A secular criticism of Richard Steigmann-Gall’s The Holy Reich (2 of 2)
|February 8, 2014||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
These two fundamental errors of Steigmann-Gall – the omission of important evidence, and the misrepresentation of such evidence as is presented – are (in my view) thoroughly documented by Koehne. In fact, if Steigmann-Gall’s book were not a thinly disguised attack on Christianity, but a study of a more neutral area, his scholarly methodology (or lack of same) would be such as to bar his book from serious consideration and it would be quickly forgotten.
Steigmann-Gall ignores many overtly secular thinkers in the nineteenth and late eighteenth centuries who rejected biblical Christianity and at the same time first introduced ideas that were to spread through German society and in the end become foundational to National Socialism. He also ignores all relevant biblical teaching, a consideration of which would show National Socialism to have zero biblical basis. He takes every religious word of Hitler’s at face value, no matter what the context – so much so that it is not hard to believe that he started out with an anti-Christian bias solidly in place and then looked for evidence to fit his theory.
If Koehne had been writing a Christian response to Steigmann-Gall’s three arguments about Point 24 mentioned at the beginning of this article, he could have made the following points:
(1) The “social ethic” preached and practiced by the Nazis had nothing to do with anything found in the New Testament, and nothing to do with traditional Christianity as it has been practiced by countless ordinary Christians for many centuries. It was much closer chronologically and spiritually to nineteenth-century theories of race and human origins.
(2) The spiritual struggle against the Jews involved in the end the goal of complete extermination, a goal that had never been attempted or even advocated in over a thousand years of Christian cultural dominance. Also, the phrase “the Jewish-materialist spirit” reflects a concept of the Jews nowhere found in the New Testament, and not found in the long and sad tradition of religious antisemitism either. This relates to a new concept of “the Jew” that emerged out of the Enlightenment rejection of Christianity and was first introduced in the German context (as far as I have been able to determine) by Kant. It became a standard theme of secular philosophical antisemitism, and was repeated by Marx, Fichte, Wagner, H. S. Chamberlain, and others.
(3) This “new syncretism” completely failed to unite the Protestant and Catholic Churches, and no sustained attempt was even made in this direction after 1933 (except in the sense of forcing them all into complete subservience to the state). In fact, saying “Just forget about all those unimportant differences of the papacy, the mass, church polity, and the meaning of salvation, and unite on the basis of race and blind obedience to Hitler” showed complete contempt for both denominations.
If we want to understand the emergence of National Socialism, we do not need to look back to Roman Palestine or even to the conventional religious antisemitism of the Middle Ages or of the sixteenth century. We need to start with the massive secular shift away from Christianity that began with the “Enlightenment,” and grew into a powerful and dominant trend in much nineteenth-century thought. A study of the new antisemitism of Kant, the nationalism of Fichte, the racism of Gobineau, the social Darwinism of Haeckel, the hostility to Jewish Christianity of Nietzsche, and the synthesis of these and other trends in Wagner and in a host of lesser thinkers in the German intelligentsia in the century and more before 1933 – this will help us much more to an understanding of the emergence of Hitlerism than will any far-fetched and elaborately contrived explorations of alleged connections between Christianity and National Socialism.
In some cases, the best response to accusations that Christianity contributed to the emergence of National Socialism might be to simply ask “What do you think Christianity is? Do you know what Jesus taught?” Then we can quickly move to more substantial questions of the resurrection from the dead and eternal life, instead of riding endlessly on a merry-go-round of futile debate with people who obstinately refuse to consider the plainest evidence.