Dr. Michael Sprague
In Berlin, Germany on January 15, 1933, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a haunting sermon entitled “Overcoming Fear.” He started this way:
“Let’s say there is a ship on the high sea, having a fierce struggle with the waves. The storm wind is blowing harder by the minute. The boat is small, tossed about like a toy; the sky is dark; the sailors’ strength is failing. Then one of them is gripped by … whom? what? … he cannot tell himself. But someone is there in the boat who wasn’t in the boat before …. suddenly he can no longer see or hear anything, can no longer row, a wave overwhelms him, and in desperation he shrieks: ‘Stranger in the boat, who are you?’ And the other answers, ‘I am Fear…all hope is lost, Fear is in the boat.'”
The German people could all relate. Germany was in turmoil. The devastation from Germany’s defeat in WWI lingered. The economy struggled and the unemployed reached 6 million. The nation lacked stability, confidence and leadership. The fear of communism and extremism was everywhere. Germans lived in FEAR. Fear was in the boat. Fear was in the church. Who would the people look to for help?
The choice was made by the vast numbers of countrymen and churchgoers 15 days after Bonhoeffer’s sermon as they chose Adolf Hitler as their next Chancellor. Hitler exploited the dire situation, paralyzing fear with strength of personality, a persuasive tongue and a promise to make Germany great again. In essence, he asked the people to pick a savior: himself. As Bonhoeffer warned, fear drove Germans to division, pain, hopelessness and desperation.