Professor Paula Fredriksen’s review of The Aryan Jesus in Tablet should hit rather close to home for any whose church (or synagogue, for that matter) displays symbols of the secular power. The comparison between an American flag in a church today, and the swastika of Nazi Germany, is invidious. But there is a point of intersection.
The need for an established church to please and appease the secular authorities is ever-present. In this, we must not indulge in any sense of moral superiority to those Germans who sat in the pews, and looked the other way, who did not hear what was plainly said. It was not so long ago that we in this country sat separately on Sunday from our black brothers; it was not so long ago that we cited Scripture to justify slavery and Jim Crow.
I have some sympathy with those Germans; it takes exceptional courage to stand up and be counted. How many of us could even pretend to be able to do what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did? But I lose sympathy with those who today justify national symbols in a Christian church by the usual citations of Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2:13. It is not necessary here in America to have such a secular display, not should we.
I fall back on Acts 5:29, which I believe more accurately reflects the overarching sense of Scripture and therefore of God’s will: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Simply said, when our leaders act in way contrary to God’s will (as we see it; but woe be to any who think they’ve got that market cornered), it is our duty to correct them. And it is certain that we must not knowingly go along to get along.