We don’t celebrate July 4th. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. What are we celebrating? Do most Americans know? The Declaration of Independence was a bold statement against tyranny. We live in a time of greater tyranny. The taxes were minimal in 1776, and yet the people were willing to take a stand against them. A number of states where the GOP is in charge are calling for massive tax increases to fund a growing Leviathan. There were other grievances. Take some time to read them here. And then compare them to what’s taking place today with legislatures and the courts forcing people to violate their consciences by refusing to accommodate same-sex marriage. Do you want to get an idea of what’s coming down the pike, then “Meet the Megadonor Behind the LGBTQ Rights Movement”?
Here’s the question: Are there times when it is legitimate to resist the government?
“It is 1942. The Nazis who control your nation militarily have just announced a new policy requiring all Jews to come to the local city hall and register. The most prominent church leader in your denomination has recommended obedience to all ‘lawful’ directives of the German authorities. He has not recommended disobeying this new directive, and you have no reason to believe that he will. Your denomination will not speak directly to this issue, and you think the civil authorities will threaten to shut down churches or in other ways pressure the church’s leadership to remain silent or even recommend compliance with the order. Then a Jew you know comes to you and asks for asylum. He wants you to hide him in your attic or barn. You know that this would be illegal. Will you hide him or turn him over to the Nazis?”1
Was it wrong to disobey these laws? In terms of Nazi law, yes. But what about in terms of a higher moral law? How would your pastor respond if a similar law was passed today? Of course, there were consequences for defying Nazi law. People who hid Jews from the Nazis risked their own lives.2 Those who spoke out publicly about the Nazi regime were sent to concentration camps.3
Resistance movements like those practiced by Christians during World War II have been accepted as morally justified by nearly all ethical thinkers. The Diary of Anne Frank and Thomas Kineally’s Schindler’s Ark (later made into the film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg) show the highest praise for those who defied what was a “legal” government policy.
In Give Me the Children: How a Christian Woman Saved a Jewish Family During the Holocaust, Pola Arbiser describes how her nanny defied the law and hid her and her sister from Nazi officers. The Jewish community of survivors has described these resistors as “righteous gentiles”4 or simply “Christian rescuers.”5 These actions were considered moral even though they violated Nazi Reich law.
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- Gary North, “Editor’s Introduction,” Christianity and Civilization: Tactics of Christian Resistance (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), xii. [↩]
- Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [↩]
- Basil Miller, Martin Niemöller: Hero of the Concentration Camp (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1942), 112. [↩]
- As reported in Catherine E. Shoichet, “Christian nanny hid Jewish family from Nazis,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (August 27, 2003), E1 and E6. See Pola Arbiser, Give Me the Children: How A Christian Woman Saved a Jewish Family During the Holocaust (Altona, Manitoba, Canada: Friesens, 2003). [↩]
- David P. Gushee, “Christians as Rescuers During the Holocaust,” Must Christianity Be Violent?: Reflections on History, Practice, and Theology, eds. Kenneth R. Chase and Alan Jacobs (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003), 71. [↩]