Eric Metaxas: The Church is in Crisis, as it was in 1930s Germany

By John Zmirak Published on May 22, 2023

Friend of The Stream Eric Metaxas has a new book out, so we decided to ask him about what it’s for and why it is needed.

John Zmirak: You’ve just released a Study Guide for your shortest book, Letter to the American Church. I read the “Letter” in one day, but I realize you might have spent even longer writing it. Why a study guide for such a short, and to me extremely lucid, book? Do you think the message is so alarming that perhaps some people need a little handholding to deal with it?

Eric Metaxas: I’ve written fourteen books now and have never done a study guide, but people are constantly asking for them — and for this book especially. I know that many Church home groups use my books, and this book is tailor made for that, so it seemed natural to produce a study guide, to help facilitate those group conversations. It makes the process of going through the chapters easier for anyone, and I am all for that. The idea that people are interacting with this book and wanting to get into it like this thrills me. It’s why I wrote the book, of course, but the fact that so many people really are using it that way and kept asking for a study guide makes me very happy.

An Answer to the Vichy French Agenda

Russell Moore and David French, who receive a bunch of money from the leftist billionaire Pierre Omidyar, just crafted a “civic curriculum” for pastors to use in their churches, explaining how they can be good collaborators with Woke culture, the FBI, and the IRS. Is your book a potential alternative, more of a Charles de Gaulle than a General Petain agenda?

Yes, precisely. My book is the radical opposite of the globalist Marxist madness being peddled by such as Moore and French. What a nightmare! That self-proclaimed “Christian leaders” are so deeply and sickeningly wrong about these most basic issues is why I wrote this book in the first place. Or why God called me to write it, to be more accurate. Because that’s something I know is true and want to be clear about. It wasn’t some bright idea of mine.

But I do know that most actual Christians understand that something is very wrong in the culture and are looking for leadership in what to say and how to behave. And so many pastors are confused and silent. But far worse than that, we have folks like Moore and French openly advocating for the wrong things.

Because so many are being swayed by deeply deceived leaders like Moore and French — and Andy Stanley and others — we have a duty to speak up, to help steady those in the middle, and to help them see the truth, that Moore and French are wittingly or unwittingly serving evil purposes. It is precisely — and I do mean precisely — how the German church buckled in the face of Satanic evil as the Nazis rose to power. The parallels are simply astonishing, which is again why I wrote this book.

The United States of Diocletian?

There’s a paradigm shift for American Christians, as we move from an ex-Christian to an anti-Christian regime and culture. Is this similar to what German believers faced in the 1930s? Would Germans have been as incredulous when Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to explain that fact to them as U.S. Christians are when you make the same point?

German believers were precisely where many American believers are. Many are confused and are going to churches where the pastors are feeding their confusion and their silence. They have the wildly wrong idea that being silent is the best course. As if there were some third middle way they might take, where they could be safe from what is happening. Where they can just be nice, and smile their way through hell. But those who are avoiding these issues are helping evil to happen.

That was precisely what Bonhoeffer tried to get the German church to see in the Thirties, and of course we know that they did not hear what he had to say until it was too late. And then they saw things happening that they could never have dreamt. And their silence in the face of evil — while there was still a chance — would haunt them for the rest of their lives. And it is God’s warning to us today. Will we be silent as they were silent? Will we buy the tortured “theological” excuses for acceding to the forces in this culture — or will we stand as God calls us to stand?

How Many Pastors Are Resisting? How Many Are Taking the 30 Pieces of Silver?

As I recall, you lay out in the book that 1/3 of Protestant pastors in the early 30s were enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis, despite their rejection of basic biblical tenets. One-third were silent and uncommitted, and just one third faithfully spoke up against the new regime. Looking at what happened during COVID, and what’s happening with LGBTQMYNAMEISLEGION issues, what would you estimate is the ratio today of collaborators/quietists/prophets?

Actually the numbers are a bit different. It was only about a sixth of the Lutheran pastors who were utterly brave, and were willing to live our their faith fearlessly, many of whom paid a great price. Then on the other end of the spectrum there were about a sixth of Lutheran pastors who were dumb enough to think that being openly pro-Hitler and pro-Nazi was consonant with their faith. But in the middle of these extremes were two-thirds of the German Lutheran church, somehow actually believing that they didn’t need to choose. They were deceived into thinking that they could be safe in “the middle”. They were the ones who made it possible for evil to triumph, and millions to suffer.

I think we are living through something exactly like that in the American church today. On the one side are heroes, willing to bravely live out their faith and speak out against all of the lunacy around us.

