Seventh-day Adventist Leaders offer another apology for its Role in the War
Editorial | AdventMessenger.com
Recently, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany has apologized for its moral failure during WWI. This apology was given on the eve of the 100 year anniversary of the first world war. In an article entitled "Guilt and Failure," the church laments that it had instructed its members in Germany during the first world war to "fulfill" their duties "wholeheartedly" and with "joy" take up arms and protect the German homeland, even on the Sabbath day.
However, this was not the first apology given by the German church leaders. Previously, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany and Austria had already apologized for being morally complicit during the Nazi Holocaust of WWII.
The official paper of the Seventh-day Adventist church stated that "in some of our publications there were found articles glorifying Adolf Hitler and agreeing with the ideology of anti-Semitism in a way that is unbelievable from today's perspective."
Although we do see the need of healing, of moving on, and of apologizing for siding with the Nazi position, the burning question is this: What good does it do to apologize and confess our sins if we do not repent of those sins? Because the most important issues during WWI and WWII have not even been addressed, let alone mentioned. The purpose of this editorial is to engage Seventh-day Adventists into a discussion to see if all of these apologies are truly sincere. And if so, these apologies must be followed up with true repentance lest we once again find ourselves repeating the same sins of the past.
Corrie Schoder, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, published a historical research paper which documents the Seventh-day Adventist collaboration with the Nazi Party. The name of the article published by UC Santa Barbara's Department of History is entitled "Seventh-day Adventists." From this document, we observe the following points:
1. Adventists compromised their beliefs. The European Division at that time was located in Germany and oversaw the different Unions throughout Germany. When war broke out, in an effort to appease the Nazi party, German leaders decided that its men could serve in the military as "combatants" "wholeheartedly" and fulfill their duties with "joy" - that is, kill the enemies of the German homeland even on the Sabbath day. This position caused a division in the church. A small minority, which were called "reformers" refused to do so because the 10 Commandments forbade them from both killing and from breaking the Sabbath.
2. Adventists put the German State before God. In a effort to secure their positions, fortunes, and lives, they decided that faithfulness to the state was more important than faithfulness to the historical positions of the church. They saved themselves while the faithful minority went to the concentration camps. Church leaders turned from proclaiming the truths of God's word, the three angels' messages, and became a Propaganda Machine for the Nazi Party by promoting the Nazi policies and philosophies in their publication and their churches.
3. Adventists accepted the Nazi propaganda above the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. They supported Hitler's sterilization program against the mentally weak, blind, death, and crippled and combined those policies with the health work of the church. They accepted and supported the ostracizing of the Jews and all things Jewish. They changed the name of "Sabbath" school, and "Sabbath" day to the "Lord's day." They disfellowshiped members of the church who were Jewish or had any Jewish ancestry. They turned them over to the Gestapo and many of them were sent to the concentration camps or killed.
4. Adventists betrayed the true and faithful within their church. The "reformers" were a small minority within Germany that remained faithful to the 10 Commandments and held fast to the original position of the SDAs. They refused to join the military as "combatants," using guns to kill. It was acceptable for them to be "non-combatants," that is to indiscriminate aid the wounded. These were turned over to the Nazi government. Many reformers refused to compromise their faith and died in concentration camps. Sadly, those men who compromised the faith and turned in the faithful to be put to death are just as responsible and guilty of MURDER as were the Nazi's.
5. Even though Adventists claimed to believe in religious liberty and in the separation of church and state, these church leaders did not even raise a voice against the murder of the the Jews, the Seventh-day Adventist Jews, or the reformers. They became "dumb dogs" (Isa. 56:10) that could not bark. They stayed quiet while innocent people were being murdered.
6. Was this only a German problem? Surely, the General Conference was not complicit in any of this? How did the General Conference react? After World War I, A. G. Daniels led a General Conference delegation to address the situation in Germany. They met with both the German leaders and with the reform brethren. And even though A. G. Daniels stated that the German leaders were wrong, he disfellowshipped the reformers because they had begun to organize themselves into a Reform Movement. So what happened? The GC disfellowshipped the faithful reformers and kept the apostates who were doing the devil's work. And the devil's work they did perfectly. The GC chose to side with the men who were wrong during WWI and guess what? They were wrong again during WWII. And all the while the reformers stood faithful for truth even after they were disfellowshipped and were constantly persecuted.
This history is important to us today for several reasons. We will soon be found in the same situation when the mark of the beast is enforced. And if we can't remain faithful to God now, during these times of peace, how do we expect to stand up for the truth when persecution and trouble comes? We won't. If we can't give our message now, how will we do it then? No way. And if you think that the faithful won't be betrayed in the future, you haven't seen anything yet.
"As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.." Great Controversy, p. 608.
This is exactly what happened in Germany during WWI and WWII. However, the Spirit of Prophecy warns us that this will happen just before probation closes during the testing of the mark of the beast. In other words, Germany was just a glimpse about what is going to happen on a global scale. Are we ready?
And what about these apologies? Well, what exactly are we apologizing for? Because we still see the creeping compromises within the church. We still see worldly policies trumping the message of the three angels of Revelation 14. We still see persecution and imprisonment of minorities within our ranks. We still see some of the very same attitudes today that the German Adventists manifested during the war. And a bigger war is coming! A time of trouble that we have never seen, worse that WWI and WWII.
And unless we TRULY repent of our unfaithfulness to God and our unfaithfulness to our mission and message, then all of these apologies don't mean anything. They are just for show and for good public relations; yet in God's eyes it is all hypocrisy.
May God open our eyes, and may our acts of confession and apology be swiftly followed with acts of repentance and willingness to stand up for the truth.
"God cannot use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right. He calls for men who will do faithful battle against wrong, warring against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. It is to such as these that He will speak the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant; ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Prophets and Kinds, p. 142.