Christian Cultural Shapers

I am particularly excited about a book that I want to put into your hands. We are talking about it all this month. It is by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, entitled A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. I want to start with something written in this book, which has to do with changing culture. It goes all the way back to World War II and the statement that “Somebody…had to make a start.” In other words, someone had to make a start with respect to changing the culture instead of being simply an imitator of the culture.

There was a girl named Sophie Scholl. She was just twenty-one years old. She spoke those words, “Somebody…had to make a start.” She said them “to the chief justice of the People’s Court of the Greater German Reich shortly before he ordered her execution.” That was back on February 22, 1943. Sophie and her brother Hans (my dad’s name) and their friend Christoph Probst were convicted of treason in a kangaroo court and sent to the guillotine. Stonestreet and Kunkle write,

Hans Scholl led the underground resistance movement known as the White Rose. From June 1942 until their arrest, Hans, Sophie, and several other University of Munich students covertly authored anti-Nazi pamphlets and distributed them on campus and to nearby communities. Retribution for their crimes was swift. Within four days, they were detained, accused, tried, convicted, and executed. Within weeks other members of the White Rose were rooted out and faced similar fates.

Raised in a nominally religious German home, the Scholl siblings came to a real personal faith in Christ while at the university.

Imagine that! The conversions of the Scroll siblings motivated their actions. In The Fabric of Faithfulness Stephen Garber writes,

Brother and sister began to find a place to stand. Reading the Scriptures in light of the challenges presented by their culture, having conversations with friends about the world and their place in it, meeting older, wiser people who offered them their time and their books — together they molded a vision about what was real and true and right.

Stonestreet and Kunkle observe,

Many Germans, including Christians, chose to remain silent and do nothing to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. Others embraced the evil Nazi ideology. But the Scholl siblings’ faith that drove them from the sidelines into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the tempest of the living.” Hans was supposed to meet Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most famous figure of the German resistance, but never did. Instead, Hans was executed the very day the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Hans and Sophie shared more with Bonhoeffer than antipathy toward the führer. Whether they knew it or not, they also shared Bonhoeffer’s theological vision for culture, which might be summarized this way: “We are Christians, and we are Germans; therefore we are responsible for Germany.”

That was their view, and therefore they wanted to make a difference. This begs the question: “What is cultural success?” Well, it is “a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl.” A life “deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” Think about that from A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Cultural success is recognizing that God has placed us here at this moment in history. He did not — like Hans and Sophie, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C. S. Lewis — place us at the time of World War II. He placed us at this time in history. This particular time in history. Therefore, at this particular time in history, we cannot simply look back to what others did, although we should and we just did with the anecdote and example of Hans and Sophie, and we cannot look forward to other generations and what they may do. God has placed us here, right now, for a purpose, and to make a difference while there is yet time.

I think about the smoke of the crematoriums wafting over the steeples in the German countryside, and I so often wonder why at that time were German pastor and parishioners strangely silent. Yet, as I wonder about that, I can stop wondering immediately when I look at the present-day church capitulating to the culture. Well-known Christian leaders (I am not going to name them; you know who they are) are strangely silent about the epic waves that are threatening to submerge the Christian church. For some, it is a matter of self-preservation. In the case of World War II, a lot of people tried to justify their apathy by blaming Jews for the Great War. Others believed that Jews were fatalistically destined to face wrath of antichrist; therefore, they did nothing. Then you had people like Hans and Sophie or Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “If we claim to be Christians, there is no room for expediency.” Thus, he was willing to denounce a Nazi regime that had turned its führer into an idol and a god. But, not just that — he was willing to denounce a confessional church more concerned with its own survival than with the sin of anti-Semitism and slavery. Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” That is precisely what happened on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer was just thirty-nine years old at that time, and he experienced the ultimate cost of discipleship by special order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Bonhoeffer was hanged at the concentration camp at Flossenbürg. He is a man who was willing to shape culture and today is still remembered when we talk about the culture wars.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *