To know German Lutheran pastor Olaf Latzel is the closest that one in this post-modern era can come to knowing Martin Luther (1483-1546), the famed professor of Wittenburg. Walking one day through the picturesque village of Torgau, the hometown of Catherine von Bora, wife of the great reformer, I suggested to my wife as we walked through Katie’s home, “If you [my wife Dorothy, a magician of the impossible] can make it happen, I would still crave an evening to dine with Luther and Katie. I admire the great reformer for his intellect (though he could speak easily with the common man), for his humor arising out of despair, and for his indomitable courage, which he constructed on a foundation of fear. Biblical preacher, competent theologian, adoring husband, and gifted hymn-writer, Luther lived a life of soaring adventure.
Then one day in Deutschland, Dorothy nearly pulled it off. Maybe it was not Luther, but she asked Heinrich Derksen, Schulleiter of Bibelseminar Bonn, to introduce me to Olaf Latzel, in whose veins certainly must flow the blood of the greatest of the Germans. Latzel, like Luther 500 years earlier, effectively preaches the Bible, making the Word of God come to life for his parishioners in Bremen, Germany. Nor does he cleverly dodge the tough passages or explain away the tough sayings with a forked tongue. Advocating the biblical position for the family, Latzel has no hesitancy about declaring the biblical teaching concerning gender roles and human sexuality.
What an astonishment! The German government hates him, and so does the Lutheran establishment! The court in Bremen resurrected the ghost of Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and fined Latzel €8,100 (about $10,000) for preaching “hatred” against homosexuals. Like Hitler before them, the court could not tolerate freedom of speech in contemporary Deutschland! Never mind the facts that Latzel, following the Scriptures, loves everyone, which even the German courts do not. Forget the fact that Pastor Latzel would give his last euro to assist a homeless homosexual. And is it now the case that the German courts are wise enough to sit in judgment of the Word of God?
Discussing what the Bible says about the injurious results of same-sex marriage or sexuality is no more hate speech than reiterating the inevitable results of making weapons available to persons with violent backgrounds. These are life perspectives, ways of seeing and living, which have sustained ordered societies and human life with justice, dignity, and health for thousands of years. And suddenly, these same views constitute hate speech? What the court has done is repression on an entire segment of its law-abiding society – the limitation on freedom of speech.
Furthermore, a German court has now prosecuted a case abridging religious liberty, making their bias clear for the entire world to see. Commitment to Scripture, as German theologian Martin Luther knew and pointed out at the Diet of Worms in 1521, is a matter of conscience. Man-made laws may direct human conduct, but conscience has been from creation and will ever be the sovereign territory of the Creator-God. If the court in Bremen assays to rule conscience, then why not begin with the Bible? Outlaw the Book of Love. Declare the greatest love story in the world, the story of God, who loved the world sufficiently to send His only Son to die for it, to be a story of hate! Germany needs a new court in Bremen to protect religious liberty and freedom of speech!
But wait. Americans are not superior to our German forefathers. America is only months, maybe weeks short of the same judgment. And in America, it is the highest official in the land, the President of the United States, who is pushing the agenda with a new gender counsel! At stake are two precious liberties that define a free state: freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Let me urge you to write a letter today to the court of Bremen. Remind them that Luther was not the perpetrator of hate crimes but the recipient. And remind them that Olaf Latzel is among the finest citizens of Germany and one of its most profound and esteemed clerics. Insist that he be honored as a servant of the living God and a lover of all persons. And may evangelicals around the world thank God for a pastor like Olaf Latzel, perhaps Luther redivivus!