The Holocaust

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Col. 1:4

For the older generation – Baby Boomers who were born at the end of WWII – this was one of the saddest episodes in human history.  It was an attempt at genocide of the Jews in Germany, Poland and areas controlled by Nazi Germany. Over 6 million Jews were killed in extermination camps.  That was 2 of every 3 Jews in Europe.

On my first family trip to Germany in the early 1980’s, we visited Dachau, the first of one thousand concentration camps. They were created in 1933 by Adolph Hitler when he became Chancellor of Germany.  It was a sobering experience, one which I will never forget. 

Several years later while visiting Israel with Jewish friends, we toured Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. It was moving and instructive at the same time. The wife of our Jewish friend who accompanied us is now a Docent at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

The DC Holocaust Museum has an Encyclopedia of Holocaust information. It describes the Holocaust as a “systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators”.  It goes on:

“The Nazis, […] believed that Germans were ‘racially superior’ and they wanted to create a ‘racially pure’ state. Jews, deemed ‘inferior,’ were considered an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.”

Over the years, there have been denials that the Holocaust happened.  Those, unfortunately, have crept into social media.  The CEO of Facebook suggested said that he didn’t think deniers of the Holocaust were “intentionally getting it wrong.”  That comment is hard to imagine in light of the existence of gas chambers pictured above. Those are not a mirage. 

Because the next generation get their information from social media, it comes as no surprise that they are largely uninformed.  About 1 in 10 young adults in America think that Jewish people caused the holocaust, or that it didn’t happen, or they aren’t even sure it took place according to a recent survey

That may be bad enough, but a shocking 50% of millennials and Gen Z reported seeing Holocaust denial or distortion posts online.  63% of all those surveyed did not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36% thought that less than two thousand Jews died. 

Two thirds of millennials in America don’t know what Auschwitz was and half of Americans believe that the Holocaust could happen again.  Seventeen per cent could not name a concentration camp or ghetto (there were 40,000 of those in all).

Why is this important?  Well, lots of reasons, but the main one is that it shows a tragic failure of the education system to teach accurate history in our school systems.  Edmund Burke is quoted as saying that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

We are seeing an attack on our foundations and history at unprecedented levels, including the teaching of Critical Race Theory and curriculum based on the 1619 Project. What is clear is that it shows how quickly our foundational knowledge can be lost, and once lost, replaced by “terribly skewed or mistaken things” according to Ralph Emory White

Which brings me to Christianity.  Gen Z is the first generation to have been brought up in a post-Christian era, certainly in the U.S. “They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel,” according to White.

This has huge implications for Christianity.  If they don’t know about the Holocaust, they certainly don’t know that the Nazi party stood for “National Socialist Germany Workers Party” and that socialism has a sordid history. And if they don’t know about the Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, they have no chance of knowing about a Jewish man who lived 2000 years ago.

Our challenge is to reach across generational boundaries and walk beside the next generation. Their views on history and religion are shaped by social media, not history or the bible. As such, it may be too much to ask them to read history books, but not too much to develop a relationship with a mentor. 

They may not remember history, so it is up us to pass it on to the next generation. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: One area to explore with your mentee is his or her knowledge of history. To the extent that it is weak, you can provide simple resources to build up what our school systems have left out.

FURTHER READING:

Dachau Concentration Camp  History.com

Social Media’s Denials of the Holocaust is No Mistake – they are Hate Speech The Hill

New Survey Shows Ignorance of Holocaust  

First State by State Survey of Holocaust Knowledge Claims Conference

Generation Z, the Holocaust and the Bible – White

US Holocaust Museum Website

WORSHIPGraves into Gardens – Elevation Worship

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CRT

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. 1 Cor. 3:19

CRT stands for Critical Race Theory.  You may not have heard of it, but if you are in the U.S., you have seen elements of it being played out in our streets, media, academia, and more importantly, in our public-school system.  

It is the basis for much of the divisiveness and unrest which we have seen this year, although it has been a long time coming. While racism exists and is a result of the sin of partiality which is condemned  in James, CRT goes far beyond that. Its theory includes the following concepts:

            *  Racism is the singular evil which causes everything to be wrong with our culture; it is the equivalent of original sin. 