  • To speak out against the government shutting down churches during the Covid hysteria.
  • To speak out against the government opening our borders to every manner of evil, which turns a blind eye to sex trafficking of women and children and crime and working with the cartels. Not to mention letting our guard down against our enemies in China, and allowing them to flood our country with Fentanyl, which is causing destruction and death to our people.
  • To speak out against the Biden regime pushing all of the cultural Marxism — with the Critical Race Theory and the BLM and Antifa rioters.To speak out against the transgender madness, which is the center ring in the devil’s circus.

And these are just a few things we could mention. Then on the far side we have those precisely on board with all of these evils. The super woke churches. But the worst part is the vast majority in the middle, who are unwilling to join those standing heroically, who are trying to protect themselves and who obviously don’t care about the havoc being wrought by evil forces — whether globalist forces or Communist Chinese forces or transgender groomers and drag queen story hour apologists like David French or others.

These in the middle are the ones we need to reach. If any of them will wake up and see they have turned a blind eye to evil it will change everything. These are the two thirds in the “middle” who have a choice, and who must be reached, lest we continue to drift to the abyss, just as the German church and all of Germany did.

What to Say to a Sold-Out Pastor?

If a reader has a pastor who shut down services during COVID, and pushed the Dead Baby Vaccine, and is silent on transgenderist and other assaults on morality today, what should he say to that pastor? Other than “Sto kaló!” (“Buh-bye”)?

If someone is at a church like that they have a moral obligation — a duty to the God they claim to love and worship — to get out. And to take as many as they can with them. They need to repent, honestly, of having been a party to the evil that is happening. Of course if it’s possible to genuinely sway the leadership of your church, then do that. But if you and others in your church are not actually doing that — and really making that happen — you need to get out before it’s too late. These churches are the fig tree that Jesus cursed. If you are part of that tree you are also cursed and it’s only a matter of time before you too wither and die. This is a gravely serious issue and I beg people to take this seriously.

Are American Christians Listening?

What has been the most inspiring response you’ve gotten from Letter to the American Church? What was the most infuriating or the stupidest?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Shockingly positive. People are buying it in bulk and giving it to every pastor in their area. They are understanding the urgency.

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But one interesting thing that happened to me just when the book first came out is worth mentioning. A pastor at whose church I spoke cornered me in the parking lot afterward and confessed to me that he had gone along with his fearful elders and had not spoken up at an important community meeting introducing radical sex curriculum into the schools. He had felt it was his duty to speak but in the end had caved to the pressure of his elders and had not spoken up.

But the fact that he wanted to tell me that, that he knew he had been wrong and wanted to tell me meant everything. And of course because of that I was able to encourage him and say that the next time something like that happened he would need to go against his elders — would need to risk his job — and do what he had not done the first time. The reason my book is convicting is because it’s what God is saying to us. It’s not my opinion. God has been using this book, and I am unfathomably grateful to see that.

Happily there has been very little on the other side, other than what amounts to a hilarious review of the book at the Gospel Coalition website. They actually faulted me for not pointing out the equal danger of “white supremacy” and “Christian nationalism” in churches. That would be like telling the German pastors in the Thirties, “Yes, Hitler isn’t perfect, but watch out for those radical Bolsheviks! Keep your eye on the reds trying to take over Germany!” They are being willfully blind at this point.

It is chilling that people can be that deceived. But it had better get those of us who can see what’s happening to speak up as loudly and heroically as possible. This is not a dress rehearsal. God is looking to every one of us to do our part.

Trump’s Job, and Ours

Off topic, Donald Trump appears to be drifting on the pro-life issue, taking terrible advice and saying silly, unprincipled things. How can we reel him back in?

If the Church will do its job and be the church right now — and live out its faith boldly and fearlessly, as though we actually believed what we claim to believe, that the only one we need to fear is God, and that he defeated death on the Cross to free us utterly from the fear of man or the fear of death — then the political candidates will fall in line and these things will take care of themselves.

I’m more worried about Christians not voting than I am about Donald Trump saying or doing something I disagree with. JFK brought prostitutes into the White House dozens of times, but he knew that there was a Deep State at war with the vision of the Founders, in the CIA and the FBI and beyond. Reagan allowed his wife to consult astrologers about his schedule, but he stood gloriously and courageously against the Soviet Union and helped it become part of the ash heap of history.

Lincoln allowed his wife to have five seances in the White House and attended one of them, but he led us during our most trying time in a way that is almost unimaginable. There will always be people around every leader leading them astray in one way or another.

The question is not whether Trump will get things wrong. He will. The question is whether we who dare to say we are Christians will be the real leaders God has called us to be, so that our elected leaders see that — and know that “we the people” are the actual leaders of this nation. I believe Trump gets that, because he has said so many, many times, and I am hopeful he will ultimately do the bidding of those who elected him. But will we do our part? That is the question.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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