Main Point 7
Christians supported Hitler.
Four points can be made here.
- Many non-Christians also supported Hitler. Journalists, university professors, liberals, people involved with the occult, people from all walks of life were attracted to Hitler’s new gospel. Even many Marxists, who in theory should have been opposed to Hitler, saw the light and embraced the new gospel – especially after 1933. It is a gross oversimplification to say Christians put Hitler into power.
- Many Christians were attracted to some but not all of Hitler’s political program. To end the instability of the Weimar democracy; to regain territory lost in the war; to deal with the threat of Communism (which in Germany at that time was not just a McCarthyist bogeyman); to make Germany strong again and tear up the Versailles Treaty – these goals appealed to many who had reservations about Hitler’s personality and about the “excesses” of his ideology and supporters.
- Many Christians were, like many non-Christians, deceived by Hitler. They thought him to be a reasonable man – an illusion he was careful to foster – and had no idea of what he would really become. The future horrors of the Third Reich were unimaginable. Of course if the Germans could have foreseen what Hitler would really do they would not have supported him. This is not to excuse anyone. There was enough evil and hatred clearly manifest in Hitler’s person and program to serve as clear danger signals to anyone with spiritual discernment – and many Germans did not support Hitler. In the last free election in Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, Hitler obtained less than 50% of the vote.
- Many German Christians were Christians in name only, and did not believe in or follow many of the basic tenets of Christianity. They were cultural Christians, not spiritual ones, baptized as infants and thereafter considered “Christians” irrespective of their beliefs or actions. This natural human tendency was exacerbated by the theological liberalism that had captured many of Germany’s churches and seminaries in the preceding century. It was believed by many “Christians” that the bible was full of mistakes and errors; that Jesus was a wise moral teacher who delivered a “sublime” ethical code, nothing more; that such doctrines as the virgin birth, the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world, even his resurrection and the day of judgement were myths of a pre-scientific age. They thought the essence of being a Christian was to be a nice person, and hence suffered from a great spiritual emptiness that left them ripe for deception.
The church failed so miserably to confront and expose and resist the evil of Hitler because it was largely a dead church to begin with. Those few who had the spiritual insight to recognize Hitler’s evil did not have the power or the influence to accomplish anything.
If a significant number of Christians had been spiritually insightful enough and bold enough in the 1920’s and early 30’s to declare that the Germans were not the master race; that Hitler was a false messiah; that racial purity was a bogus concept and the Jews were not in any sense a threat to a non-existent racial purity; that revenge for WWI was wrong; that the Versailles Treaty should be accepted as God’s judgement and the Weimar government should be supported; that eternal life through faith in Christ was more important than recovering lost territory – but this did not happen.
It was not Christianity that contributed to the rise of Hitler, but the failure of Christianity which left a spiritual vacuum for the Nazis to fill. Many German “Christians” thought human goodness was the essence of being a Christian, and hence suffered from a great spiritual emptiness that left them ripe for deception. The leading “Protestant” “theologian” and “pastor” of 19th-century Germany, Friedrich Schleiermacher, taught that Jesus only fainted on the cross, and revived in the tomb. He emerged broken and bleeding to somehow start a new religion, the essence of which was based on transient human feeling rather than on eternal truths. “You are the master race and it is your destiny to rule the world” was considerably more attractive to lost people looking for meaning after the capitulation of the church to the forces of secularism.