I am engrossed in the latest biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and the parallels that I now see between Hitler’s Germany and contemporary America. Not that I have time to read a book approaching 3 inches in thickness, but I respect what Metaxas has to say, having spoken with him a couple times here in Winston-Salem. By the way, in reading, I even found that Winston-Salem or Salem, NC was the first place to celebrate July 4th in 1783! It’s a small world, and apparently Salem has played a large role in shaping this hemisphere.
The title of this entry was a popular concept in Hitler’s day, the word means “the Leader” and though it had been around for decades, “Hitler rode the concept of the Fuhrer Principle right into the chancellorship and eventually came to embody it.” (Metaxas, p.139).
Germany was at a point ripe for change and this man whom many describe as crazy and criminal, slipped right into leadership. How can something like that happen in a country known for its contributions to Christianity, only centuries away from a time when Luther translated the Bible in a way that unified the entire nation of Germany, giving them their first text in a common language? What happened to the clergy and the seminarians of that day, then world renowned for their scholarship?
Is something similar happening in America, reflected in the rapid change coming to our culture? Or, is this sweeping cultural change, compounded by technology, simply the recoil to the unraveling of morality among the generations now passing? Just as the German mark was devalued by debt and later default, the American dollar seems more at risk than ever, and to China of all nations? Our youth are crying for change and our seniors are simply crying!
Why am I writing this, I was struck by this infatuation with leadership, a common malady since Samuel’s day, when Israel desired a King over a prophet? I recall my own infatuation as I was first exposed to leadership theory in the early 80’s, everyone aspiring to personal development and positional enhancement. I then watched as the pulpits of America traded Christ-likeness for the same, then modifying this malady somewhat thanks to Greenleaf, and then Maxwell, thus the current enchantment of our churches and non-profits with servant leadership, a more palatable mix of the two. We want to be like Christ for that is our religious duty, but we also desire all the trappings of commerce that seem to come only through leadership in this overly capitalistic nation. My fear is that the church has now been seduced?
Rather being an institution that serves the poor and “stand(s) with those who suffer” [Bonhoeffer; Metaxas,p.128], we serve the wealthy and “help” those who suffer. Meanwhile the moral fabric our nation erodes, our banking institutions tremble and our churches sit silent so as not to injure revenues necessary to sustain staff and facilities. The only recourse for a new generation is change, the only concept they know is leadership; for pastoral guardianship of the Truth and healthy spiritual discipleship have long been traded for the social engagement and harmony needed for success in the capital campaigns that once funded the buildings that now hold congregations hostage. This is me repenting for a life given to nurturing “leaders” vs. disciples!