published that I happened to read. But before I call them to your attention, I have to make a disclaimer. This is not a purely political issue. It is not a Democratic or Republican issue. You don’t have to take political sides in this question. The two columns I encountered are both by Republicans, and in the nature of this situation, they almost have to be. The columnists have a point of view, but just because they have a point of view doesn’t mean they are wrong. The Munich Post was discounted by the Nazi’s as being Communist. Don’t believe a word they say, the Nazis countered, they are a communist rag. But they were not communist. They were liberal and even socialist, but they were as anti-communist as they were anti-Hitler. And the history is now clear. They were telling the truth and Hitler was lying.

We can’t afford to discount what someone says because he is a Democrat or a Republican. Everyone has a point of view. What I ask the reader to do is to simply consider what is said and evaluate it in the light of what we know. We know that power corrupts. Any large concentration of power or money attracts a lot of able people and a lot of unscrupulous criminals. There will be criminals either on the fringes or in the midst of any power center. If there are criminals in the Republican Party, that does not mean the party is criminal. If there are criminals in the Democratic Party, that does not mean the party is criminal.

Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2000i., talked of what she called The donkey in the living room, the large thing that is there but that no one talks about. The donkey, she said, is the explicit fear, grounded in fact, in anecdotal evidence, in the affidavits of on-the-ground participants, and in the history of some of the participants, that the Gore-Clinton Democratic party is trying to steal the election. Not to resolve it–to steal it. That is, they are not using hand-counting to determine who won, they are using hand-counting to win.

It is a serious charge, even though vote stealing is nothing new. It is as old as elections. Could a political party in this great and sophisticated democracy, in this wired democracy where sooner or later every shadow sees sunlight, steal a prize as big and rich and obvious as the presidency? Miss Noonan asks. Yes. Of course. If the history of the past half century has taught us anything it’s that determined people can do anything.

And it was right here in her piece that I sat bolt upright and took special notice. Because she was looking back that half century to the determined men who stole the chancellorship of Germany and brought in the Third Reich.

Miss Noonan went on to cite an Internet column by Paul Begala, who helped Mr. Gore prepare for his debates with George Bush. He referred to a map that has been widely circulated on the Internet showing every county that went for Mr. Bush in red and every county that went for Mr. Gore in blue. When you look at this map you see a sea of red for Mr. Bush, and clots of blue for Mr. Gore. Begala had this to say about that map:

“But if you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart–it’s red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay–it’s red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees–it’s red. The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they’re all red too.”

As Peggy Noonan noted, It was a remarkably hate-filled column, but also a public service in that it revealed what animates Clinton-Gore thinking regarding their opponents: hatred pure and simple, a hatred that used to be hidden and now proudly walks forward.

There has been a sea change in this country in the past several years. Now we do not merely have political rhetoric, we have political hatred. We have a hatred so strong that it justifies any lie, any action in defeating the demonized opponent on the other side.

Peggy Noonan describes the unstated but implicit message of the hatred: that extraordinary means are understandable when you’re trying to save America from the terrible people who would put George W. Bush in the presidency so that they can kill more homosexuals and black men and blow up federal buildings and kill toddlers. Really, if Republicans are so bad it’s probably good to steal elections from them, don’t you think?

And if the Jews were so bad in Germany, it was probably good, the Nazis argued, to ban them from public office, to close their businesses, to use them as slave labor and finally to exterminate them.

I mentioned a convergence. Shortly after I read Peggy Noonan’s piece, this one from Thomas Sowell arrived in my mailbox. Sowell is a columnist who regularly appears in papers around the country and can be accessed on the Internet. His piece was titled: More Desperate, More Ugly.ii.

It was only a few words among the millions that have been spewed out through the media about the presidential election, Sowell noted, but they were among the weightiest, and most chilling, of these words. A front-page story in the Wall Street Journal mentioned in passing a quiet intelligence-gathering operation begun by the Gore camp, ‘checking into the backgrounds of Republican electors, with an eye toward persuading them to vote for Mr. Gore.

Now I don’t have to be hit over the head to get something. Why do they need background information to persuade electors who are already pledged to vote for someone other than Mr. Gore? Sowell went on to say: More is involved here than dirty tricks or the character flaws of those who engage in them. These corrupt ways of operating are a danger to the very nature of American government. If you can steal an election by blackmailing members of the electoral college, then democracy becomes a farce.

So he came right out and said the word: Blackmail. If I were a Republican elector from the state of Florida, it would make my blood run cold. Who wants political operatives digging around in his past?

Half of the country will dismiss these columns as the rantings of Republican hacks. The other half will feel the chill. But for me, the remarkable convergence from four different sources, all of which point to the signature crime of blackmail, was profoundly disturbing.

What should our position as Christians be in all of this? Plainly, we cannot take sides politically. But that does not mean that we can’t take sides on matters of light and darkness. It does not mean we cannot wrestle against the powers of darkness wherever we encounter them. It does not mean we cannot stand up for life against death. But we must never allow ourselves to think that people are the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Among all the things we can be thankful for is the fact that the powers of darkness have not overtaken us…yet.But it is very discouraging to see a public willingness to descend into darkness. The willingness of the public to overlook crimes in high places is plain on every side. As long as government still promises to take care of us, the public seems to think that morality in government doesn’t count.

Be thankful for all your freedoms, but know this. You may not always have them. You have an enemy that is determined to take them from you. He must be actively opposed, but not in our own strength. No one person can do it all. It requires each of us, in our own small way, standing against evil-speaking against wrong, working in our little corner to persuade our neighbors, our friends that there is a better way. It requires us, even at the ballot box, to carefully and prayerfully make choices that may turn back the tide. No one can now imagine that his vote does not make a difference.

Never forget, the powers of darkness are out there, working every moment day and night to overcome us and all we believe in. To fight this battle, we have to be prepared, to be armed, to be strong. Finally, my brethren, said Paul:

[…] be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Ephesians 6:10–18

The complete Noonan and Sowell columns cited above can be read at:

i. Peggy Noonan – The Donkey in the Living Room (Paywall)

ii. Thomas Sowell – More Desperate, More Ugly (Paywall)


Author
Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart

People around the world have come to appreciate Ron’s easy style, his non-combative approach to explaining the Bible, and the personal, almost one-on-one method of explaining what’s going on in the world in the light of the Bible. After retiring from teaching and church administration in 1995 he started Christian Educational Ministries and the Born to Win radio program.

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Image Credits: Jeff Balke