            * “Systemic Racism” and its evil twin “unconscious bias” is endemic in our western culture. The only remedy is to destroy all institutions – political and economic – including any moral standards or social norms.

            * ”White privilege” comes from the group that is deemed to be the most privileged ethnic group. As such, it is the main proof of systemic racism (to the exclusion of other minority groups like Hispanics and Asians who have also faced discrimination).

            * “Racism” is uniquely white. Members of other “less privileged ethnic groups” are also victims of social injustice and can join in as a response to their own oppression.

            *  “White supremacy” is a form of racial terrorism and pervades all institutions, policies, practices that it is all but “impossible to think outside it.”

            *  All white people are universally stereotyped as racist, whether or not that’s true.

            *  Ergo, being white is an evil that requires confession and must be repudiated, but even that does not lead to forgiveness.

            *  Members of privileged ethnic groups are racist if they deny being racist.

The list goes on, but I think you see the direction. Decades of unrelenting indoctrination have resulted in ethnic animosity and civic unrest. It creates a “we” versus “they” mentality which only widens the chasm between the races. 

CRT is dangerous to our well-being and western civilization. It is also unbiblical and unmoored from authentic Christianity.  It divides the world into racial groups whereas the New Testament breaks down all such barriers: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free…for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

How did it get so popular and become the basis of the NY Times 1619 Project, which incorrectly rewrites American history based on CRT.  Public schools, including middle schools, are using the 1619 Project as part of their curriculum. Corporations have embraced diversity and unconscious bias training.  Black Lives Matter has its roots in CRT. 

As Christians, we are taught that love does not take into account a wrong suffered. As such, the Christian model is to turn the other cheek, loving our enemies and praying for those who mistreat us.  We follow the model of Christ who, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return”.

Even the Evangelical church has fallen prey to CRT. It has infected the church and Baptist seminaries are now teaching CRT.  Throughout the existence of Christianity, the church has “shamelessly borrowed fads and talking points from the unbelieving world” according to John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church.  

I liken this ubiquitous spread of CRT to a virus in our culture. It’s a pandemic only no one knows they’ve been infected because it has been clothed in terms that hides its purpose. 

John Lindsay, an atheist mathematician warns that CRT is a Trojan Horse by “smuggling ideas into the movement that will eventually eliminate core biblical values and doctrines.” He’s right.

John MacArthur puts it this way: “Never has the church of Jesus Christ been more desperately in need of bold, courageous, clear-thinking, forthright, steadfast biblical leadership.”  

Space doesn’t permit more analysis, but I suggest that readers may want to read Gerald McDermott’s article on the five ways that CRT is incompatible with Christianity. 

Robin DiAngelo authored White Fragility, a book that embraces CRT and which is used by companies in their diversity trainings.   Only problem is that it is an intellectual fraud according to David Burke. I agree with Burke.

We need for Christian leaders to step back from this false teaching.  Jesus promises that the Great Shepherd will replace false shepherds with faithful shepherds “who will hold fast to his sheep.”  

The challenge is that CRT is everywhere – in the workplace, the school, in our businesses, and very few in the Church have stepped up to counter it.  We need for pastors in our churches to be vigilant to popular social and cultural ideologies that contradict Christianity.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Most in the next generation are steeped in CRT and haven’t thought through its implications. You can help them with clear theology to understand why it is dangerous to our culture.

FURTHER READING:

How CRT is Marginalizing the African American Christian Tradition – Michigan Journal

Stanford offers sessions on ‘racial terror’, claiming it’s ‘nearly impossible’ to think outside of White Supremacy – Fox 

Is Critical Race Theory Compatible with Christian Faith?  Juicy Ecumenism

Critical Race Theory, A Sickness that Cannot Be Allowed to Continue   MacArthu

Critical Race Theory – What is it?  Patheos

Marxist CRT Infiltrates Churches, Culture – Epoch Times

The Intellectual Fraud of DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”  Burke

WORSHIP:  Christ is Enough  – Hillsong

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Enron Redux

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Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.  
Eccl. 4:8

Not everyone will remember the Enron scandal which occurred in 2001.  It was a high-flying energy company whose stock had soared but was managed by corrupt people.  There was no check and balance on insider corporate transactions resulting in officers of the company enriching themselves to the detriment of the company.

