There are “a lot of parallels” between the failures of church groups to resist Nazism in 1930s Germany and the growing acceptance among US Christians of liberalism in contemporary America – including towards issues of sexuality – according to the star attraction at this year’s Australian Christian Lobby conference.
Eric Metaxas — a celebrity Christian broadcaster and author, who will appear at the event alongside federal Treasurer Scott Morrison — made the comments in a 2011 interview discussing his book about anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Asked if he sees a parallel between 1933 Nazi Germany and what’s happening in 2011 America, he responds: “Well I see a lot of parallels, I wouldn’t even know where to start”.
Metaxas argues the Church in Germany had been too weak to stand up to the evils of Nazism, and that American Christianity has also become complacent, complaining that scripture has been undermined by theological liberalism.
“I’m not talking about the evangelicals, I’m talking about the liberals and the mainstream church that is just skidding off in a whole other direction where they are just failing to teach Biblical orthodoxy, they’re failing to teach the Bible as the word of God and yet they still think of themselves as the church.
“We see that obviously happening in issues of sexuality, not just the authority of scripture but, you know, how can you say that most mainline denominations in America today are profoundly Christian when they have given up the ghost on all of these fundamentals of the faith?
“You had the exact same thing happening in Germany and it’s just setting things up so that when evil comes, where do people turn? They have forsaken the very thing that’s going to be their strength in the midst of difficulty and I think that’s, unfortunately, where we are.”
The host of the program agrees, pointing to signs of decline in America including what he calls the “abortion holocaust”. Without objection from Metaxas, he claims Nazi Germany was associated with a rise in homosexuality.
Neither mention the systematic persecution those put in such a category experienced under the Nazi regime, which criminalised homosexual sex and eventually sent thousands of men to concentration camps on the basis of their sexuality, marking the prisoners with a pink triangle.
Elsewhere, Metaxas has backed ‘gay-conversion therapy’.
“While the debate over how many people will benefit from such therapy will doubtless continue, we’ve got to be clear on the Biblical position about human sexuality, and that is that God intended it for the blessing of a man and a woman within marriage and for the procreation of children; and that all sexual activity (hetero- and homosexual) that is outside of marriage is outside of God’s will,” he wrote in 2012. “And we and our churches should be offering love and support to anyone who is struggling in this area.”
While Metaxas is billed as a chief attraction at the ACL’s conference – alongside Morrison – he doesn’t appear to be too much of an outlier among the speakers invited.
Also presenting is Jeffery Ventrella, from the infamous US group Alliance Defending Freedom – an organisation that evidently interprets the word ‘freedom’ very broadly. The Alliance has advocated the criminalisation of sodomy, and fought anti-discrimination laws in America while spreading anti-LGBTI “propaganda” abroad in places like Uganda.
Last year, Tony Abbott was embroiled in controversy after he spoke at one of the group’s functions in the United States.
A Senior Counsel at the litigious Alliance Defending Freedom, Jeffery Ventrella argued in 2012 that the US government should divert funds from LGBTI health programs and instead spend the money convincing those in the communities to change their sexuality.
“There is a price to be paid for ignoring the fixed natural order of things… those who practice homosexual behavior face the consequences of living a life that runs counter to that order. Sticking one’s head in the sand for the sake of not assessing the dangers of one’s sexual or political preferences won’t actually change how the natural order works,” he wrote.
“Those choosing these behaviors should turn from them to regain for their own sakes the healthfulness and longevity that comes with living life in the real world.”
On the domestic front, conservative Australian Christians will be represented by those including Lyle Shelton, who heads up the ACL, and News Corp columnist Miranda Devine.
The ACL has been drawn into the public eye in recent months, spearheading the campaign against the anti-bullying Safe Schools program.
Bill Shorten controversially agreed to speak at the ACL’s conference in 2014, and used the address to discuss his support of marriage equality. Federal Treasurer Scott Morison has not responded to requests for comment on the extreme views of Metaxas and Ventrella, or whether he’s being paid to address the Christian Lobby’s conference.
The Treasurer’s decision to speak alongside Metaxas and Ventrella has stoked outrage among LGBTI rights groups. Community Action Against Homophobia is planning a protest at the Australian Christian Lobby’s 2016 conference, in Sydney on April 23, and an online petition calling for Scott Morrison to cancel his appearance has started circulating.