In Defense of Martin Luther (part 10)
|January 22, 2012||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
2. Unclean language
3. Hostility to science and reason
4. Luther’s responsibility for later events in German history
5. Luther and German nationalism
a. Some misconceptions
b. Luther’s worldview
c. Modern nationalism
6. Luther’s anti-Semitism
a. David and Bathsheba
b. Luther’s biblical understanding of the Jews
c. What Luther did not believe about the Jews
d. Why Luther was angry at the Jews
e. Advocacy of violence against the Jews
7. Luther and the Nazis
7. Luther and the Nazis (contd.)
Steigmann-Gall (and many others too, of course) are fond of pointing to churchmen, both Protestant and Catholic, bishops, pastors, and priests, who supported Hitler, even praised him, and use this as further proof of the strong Christian element in National Socialism. What the Bible actually teaches is not part of Steigmann-Gall’s analysis. He sees infant baptism and partaking of communion as sufficient proofs of Christianity – as if Jesus had ever said, “Blessed are cruel murderers and evildoers who were baptized as infants and take communion.” Hitler’s occasional comments about religion are taken at face value, as if he were an honest man.
Christians who consider such attacks and crude distortions to be too far-fetched to merit a response are not aware of the extent to which this is sweet music to the ears of those who are both hostile to Christianity and ignorant of it. The Holy Reich was widely read and praised. To my knowledge there has been almost no Christian response to these dishonest attacks (though writing rebuttals to The DaVinci Code seemed quite popular).
Those who try to read a lot of significance into Christians who supported Hitler should be mindful of the extent to which people were motivated by fear. Many secularists and Darwinists, including well-known scientists, supported Hitler as well. None of us, theists and atheists alike, want to be thrown into a concentration camp or beaten by a gang of thugs. We should also be more mindful of the extent to which many people were in the beginning completely deceived by Hitler. No one like him had even been seen before, and in the last couple of years of the Weimar Republic, when Hitler was seeking votes, he tried to present himself as more moderate than he really was.
Thirdly, they should be mindful of the extent to which the Protestant churches had been undermined in the preceding century by theological liberalism, and represented a version of Christianity which Luther would not have recognized. Theological liberals like Friedrich Schleiermacher (a “Protestant” “theologian” who speculated that Jesus had not really died on the cross, but was placed in the tomb in a swoon and then revived); like Wellhausen and Harnack, who believe that the Bible was not historically accurate but full of errors; pastors, theologians, bishops who denied all of the most essential teachings of Christianity – these people had poisoned the church from within and left a mighty edifice of seminaries and churches that was hollow within, thoroughly conformed to the world, and ready for collapse.
These liberalizing tendencies reached their apogee in the “Protestant” Rudolf Bultmann, an enemy of Jesus Christ disguised as a Lutheran who openly dismissed essential biblical teachings as mythology, and viewed Christ’s death on the cross not as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but as a call to an existentially authentic existence. Such people destroyed biblical Christianity in Germany. Their house was built not on the rock of biblical truth, but on the shifting sands of human wisdom and philosophy; on the wisdom of Hegel, Kant, Schopenhauer, Plato, and not on the wisdom of Jesus Christ.
Finally, those who point to Christian support for Naziism need to consider the few, Catholics and Protestants, who did speak out, who did not go along. We need to remember Lutheran pastor Paul Schneider, who refused to obey the Gestapo when they denied him the ability to pastor in his church, and was taken away. He died in Buchenwald. Another Luther pastor, whose last name was Kloetzel, denounced Naziism publicly from the pulpit in 1935, and died shortly thereafter in a concentration camp.
Lutheran pastor Julius von Jan spoke from the pulpit and denounced the Crystal Night pogrom of 1938. A few days later he was taken from a Bible study, attacked by a mob, and thrown into prison. Yet another pastor, Karl Friedrich Stellbrink was beheaded in 1942 after he stated (again in public, in the pulpit) that a recent air raid was the result of God’s anger and judgment on Germany’s wickedness. In his book Berlin Diary, American correspondent William L. Shirer spoke of five Protestant pastors who had just been arrested.
Nor should we forget the Catholics. Bishop Galen of Muenster was the boldest and most outspoken opponent of Hitler’s euthanasia program (others could be named, such as Lutheran Bishop Theophil Wurm and Cardinal Adolf Bertram). In the infamous Blood Purge of 1934 a number of prominent Catholics were murdered (such as Fritz Gerlach, Adalbert Probst, and Erich Klausner). Another Catholic, Provost Lichtenberg, openly expressed concern for the Jews, was arrested, and died in captivity.
The purpose of this is not to present a false picture of a bold church heroically opposing Hitler. Most churches and most Christians kept silent and went along. It is to correct the dishonest rewriting of history by those like Steigmann-Gall who have an agenda, and only present information that seems to support their agenda, however fragilely or tangentially, while neglecting or deliberately covering up plain and obvious facts that contradict their pet theses. Where are the Christian apologists here?
Incidentally, if America goes through enough hardship, as may well happen, most Americans too will, I believe, also accept a dictator who can bring them stability and security. They too will look the other way and say nothing when innocent people suffer. Even many of those who are most proud of their liberalism, or of their conservative American independence, will hail the saviour and follow him blindly. And how many others who still have some sense of right and wrong will just go along to stay out of trouble?
It has been said that Luther and Hitler were both “characteristically German” – as if being a brilliant scholar and Bible teacher who never harmed anyone in his life has anything to do with being a vicious, brutal, conquering warlord – and as if either of these two are somehow characteristic of all Germans. That such a stupid comparison is completely meaningless can be seen from the following example: “Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley were both ‘characteristically American.’ ”