Drive a spoke in the wheel

Published 9:47 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

One of my heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian who was murdered by the Nazis because he stood courageously against the persecution of Jewish people.

Earlier in his life, Bonhoeffer had been a pacifist. His beloved older brother, Walter, had been killed in World War I, and he knew firsthand what war does to families. But as Jewish people began to be rounded up and slaughtered, Bonhoeffer realized that he could no longer be a pacifist.

He wrote, “We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

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Bonhoeffer’s words about driving a “spoke in the wheel” certainly apply to those who seek to grind victims beneath their wheels of violence and oppression today. As Rick Warren recently said, “ISIS is evil. You don’t ignore evil. You don’t negotiate with evil. Good people stop evil.”

Yet there seems to be reluctance on the part of many Western politicians to speak honestly about what is happening. For instance, when 21 Christians were beheaded by ISIS, President Obama condemned the killing of 21 “Egyptian citizens,” but made no mention of the fact that they were murdered because they were Christians.

When Jewish people were murdered in a kosher grocery store in Paris, his administration would not even acknowledge they were killed because they were Jewish. In fact, the President refuses to even acknowledge ISIS itself as “Islamic.”

I can understand the sensitivity about labeling people. I have visited several Islamic countries and have shared many wonderful meals with Muslims. They are among the most hospitable people I have ever met, and the overwhelming majority of them are peaceful people.

But Islamic terror is the biggest threat in our world, and it is unhelpful to dance around the truth.

Even so, as evil as ISIS is, it uses conventional weapons. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in his speech this past week, Iran may soon have something far more powerful.

Netanyahu stated, “The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”

The leaders of Iran hate us. Just last week, their military performed a mock exercise in which they blew up an American aircraft carrier! The leaders of Iran hate Israel. They even tweet about their desire to wipe the Jewish state right off the map.

Why are we negotiating with and pandering to such evil? One is reminded of Britain’s policy of appeasement toward Hitler in the 1930s. During those dark days, Winston Churchill stood virtually alone in giving voice to the very real threat that Hitler posed.

In our day, that voice is Benjamin Netanyahu, who gave a courageous speech before Congress this week. Our President did not attend.

One person who did attend was Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. As Netanyahu recognized Wiesel, he said, “Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, ‘never again.’”

But it will happen again if good people don’t stop it from happening. The wheels of ISIS and Iran will continue to drive innocent people into the dust, unless we drive a spoke in the wheel.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.