Excerpt from Chapter One: The Present Situation
|January 30, 2009||Posted by admin under Christianity, Excerpts, Hitler, Holocaust|
The present situation
Christianity is being attacked in America today as never before. On TV shows and in movies, in the news media, in academia, in best-selling books, etc., Christians are being increasingly portrayed as narrow-minded, intolerant, ignorant, hypocritical, and even evil. This goes beyond mere ridicule. The basic teachings of Christianity are being condemned to an extent previously unimagined in this country.
It is being increasingly said that Christianity has had a negative impact on America’s history and culture-not just because of abuses, but because of fundamental characteristics of the religion. It was the Christians, it is argued, who enslaved the blacks, exterminated the Indians, oppressed women, burdened people with guilt and denied them sexual freedom, and forced the gays to stay in the closet.
Christianity has even been blamed for pollution and the destruction of the environment. God’s commandment in Genesis to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion” over the creatures is said to be a license for ecological plundering and pillaging. Never mind that the destruction of the environment only emerged as a serious problem in the modern era, nearly two thousand years after Christ died and rose again. Never mind that those who make the most noise about the destruction of the environment continue to enjoy their wasteful and environmentally destructive modern lifestyles while they attack the Bible.
Part of this negative trend has been increasing attempts to link Christianity and the Bible to Adolf Hitler and the crimes of the Nazis. While it will seem incredible to some that the teachings of Christ and the Bible should be linked to Aryan supremacy, German militarism, the horrors of the death camps, and the extermination of six million Jews, such is sadly the case.
Christianity linked to Naziism
In the recent past, it was much more commonly assumed that Christianity had nothing to do with National Socialism. It was believed that Christianity was basically benevolent, while National Socialism was basically evil, that Hitler was as far removed from the Sermon on the Mount as it is humanly possible to get. The great majority of Americans would have assumed that the Jewish experience in America was the norm, the result of the Christian influence on American culture.
The cultural climate has changed in the last fifty years, however, and the growing power of secularism makes people less inclined to view Christianity so tolerantly. The well-known support of German Christians for Hitler; statements about God, Christianity, and the churches by Hitler and by leading Nazis, including strong opposition to atheism; Hitler’s Catholic upbringing and his Concordat with the Vatican; the fact that Hitler never officially withdrew from the Catholic Church; the official support for “positive Christianity” in the Nazi party platform; the supposed fact that Hitler came to power in an overwhelmingly Christian country; centuries of Christian anti-Semitism; verses in the New Testament that seem hostile to Jews; the massacres of the Canaanites in the Old Testament-all of these and even other arguments have been emphasized by those who see more and more evidence of connections between Hitler and Christianity.
Reputable scholars and historians have studied Hitler’s ideology more objectively. George Mosse’s The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich; Daniel Gasman’s The Scientific Origins of National Socialism; Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind; Richard Weikart’s From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany; Michael Mack’s German Idealism and the Jew: The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses; Paul Lawrence Rose’s Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner-these all show from different perspectives and with different emphases how the 19th century’s secular philosophies opened the door to the emergence of horrors unprecedented in the history of the human race. John Conway’s The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-1945 does not deal with the origins of National Socialism, but it demonstrates that Hitler viewed Christianity as a rival for the allegiance of the German people and sought to eliminate its influence as much as possible, his devious political rhetoric notwithstanding.
The work of these and other authors too numerous to name have had a significant impact, but unfortunately there remain those who seem to relish attacking Christianity. Oblivious to historical realities and misinformed or even hopelessly ignorant of biblical teachings, they continue to try to link Christianity to Hitler. They have had an impact as well, and we should not underestimate them. Too few Christians understand the extent to which what they perceive as a beneficent religion of grace, peace, and forgiveness is increasingly associated by many with the cruelties of the Third Reich.
A Holocaust video checked out from the local library asserts that centuries of Christian anti-Semitism made Jews Hitler’s natural target (completely omitting all of 19th-century secular and racial anti-Semitism). A popular biography of Hitler agrees with a Holocaust scholar that Hitler was just carrying out the policies of the Roman Catholic Church when he slaughtered the Jews. An in-depth academic analysis of the Holocaust published by a prestigious university press and acclaimed by scholars from top American universities refers to the false and “venomous” anti-Jewish teachings of the New Testament and asserts that by demonizing the Jews Christianity played a significant role in laying the foundations for the Holocaust.[i]
The debate over what Hitler believed and where he got his ideas has not merely continued over the years, it has intensified. This is true to such an extent that Richard Evans, editor of the prestigious Journal of Contemporary History has written, “The relationship of German National Socialism to religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has recently moved to the forefront of historical inquiry.”[ii] Partly this is due to a natural human desire for deeper spiritual understanding that the countless secular books about Hitler have not satisfied and will never satisfy. Partly it is due to the fact that linking Hitler to Christianity is an increasingly common tactic in the culture wars. If Naziism can be convincingly blamed on Christian influence, then obviously Christians are potentially dangerous fanatics who deserve to be marginalized or even excluded from the political process as much as possible. This reasoning explains why some believe they are protecting American liberty and democracy by working to eliminate Christian influence. There are those who sincerely believe that they are defending democracy by attacking and marginalizing Christianity.
As groundless as such arguments are, they are effective with people who know little about history and nothing about Christianity. In more than one internet debate, I have been referred to Walker’s website for proof that Christianity leads to hatred, cruelty, and fascism. Such accusations have gone for far too long without a direct response. As was the case in Germany, the Christians in America have been too passive and inert while the forces of darkness grow in strength and intensity. The spread of such ideas will affect us directly and has already begun to affect us. We are mistaken if we think that because God has blessed America with liberty in the past, we are therefore guaranteed of this blessing forever.
[i] Steven Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context (Oxford University Press 1994), pp. 235-236.
[ii] Richard Evans, “Naziism, Christianity and Political Religion: A Debate,” Journal of Contemporary History 42, no. 1 (2007), p. 5