Congress enacted legislation which, while well intended, doesn’t really correct corrupt leadership.  The Sarbanes Oxley(SOX) Act created a template for corporate governance.  Primary among its provisions was dealing with conflicts of interest. 

While SOX only affected for-profit corporations. The leading organization that promotes best practices for Christian non-profits and churches is ECFA (Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability). It was quick to embrace SOX accountability and conflict of interest rules.

Among other ECFA standards,  It set forth rules for approval of compensation as well as dealing with conflicts of interest of transactions with a “related party”, which could be the family of an officer. Only disinterested members of a Board can vote to approve a transaction where there is a conflict of interest.

Many states changed their non-profit statutes to require governing boards to have disinterested members approve any transaction where there is a conflict of interest. 

What is surprising is that Enron was a public corporation whose stock was traded on the NY stock exchange. As such, it was already highly regulated and subject to a myriad set of oversight and rules regarding governance. Arthur Andersen, its large auditor, went out of business. 

One concept of governing Boards (whether they are elders, trustees or directors) is that they are responsible for oversight and have fiduciary standards.  In the public arena, there are no more “rubber stamp” or figurehead boards where the members do no real governing nor holding officers accountable. 

Can Enron occur again?  I am sure it will in the for-profit world, but it will be another iteration designed to escape discovery.

I give this background because the Christian world has seen its share of ministry leaders fail, yet the real culprit is their governing boards who have sat on their hands when there was anecdotal evidence that something was wrong. 

An Enron “event” has occurred several times in the Christian world recently.  Two examples:  Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, and more recently, Jerry Falwell, Jr. at Liberty University, a Christian college in southern Virginia. 

Hybels was senior pastor at Willow Creek, a mega church with around 16,000 members near Chicago, ILL. He stepped down in 2019 when allegations of sexual misconduct and intimidation of employees surfaced. A majority of the Elders resigned, and the allegations were found to be correct by a third party investigation.

Having been on an Elder Board of a church where a group of the elders attempted to bring the senior pastor into a level of personal accountability, I can say that there were signs of trouble with Hybels long before it became public. Just the strength and charisma of a leader makes such efforts hard. 

And then there is Jerry Falwell, Jr., a lawyer by training, who took over Liberty University from his father. He recently resigned over character issues – a lifestyle that was not consistent with Christianity. He acted with impunity in part because the Trustees were not adhering to good governance principles. 

The Liberty Board had 33 members, which by any best practice standards is too large for a working Board where dissenting voices could be heard. Instead of investigating issues which had been obvious for years, they looked the other way (or worse, they didn’t even look). 

To add insult to injury, Falwell was permitted to resign making him eligible for $10 million in termination benefits. What should have happened?  They should have fired him, and they all need to resign and start over.

In the Christian world, you shouldn’t need SOX or its non-profit adaptations to govern a ministry or a church. The Bible has plenty to say about the character and conduct of leaders, as well as being accountable and stewardship.  

The trouble is that many ministries are top down leadership models where a strong and charismatic leader can fail in plain sight.  Good governance on ministry boards comes with the requirement to be involved, not sit back and watch a disaster unfold. 

We are all capable of depravity.  It happened to Bill Hybels and Jerry Falwell, Jr. It is a lesson to all boards that we need each other to be held into account. No man is an island. Being a “King” is inconsistent with being a servant.

The challenge is for each of us to realize that we are all capable of some level of failure and brokenness. We need others in our lives to keep us on the path when we veer off course. That requires a commitment, humility and transparency which is so often lacking from a top down leader.

I am noted for telling others that if you don’t have an accountability group, you are an accident waiting to happen.  Satan doesn’t pick on groups – he picks on individuals.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Personal integrity is a team sport. Make sure your mentee has close friends to help him or her stay on track.

FURTHER RESEARCH:  Enron Scandal: The Fall of a Wall Street Darling

Sarbanes Oxley Act

After Jerry Falwell Jr., a Reckoning for Liberty University – WSJ

The Falwell Fiasco:  Where was the Board?  Ministry Watch

ECFA Principles of Stewardship – Conflicts of Interest

WORSHIP:  Cornerstone – Hillsong

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QAnon

                                                          

Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least”, declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 23:32

Most of you may not be familiar with QAnon.  I wasn’t until recently. I have watched it for a while, not really digging into it, but wondering what it was and why it was surfacing in the church, particularly with evangelicals. 

