By: Gabriela Yareliz
I had the opportunity to listen to Eric Metaxas the other day, through a livestreamed event about his latest book, Is Atheism Dead? His discussion was on freedom, faith and virtue, and how they are all intertwined. Metaxas has written many best selling books, including one on William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (he is a personal hero of mine) and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I am not sure where he was speaking (I just got lucky that IG handle ‘rooted.wings’ whom I follow was livestreaming it for the rest of us). He was sitting in a comfortable chair discussing how a free society, for it to function well, requires virtue, and how virtue is a derivative of faith.
He spoke about some profound things that have been spinning in my head, ever since. One of the things that caught my attention was his discussion on Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor who was extremely vocal against the Nazi regime during its reign of terror. He was a resistor who was arrested, imprisoned and hanged by the Nazis. When I say resistor, he was someone who was vocal and kept calling out the church for its complicity in the Nazi reign. The “church” was a powerful force (still is) and had it stood up to the Nazis, history would have been very different, but it did not. We know that there were many Christians who did stand up to evil and broke laws by hiding and helping their Jewish friends and neighbors, but the shame is that the majority did not. They were not willing to risk their jobs, their reputations or status, or their lives. Many resistors paid with their lives (see The Hiding Place and the story of Corrie Ten Boom). Bonhoeffer saw the church’s failing and called it out and constantly called it to action. He was a part of plots to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland. He spoke out and took action.
Looking at the courage of those who stood up for right in the face of evil, discrimination, and authoritarianism has been interesting. It has made me think about how the global church has been complicit today in the face of so many lies, sanctioning the actions of tyranical governments that are hurting, oppressing and segregating people. It has sat idly by, while suffering has been very real. It fails to learn from its history. It seeks the benefits of its hand holding with governments. If the church were to stand up today for all people, what would the world look like? If it championed virtue, faith and freedom, what would we look like? Would we be here? For those of us who see the wrongs, (and to be honest many don’t–) what are we called to do?
Frederick Douglass once said, “God has no children whose rights may be safely tampled on.” (1854)
I look online and see alternate universes. I see people so complacent and comfortable, fighting to never lose that comfort in their lives, not fighting for others– disregarding others who may not be like them. We are satisfied when we are accepted, everyone else be damned. It’s part of the human condition.
Metaxas led with an important question, “Are you willing to follow the truth wherever it leads?” He continued saying, “People live in fear of losing something, and usually, whatever it is, it’s usually crap. God maneuvers us into situations where we can choose Him. He never forces us, but He tells you, ‘You know I won’t let you down.’ We can’t outgive Him.”
My mind races as I think of the brave men and women who are standing up for their convictions and what they believe is right. People who are willing to sacrifice so much to keep integrity and to fight for a freedom that belongs to all people.
I’ll be honest, the corporate church is finding itself on the wrong side of this unfolding of what will be history. After all, Candace Owens once wrote, “Can anybody point me to that one time in history where the side that was demanding censorship, segregation, propaganda, radical education, papers to move freely in society, plus government forces going door-to-door to demand compliance were the good guys?” The question is what side will we be on?
I am not going to lie, a lot of us are in a sort of freefall, right now. Our jobs are on the line. Literally. We are speaking, and we are acting. And for some of us, I truly think that this is only the beginning. I know for a fact that I am not doing enough. Freefalls are scary. Standing (what feels like) alone is scary. But this is what happens when you trust in something bigger than politics, arrogant people in what are supposed to be leadership roles, the movements in society that pretend to care but will turn around and burn you down if you dare step out of their lane for you. History nudges us to notice that freedom is not found in playing it safe or keeping your head down. I think what the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr., William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer remind us is Metaxas’ point, that “if you trust in Jesus, then you are truly free.” Freedom, faith and virtue need each other to survive and thrive. Hopefully, we can be people who embody all three.