Faithless Funerals


There is a controversy brewing in Houston, TX, between veterans and the Veterans Administration.  I am interested in the controversy for a couple of reasons.  First, I attended the funeral service of my wife’s grandfather not too long ago in Houston.  He was a veteran, and there was a veteran’s service for him at the Houston National Cemetery.  I preached at the service and called on God to bless the family with grace and peace.  I am not sure whether the veterans attending the service spoke the name of God to my mother-in-law.  But, if they wanted to wish her God’s grace and peace, they certainly should have had that right.

Second, and more fundamental to the cause of freedom, I am interested in this incident because of its shocking similarity to another incident in a society which once sought to eradicate references to God from funeral services. I am thinking, of course, of the National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany.

On June 12, 1934, Pastor Paul Schneider took a stand for freedom and was summarily arrested by the Nazi leaders in Dickenshied.  In the so-called cemetery incident, Pastor Schneider spoke against Heinrich Nadig, a Nazi official who sought to take over the funeral service and promote a fictional “Horst Wessel Troop” in heaven rather than allow Pastor Schneider to conduct a normal funeral service.  Pastor Schneider could not remain silent while a Nazi official replaced mention of the living God with a fictitious, heavenly “Horst Wessel Group,” invented by a Nazi sympathizer.  Thus, Pastor Schneider protested just as the people in this video are protesting now.  For his protests, he was arrested.

Pastor Schneider was released and arrested again repeatedly.  In October of 1937, Pastor Schneider was arrested for the fourth and final time.  He was sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where he was eventually killed by his captors.  Upon his death, Pastor Paul Schneider became the first Christian martyr in Nazi Germany.  He was killed on account of his faith in Jesus Christ.  His persecution started with his stand for God and liberty at a funeral service.