“No Trap is so Deadly as the One You Set for Yourself” (William Manchester, The Last Lion)

2Co 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Listen to the following quotes and see if you can guess who their subject is:

“The central fact today is that he does not want war and is prepared to renounce it as a method of settling disputes with his neighbors”

“He seeks our friendship. If we fail him, he will turn elsewhere and we shall be sorry to have refused him.”

“He is the greatest living [citizen of his nation] and I told him that to his face.”

“He is a born leader, a magnetic, dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose…to keep the peace.”

“With this man at the helm, [his country] will never invade any other land.”

“I only wish I we had a man of his supreme quality at the head of affairs in our country today.”

Well, you have probably guessed that all of the lauds were spoken of none other than Adolph Hitler by leading members of the English government – Lloyd George the famous Prime Minister being one of the most outspoken. And perhaps the most mind boggling of all was this statement that came from leading Anglican churchmen:

“[We have] boundless admiration for the moral and ethical side of the National Social (Nazi) programme, its clear-cut stand for religion and Christianity, and its ethical principles, such as its fight against cruelty to animals, vivisection, sexual offences, etc.”

You can find all of these quotes and more in William Manchester’s second volume of The Last Lion, pp 79 ff, Bantam books.

All these people and more wanted to believe that Hitler was for peace because peace is what they wanted. They wanted peace so much that they were willfully blind to the facts, embraced fables, and in the end had the furious firestorm of this despot unleashed upon their homeland, nearly to its destruction. Oh perhaps some of them more noble than others truly sought peace because peace is good, but the mass of them acted out of purely selfish reasons. Their self-serving motivation became increasingly evident as more and more facts about what Hitler really was came out.

2Co 11:14-15 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

All during this time of Hitler’s rise to nearly unstoppable power, there was one voice issuing warnings – that of Winston Churchill. He was not only disregarded, he was mocked and put out to pasture, relegated to a mere back bench in Parliament. He saw the rising evil tide, he warned of the consequences of this blind quest for a disarmed world in which there would never again be war. But for the most part, no one listened. As Manchester summarized, “no trap is so deadly as the one you set for yourself.”

The state of the visible church today is very much the same. For the most part, pastors and professing Christians, churches and their members, simply do not want to be troubled by reports of evil in their midst. It seems to me that one of the quickest ways for a pastor to insure that he is “back-benched” and regarded as “finished” (“too bad. The fellow had so much promise you know”) is to declare that all is not well in the pews nor in the pulpits.

Micah 2:6 “Do not preach”–thus they preach– “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”

But disgrace did overtake Israel. Because they would not listen.

Let me close with one final sobering illustration of willful blindness to evil. While Winston Churchill was poring over facts and figures in reports from Berlin which showed what Hitler was really up to, Americans also entered into the fantasy of Hitler as “good guy.” Here it is:

The most painful toast to Hitler, for Americans, is a Walter Lippmann column which appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on May 19, 1933. Lippmann had heard a speech by the new chancellor (Hitler) and described it as a “genuinely statesmanlike address,” providing convincing “evidence of good faith.” He told his readers, “We have heard once more, through the fog and the din, the authentic voice of a genuinely civilized people. I am not only willing to believe that, but it seems to me that all historical experience compels one to believe it.” He went further. Persecuting the Jews served a purpose by “satisfying” Germans’ yearning to “conquer somebody”; it was “a kind of lightning rod which protects Europe.” Walter Lippman was a Jew. [ibid, p 81]

Willful blindness to the obvious. A willingness even to sacrifice  one’s own countrymen in order to persist in a selfish fantasy that “all is well in my world.” And so it is in the visible church today. If you doubt it, just look for example at how victims of sexual or domestic abuse (abused even by pastors and/or church members) are treated in most local churches and denominations when they report what happened.

Such acceptance of evil is evil itself. Those who embrace it eventually become unable to discern truth and they will believe the lie instead, to their destruction.