"Gott Mit Uns"
Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, died Monday, September 19, at the age of 96. After surviving the horrors of a dozen concentration camps he spent the rest of his life tracking down Nazi war criminals responsible for the murder of millions of people. His death will almost certainly cause us to reflect on man’s inhumanity to man as expressed by the Nazis during World War II. May we never forget what happened.
If ever an army deserved to be characterized as an “army of darkness” with evil intent it was the army of Nazi Germany. Yet in an interesting twist of history the soldiers in that army were outfitted with belt buckles (pictured above) stamped with the slogan, “Gott Mit Uns,” which means “God with us.”
How can it be, one has to wonder, that soldiers guilty of atrocities could see themselves as actually acting with the favor of God? Actually, it is not that difficult to understand. The sobering reality is no country is immune from marching down the same path as Germany did in the mid-20th century.
When any people is the recipient of God’s blessings there is a terrible human tendency on the part of that people to begin thinking God found some worth in them which caused Him to bless them. From there it’s not a huge leap to begin equating the goals and aspirations of that people with the will of God Himself. The actions of a country become confused with the will of God and pretty soon it’s quite easy for the people to justify any action taken on behalf of their country because, after all, they are special and God favors them. Why, the Hand of God surely guides the leaders of their nation, and so any edict from the state can be trusted as practically divine. God is viewed as somehow obligated to them.
In Germany’s case, what started out as a seemingly justified crusade for the Fatherland (according to the rhetoric of the Nazi propagandists) ended up as a horrifying mass murder the likes of which the world had never seen. You would think at some point Nazi soldiers would recognize their leaders had lied to them. But by the time it digressed to it’s most terrible point too many people were used to not questioning the extremely questionable nature of their orders quite simply because the line between God’s will and military orders had ceased to exist in their minds. Their country had become their god.
What is even more troubling is that Germany was a “Christian” nation. It was the home of Martin Luther, whose convictions about God’s Word sparked the Protestant Reformation. While it is true that many such principled Christians in Germany during World War II remained firm in their faith and even paid with their lives for it, it is also true that many others were guilty either of not resisting something they recognized as wrong or actively participating in something they’d lost the ability to recognize as wrong.
It can happen anywhere. Any nation, which seeks God’s approval for a predetermined set of actions, is sowing the seeds for the kind of civil religion Germany sought to establish. It is only the nation that seeks God’s will first and acts accordingly that can reasonably expect to continue to benefit from God’s blessings. “God with us,” is both arrogant and presumptuous. A wiser course of action would be to subordinate the national will to God's and adopt the more appropriate slogan, "Us with God."