Educating for Worship
[The following is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote for Veritas Press’ forthcoming Omnibus III. This excerpt was published in the recent September edition of the Veritas “epistula” e-newsletter.]
For many, Adolph Hitler was the conservative, “family values” politician. Hitler passionately cared about the German family. He argued vehemently for rights of common workers, he spoke out against the so-called “liberation of women” from their callings in the home, and he encouraged a community culture that welcomed children and large families. Nazi papers, movies and educational curriculum consistently encouraged sexual fidelity and chastity, and they honored the responsibilities of mothers and wives in the raising of children and supporting their husbands. Hitler furthered his claims of defending the sanctity of the family through his suppression and execution of homosexuals throughout the war. Gypsies were another people group generally known for their immorality and less-than-orthodox lifestyles. These Hitler likewise suppressed and persecuted in various ways, gaining respect from the average German family. When Hitler came to power, his economic policies dramatically improved the nation almost overnight. Jobs were created largely through efforts to mobilize Germany for Hitler’s plans of expansion. Highway systems spread through the country to enable quick transportation of troops and supplies. Factories and technological plants sprang up in months, producing weapons, supplies, food, clothing and, of course, all the Nazi literature and media central to educating the masses in the Nazi program. The famous Volkswagen Beetle also appeared on German roads at this time, encouraging and allowing the common German man the freedom of economical travel. While Hitler outlawed all trade unions and every other political party, he silenced a great deal of dissidence with prosperity. German workers were given holidays and vacation time, plenty of work produced plenty of income, wives were encouraged to be home-centered, new schools and educational programs revitalized education and gave many opportunities to the children and youth of Germany. These family values, this sort of successful conservative progress, looked to many like a new Christian Germany emerging from the ashes of the liberalism of the previous fifty years. Hitler was also outspoken against communism, the atheistic political program of the Soviet Union. Hitler claimed to have a high regard for the right of private property and many basic, everyday freedoms. Hitler and the Nazi Party seemed to Germany to present the way of progress and rebirth. Ever since the First World War, Germany had suffered terribly from economic depression, political indecision and infighting; here at last, Hitler and the Nazis presented a unified and confident alternative to liberalism and socialism.
Recognizing all of these supposed “blessings” of Adolph Hitler as ruler is important for pointing out how the Christian faith dramatically diverges from Hitler. As we have seen, Hitler’s plans were larger than just some idea of “struggle.” Hitler believed that in, addition to pure blood, the next most necessary provision for progress and evolution was Lebensraum or “living space.” In order to win the fight, to prevail in the struggle, Germans needed bigger backyards. This necessity justified the expansion of German borders. It was the greater good of progress and freedom for the Aryan race that warranted the invasion of France, the annexation of Austria and the lightening warfare (or Blitzkrieg) that conquered a number of other eastern European countries within days. It is important to point out that the Scriptures also teach that the Kingdom of God will expand. In fact Jesus sent his disciples into the whole world, to every land and people, to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them how to live like Christ. In other words, King Jesus has sent His people on a mission of world conquest. But the significant differences between this world conquest and what Hitler imagined are in the method of conquest and the reason for conquest. Where Hitler believed that a pure race of Aryan peoples would subjugate all the inferior races of the world and use them as slaves, like so many cattle, the Great Commission of Jesus sends His people into the world to declare the good news of salvation to every land and race. In fact, faithful ministers of the gospel are declaring that there is only one pure-blooded man, and His name is Jesus, and He shed his blood for all the nations of the earth to make them pure and blameless before God. Where Hitler lifted up Aryan blood and condemned the nations of the world, we lift up the perfect blood of Christ and proclaim the salvation of the world.
This story of Hitler’s “wooing” of Germany also serves as a solemn warning to American evangelical Christians. Given that Christians are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of “family values” and “conservative politics,” we must recognize the slippery slope of following strategies like voting for the “lesser of two evils.” One of the most important ways we must protect ourselves and our descendants from the temptation of seeing politics as our savior must be the determination that all reformation begins in the Church. Faithful worship results in honest, joyful living before the face of God, and honest, joyful living is what results (eventually) in economic blessing, political stability and peace. Germany bought the lie that they were completely backed into a corner; they believed that Hitler really was the only way out. But Christ has promised that we are part of a Kingdom against which the gates of Hades will not prevail (Matt. 16:18).
