Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A few years ago my wife and I went to Munich, Germany to visit our son, who was living there at the time. Munich is a beautiful city, with a rich culture and a deep history. Munich was also ground zero for the Nazi movement. There are still signs of Munich's descent into madness, such as exterior walls of buildings which--to this day--have pockmarks from machine gun bullets. Walking through the city, one occasionally comes upon a plaque indicating that a synagogue once existed in that spot.

One day during our visit to Munich we took a trip to the outskirts of the city to visit the Dachau concentration camp, which has been preserved for posterity. I learned that Dachau was the original, prototypical concentration camp--conceived and implemented in 1933 by Munich's Chief of Police, Heinrich Himmler. Initially, the people imprisoned at Dachau were political opponents and critics of the Nazis, journalists, activists, religious minorities (such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Quakers), homosexuals, Gypsies and immigrants. Later the camp was expanded and began taking in Jews. The inmates at Dachau were subjected to all of the barbaric cruelties that Nazi concentration camps would become infamous for.

That visit that day changed me. The Germans of the 1930's were an educated, cultured, religious people. But they were also beleaguered following WWI and were vulnerable to a charismatic and ruthless strong man who promised to restore their nation to its former greatness. The churches were, initially at least, largely compliant--and in many cases even supportive--of the rising Nazi regime. I realized on that day in Dachau that the seeds of the worst kinds of evil lie dormant in every culture, every nation, every religion. All it takes are the right circumstances and personalities to cause those seeds to germinate and grow, coupled with a lack of diligence on the part of those who should know better than to allow it to take root.

This is what has troubled me most deeply over the last year in this election cycle: What I have seen here in the 21st century U.S. of A. is indeed reminiscent of what occurred in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's. I'm not saying there is a direct parallel between Hitler and Trump. Trump is not Hitler. If history repeats itself it is only in the broadest sense that recognizable patterns of cause and effect do emerge.

This is why I've tried, in my own miniscule way, to speak against Trump and Trumpism--losing a few friends in the process. This is why I've been so heartened by the trouncing of Trump. And this is why I remain deeply, deeply troubled by all of the good devout Christian people who supported Trump or simply remained silent.


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