"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters

I've been researching the 1920's and 1930's in Germany and comparing the similarities between that historic Christian nation during those two turbulent decades and the United States today. In politics and religion in both countries (then and now), the masses follow those with great oratorical skills. If you ever wonder how great throngs of people can be so duped, one needs to look no further than the power of speech to motivate.

Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany during 1933. For over a decade he had been speaking in pubs and rallies, swaying the German people with his extraordinary speaking ability. Interestingly, in 1925 Hitler wrote his political autobiography Mein Kampf and the Germans were shocked with the poor thought processes and logic of their future Fuhrer. People who had been so entranced by Hitler's oratorical abilities blanched at his illogical ideas. Mein Kampf was disjointed and sometimes senseless. Hitler jumped from a lengthy diatribe on modern fashions to the merits of boxing. He moved easily through a commentary on the dangers of syphilis to the majestic nature of Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal. His belief in the legend of Aryans led to a Mein Kampf rant on the perils of racial inter-breeding and the menace of the International Zionist conspiracy. In 1925 with the publishing of Mein Kampf some began to believe Hitler was insane because of his writing, but by 1933 Hitler the people of Germany elected Hitler as their Chancellor because of his speaking.

One of those swayed by Hitler's oratory was Joseph Goebbels. Hitler's close friend and the man who would become the Nazi Minister of Propaganda wrote in 1936 about Hitler's oratorical abilities. Pay close attention to Goebbels explanation for why Hitler could sway people by speaking:
There are two fundamentally different kinds of speakers: those who use reasoning, and those who speak from the heart. They reach two different sorts of people, those who understand through reason, and those who understand through the heart. Speakers who aim for the reason are generally found in parliaments, those who speak from the heart speak to the people.
(Hitler) is a rhetorical genius who developed his own abilities with no help from anyone else. One cannot imagine that the Führer ever spoke differently than he does today, or that he will ever speak differently. He speaks his heart, and therefore reaches the hearts of those who hear him. He has the amazing gift of sensing what is in the air. He has the ability to express things so clearly, logically and directly that listeners are convinced that that is what they have always thought themselves. That is the true secret of the effectiveness of Adolf Hitler’s speeches.
Ordinary life is presented in a way that grips the hearers. The problems of the day are not explained only with the difficult tools of a worldview, but with wit and biting irony. His humor triumphs; one cries with one eye and laughs with the other. Every tone of daily life is touched upon.
Methinks modern evangelical churches in America have fallen into the perilous waters of 1930's Germany; masses moved by verbal magicians. We have great communicators in the pulpits of America who move hearers with emotion, but spend little time educating Americans with biblical wisdom. When an evangelical pastor can cause his congregation to "laugh in one eye, and cry in the other" and arouse from them a standing ovation for him, all the while avoiding the critical components of Scripture that seem to teach and mitigate against his own behavior, then we evangelicals in America have more in common with Nazi Germany than we do the Kingdom of God.


ScottShaver said...

Excellent timely thoughts Wade:

I can remember my father telling me in the mid-eighties I shouldn't refer to Hitler or Goebbels when comparing their oratory and press releases to those of some prominent baptist preachers and leaders at the time.

He feared more the monstrous historic negativity associated with those names than he appreciated the point I think you've made well here.

Some movements quite antithetical both to the form and spirit of NT Christianity can and do occur when our religious bottom lines are power, oratory, charisma and surrendered logic on the part of large groups.

Congratulations for making it all the way through Mein Kampf. Der Fuhrer's disjointed logic had me surrendering half way through on my last effort some years ago.

Anonymous said...

"When an evangelical pastor can cause his congregation to "laugh in one eye, and cry in the other" and arouse from them a standing ovation for him, all the while avoiding the critical components of Scripture that seem to teach and mitigate against his own behavior, then we evangelicals in America have more in common with Nazi Germany than we do the Kingdom of God."

Love that last sentence. Hints of Furtickishness abound. ken

Bob Cleveland said...

Excellent post!

If one buys these ideas, one might surmise that excellent Sunday oratorical skills might produce a throng of followers whose enthusiasm might wane in the next few days, leading them to only return to the orator when they feel the need or desire for more excellent oratory.

One might also surmise that the throngs wouldn't know as much about the issues, as about how they felt when listening to the oratory.

Hmm ...

SBC in Alabama: In the six biggest population centers of, attendance equaling 33.28% of members (attendance including infants, toddlers, visitors, etc).

SBC in general: No one, not deacons, not a table of preachers, not SS teachers, not a seminary professor who could tell me why one must be baptized to join a baptist church.

Disciples means learners. Who listen with their minds and their hearts (in the Biblical sense .. the center of their wills).

I'm afraid we've raised one or more generations of people who listen with their emotions, and talking about how great a preacher Brother So-and-so is. Who don't recognize the milk they're supposed to move past, or the meat they're supposed to crave.

RRR said...

When reading the post I initially thought you were going to get into national politics but then you threw me a curve and referenced it to current church trends. I have not yet decided what to make of the mega-church culture of today with its congregations drawn to the personality of the pastor. I once heard one lady say proudly that she and her husband moved their family all the way from Florida to Georgia just to follow their pastor who moved. Seemed perverse to me.

RRR said...

I wonder if anyone can tell me why a word that I wrote in my comment response, "j-o-b-s" automatically appeared as a link for some advertisement when I posted it??? I had to delete my comment twice and then avoid using that word!

Wade Burleson said...


I do not know why that happened! I reread the post and can see why you thought I was headed for a political assessment rather than an evangelical one! Glad you finished reading to see the direction I was going.

Anonymous said...

I once took a class in seminary where we read a sermon and discussed its contents. Most comments were negative. The sermon was simplistic and the logic was not good. The next class session we watched a sermon by a very prominent SBC preacher and everyone loved it. Thought it was a great sermon. It was then revealed that it was the same sermon we had read the week before and all had thought it was weak. Delivery is everything. I think that is why it has been said that, ". . .the medium is the message". Great speakers know how to deliver their message in a way that everyone will like.

Wade Burleson said...


Great anecdote!

Anonymous said...

Something that concerns me is the move among evangelicals and Baptists in particular from church being a voluntary association for the propagation of the gospel to some sort of mandatory group under the authority of the pastor.

Far too many willing to teach and preach that unless you are part of "their" group you are hell bound. Far too few preaching that Jesus is head of the church.

Add to that the idea bigger is always better, so whatever draws more people is what must be done and the church is on very dangerous ground.

Amazing how threatening a little old lady in sneakers who sees Jesus as her Lord and voluntarily associates with the local church to get the gospel to the masses but reserves the right to study the scripture for herself can be :)

Good article Pastor Wade. Far too many following celebs that speak well and too few following Christ!

As an aside, we went through your area last week on the way to leaf peep in Arkansas. Unfortunately, we weren't in the area on Sunday or we might have dropped in to church!