And so here you are in high school in the 21st century. Why are you in school? Why are you reading this page? Why are you reading Mein Kampf? You may be wondering these very things yourself; or perhaps you are quite sure it was your teacher’s fault or that your mom or dad “made you do it.” But let me offer you an even more meaningful reason. You are studying and reading this book because you are training to be a faithful worshiper of the Triune God. Hitler was absolutely right: education’s central purpose is to train young men and women to be the most useful subjects of the kingdom. However, he was terribly wrong for believing that any amount of struggle–however heroic–would amount to anything in the blender of Fate. He was terribly wrong to believe that Germany, a plot of land in central Europe, was the pinnacle of civilization. In the end, all his dramatic posturing is like watching a small child wrestling in a sandbox with his eyes closed pretending to be doing deadly battle with some unseen foe. God looks down from heaven and laughs; He holds in scorn all those who set themselves against His Anointed. But we do well to consider: What is the chief end of man? What is the greatest calling of every subject of the Kingdom of God? Your central purpose from beginning to end, first to last, your greatest task and privilege is the worship and glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This being the case, the central purpose of education is the training of Christian worshipers. The reason you are reading this essay is so that you might chant, sing, clap, pray, kneel, raise hands, listen, eat, drink and shout with understanding, reverence and joy to the end that the God of heaven and earth will send justice like summer rain and mercy like a downpour on the earth. The reason you study math, science and art is so that your imagination will be filled with wonder and awe at the Creator of the most mind blowing project ever: the world. And whether you are learning to read music or playing an instrument, whether your hand is holding a pencil or gesturing in the theater, you are training yourself for the warfare of worship. You are teaching your body gratitude; you are teaching your soul thanksgiving. There is hardly an adequate evaluation of your progress, but the best grade you can receive is the outworking of a thankful heart. If you have truly learned Algebra, if you have mastered the story of Western Civilization, if you can tell me the names of the constellations that whirl about our heads, then you will do it with laughter in your voice, you will do it with joy in your heart and gratitude in your bones. Worship is the point of learning because worship is the point of life. And worship is the point of life both because this is the chief honor of every faithful subject in the Kingdom of God and because it is the head of many waters, the council chambers of the King of all the earth. From the world gathered at the table of the Lord issues the great judgments of the King.
Hitler’s world is the story of eternal collision, unending struggle and violence. In that world blood and genes are the fundamentals of life, and pure Aryan blood is Hitler’s absolute best. But the Christian story scoffs at the small-mindedness of German nationalism even as it scoffs at American imperialism. The Lord of Heaven derides Hitler’s arrogant racism and sickening genocide as much as He abhors the slaughter of the unborn in our own country. But this is all the inevitable end of evolutionary thought. If the world is a galactic mosh pit, then bigger is better, might does make right. However, history tells the story better. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. But blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. And the sons of God are welcome at His table. The gospel declares the pure and undefiled blood of Jesus Christ, whose blood purifies every nation of the world. Hitler was right: pure blood will conquer the world. But ironically (for Hitler) that blood is the blood that was shed by an innocent Jewish man two thousand years ago. The sons and daughters of the Most High are family through the blood of Christ and are therefore invited to the family meetings. The Christian faith encompasses all of life, visible and invisible. Forgiveness cleanses the soul, and fruit proceeds out of the heart. In a mystery, the visible and invisible mingle and mix. In a wonderful glory God adopts us into His family with water and faith, He feeds us with His word and bread and wine. And we bless one another with words and smiles and hugs. Joy makes bones strong, and wisdom gives long life. We live in the world that God made, a world where heaven and earth touch, for we have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God. In Christian worship we ascend into the throne room in heaven to ask the Father for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Fate speaks, destiny beckons and all of the scrapings of Hitler are like sand in the wind. But the Lord speaks, the Triune God beckons and the prayer of the righteous man avails much.