(First published on the Faith & Chelsen: Tackling Tough Topics in Church and Culture blog on Patheos)
When is singing hymns damning?
When the increased volume of the hymn singing is not out of passion for the Lord, but to drown out the cries for help of those destined for slaughter.
That was the indictment against some churches in WWII Germany within hearing distance of the railroad taking Jews to the concentration camps. I first heard this story, related in Erwin Lutzer’s When a Nation Forgets God, from retired U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), who tells it to challenge American Christians:
Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would 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.
Some American Christians today are “singing a little louder” in these three ways:
- They are paralyzed by political correctness or brainwashed by moral equivalence.
- They are consumed by their own church politics and/or domestic liberty issues.
- They don’t know what to do to help.
Political Correctness and Moral Equivalence
Some Christians are afraid of being labeled Islamophobes. This paralyzes them into inaction, which is just what radical Islamists had in mind when they created the epiphet. There are some church leaders that are concerned that they will damage the “great progress” they have made in interfaith dialogues if they point to the jihad against Christians. Others worry that their outreach to Muslims will suffer if church members speak out about Islamists persecuting Christians.
When the President accuses those who believe that preference should be given to persecuted and threatened communities of using a “religion test,” some churches are reluctant to prioritize Christians and other persecuted minorities, even though the reality is that the “religion test” has been consistently used against the Christians.
Also, some Christians see America’s institutional sins as morally equivalent with global jihad, genocide, and caliphate building. They are eager to reach out in love to their enemies (without actually acknowledging they are enemies). Others write “love letters to ISIS” while neglecting the ancient Christian communities that ISIS is destroying, disobeying the Galatians 6: 10 mandate that other Christians follow.
And some church leaders, partnering with Christian agencies who are paid to resettle refugees, express doubt publicly about the “Christianity” of those that believe that it is foolish and dangerous to bring unvetted migrants into the United States. But these leaders do not criticize the Christian refugee resettlement groups’ lack of concern for the Syrian and Iraqi Christians left behind, who are not even safe in refugee camps.