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Saturday, November 25, 2017

“godless newspapers”; Walther recommends… (1 of 2)

      In one of C.F.W. Walther's sermons published in the book Epistle Sermons ("Day of National Penitence", p. 515), he spoke of the "godless newspapers".  Here is the quote (again) from page 515 (emphasis mine):
“Christians daily receive their wisdom from the godless newspapers of sly, political opportunists who forget God, who despise all sworn treaties, and who trample under foot all the laws of God and man. It is terrible to say it, but all such newspapers have even become the Gospel of many Christians upon which they swear, and he who has a different opinion is as far as they are concerned a political heretic, a traitor”
I never forgot that statement by Walther.  It speaks to the heart of a Christian today, here and now.  So when I ran across an article by Walther in the 1881 issue of Der Lutheraner on this subject, I had to translate it.  What would he say about the newspapers in his day?  Were they really as bad then as they are today?

Der Lutheraner, vol. 37 (1881)p. 139-140: "Etwas über das Lesen weltlicher Zeitungen."; German text file here. Translation by BackToLuther, highlighting is mine.

Something on reading worldly newspapers.
[By C.F.W. Walther]
Just having and reading a worldly (or secular) newspaper can not be made to be a sin for a Christian if only he does it with the right intention. If a Christian learns from the newspapers how things are going on in the world, what is good and what is bad, it can serve partly as an encouragement, partly as a warning. Many businessmen can scarcely miss a newspaper for the sake of their business.  And especially in a free country, such as our United States of North America, where the citizen has to take part in the elections of civil servants, among other things can hardly be fulfilled if he can not learn from political papers about the state of affairs, about the principles followed by the various parties and about the persons to be elected.
Unfortunately, most of the secular newspapers, and especially the German ones, are not only not as they should be, but are also filled with much poison for the soul. After all, the editors, with very few exceptions, are fierce enemies of the Christian, yes, of all religion. Or they are even unbelievers who consider the true Christian religion to be a fable and, at most, would know only something about a supreme being and pagan morality.
Therefore, the vast majority of secular newspapers fall into the following two classes:
  1. Some make it a business to mock everything sacred. Wherever they find an opportunity, they pour the most venomous scorn and mockery over religion and the church [p. 139, col. 2] and present all devout Christians as despicable hypocrites.
  2. Other newspapers edited by unbelievers may take some consideration of their Christian readers and speak of Christians as respectable people, and of Christianity as a religion that is not entirely despicable.  But let it be remembered only too clearly that they regard Christ, though highly wise and virtuous, as a mere man, and Holy Scripture, albeit very good, as  merely a human book.
If, therefore, these newspapers in the  second class do not contain blatant blasphemies about the blessed secrets of our most holy Christian religion, nevertheless there are enough essays in which the living God, creator, preserver and ruler of all things is denied, and either the world has been around forever, or
it is at least asserted that the world did not exist, as the Bible says, since not quite six thousand years ago, but for an inconceivable number of thousands of years.  All the new wisdom about the world and humanity which contends against Scripture is praised in these newspapers. And the progress of our time is highly praised, even with the aim against the religious views. If in such newspapers there are not, as in the others, gross maladies, then usually a wretched, sensually charming novel is also added to them. Incidentally, unbelieving editors are not able to write a newspaper that is unobjectionable to Christians even if they wanted to.  Without knowing it, they bring articles that are most annoying to Christians.
We have just read in the local Anzeiger des Westens [“Gazette of the West”] which has hitherto belonged to the more decent newspapers  of the unbelievers [Heinrich Börnstein, Carl Dänzer], a very nefarious article, taken from the "Illinois Staatszeitung", on the Hearing of Prayer.  The word of Scripture also applies to the unbelievers: “For of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” [Matt. 12:34]  And: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.” Matt. 7:18]  But as far as both classes of newspapers are concerned, they both endeavor to entertain their readers through a mass of phantasms of ill-fated fraud, thieving, murder, suicide, and lust feeding acts of seduction.  In the newspapers of both classes, biblical words are abused from time to time in the most shameful jokes, and not infrequently the worst crimes are reported with laughter provoking remarks. According to the newspaper or the political party served, the most worthless characters and most ungodly portions of its own party are excused, and often given highest praise, while the best men and the best endeavors of the other party are slandered and disfigured with the most libelous drivel  and dirt.  Of course, the right judgment of the most important news  events is out of the question. What condemns God's Word is justified, and what the Word of God praises is condemned.
= = = = = = =   concluded in Part 2   = = = = = = = = 

      This essay is a great lamentation by Walther over the "godless newspapers"!  How his heart ached to see his people read such faith-destroying content. —  What?  Why are we smiling?  Oh, we can see that it is just so today… as it was in Walther's day, in St. Louis, Missouri, the heartland of America.  In the next Part 2, Walther concludes his essay announcing a most welcome addition to the offering of newspapers, surprisingly welcome for C.F.W. Walther – The American Luther.  What?… a newspaper that could actually help Christians?

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