For background, the movement was started in 2017 by an anonymous source named “Q” who is supposed to be deep inside the US government and who has the most top-secret clearance – the Q clearance.  He posts on some off the beaten path bulletin boards like 4chan.

Q’s original conspiracy theory is that there is a world conspiracy to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy and who are into worldwide sex trafficking.

One theory is that Covid-19 is an artificial event created by the government, causing Q supporters to show up at protests in Germany against strict coronavirus rules with signs that said “Stop the Corona lies”.

That, in of itself, is unsettling. How did these conspiracy theories on steroids gain traction so quickly? One answer is a combination of the pandemic and social media which became the platform for spreading the conspiracies during lockdowns. 

Facebook and Twitter have now dropped hundreds of Q boards, so QAnon has retreated to other platforms. Since March 2020, a researcher found that there has been a 71% increase of QAnon on Twitter and 651% on Facebook. 

A recent Pew research study showed that 76% of adults don’t know about it, and only 2% of evangelicals. Yet it has entered into our politics and there are now some 78 congressional candidates running for office that follow it or embrace it.

It wasn’t until I read Katelyn Beaty’s article which made me realize that this is an issue for all evangelical churches to deal with, yet most are not prepared.  Pastors around the country are now having to confront the issue. They have been slow to realize that QAnon is more pervasive and pernicious than they thought. 

Many of the conspiracy theories have been debunked, yet that doesn’t seem to deter adherents. What is concerning to me is that it may be affecting the next generation who can see the falsity of some of the conspiracy theories, yet cannot separate the Gospel from them.  

Jared Stacy, a college and young adult pastor at a church in Virginia, is quoted in Beaty’s article that he fears that “Jesus would be not be co-opted by conspiracy theories in a way that leads the next generation to throw Jesus out with the bathwater”. He fears that that they may not be “able to separate the narrative of taking back our country from Jesus Kingdom narrative.”

Pastors are now speaking out, such as Jeb Barr of First Baptist Church of Elm Mott in Waco, Texas, who said conspiracy theories are “extremely widespread and getting worse” among his online church networks. Who knew?

Others, like James Emory Whiteare sounding the alarm, but in many ways, the horse is already out of the barn.  White’s blog and Beaty’s articles are a must read for Christians, so I won’t quote them more here.  In essence, QAnon can be hurting the witness of the Church. 

In thinking about how we got here, it occurs to me that part of the conspiracy movement reflects a distrust of media for not telling the truth.  That provides a foothold for someone to come up with an alternative “truth” that sometimes is laughable such as “Bill Gates is related to the devil, face masks can kill you, and 5G radio waves are made for mind control.”  

QAnon is now on the radar of the FBI which mentioned it by name in a May 30, 2019 memo, and it considers some of these conspiracy theories as a “domestic terrorist threat.”

To attract the uninformed, Q often quotes scripture in his pronouncements which gives a Christian credence to his claims. The cover story of the recent World Magazine has an article by Emily Belz under the topic of Sign of the Times. She chronicles dealing with QAnon adherents who have become so deep in their ideology that they are cultish and need rescuing. It’s scary reading.

The challenge here is that the next generation is more tech and social media savvy than their elders.  They are the ones most likely to access things like QAnon but without a biblical mooring. It is a spiritual worldview that has “co-opts many Christian sounding ideas to promote verifiably false claims”. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Do not shy away from asking your mentee if he is involved in QAnon.  Take time to educate yourself about it so you can speak with some authority.

FURTHER RESOURCES:  Most Americans say they’ve heard nothing at all about QAnon – Pew

QAnon is More Important than you Think – The Atlantic

Evangelicals are Looking for Answers Online. They’re Finding QAnon Instead – MIT Technology

QAnon is a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing – Christianity Today

QAnon is the Alternative Religion That’s Coming to Your Church – Katelyn Beaty

QAnon – Church and Culture Blog – James Emory White

Questions About QAnon Emily Belz/World Magazine

FBI Memo Identifies Conspiracy Theories as New Domestic Terrorism Threat

WORSHIP:  This We Know – Vertical Church

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