Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hitler and Christianity: An Oft-Repeated Lie

Probably no historical person prompts more universal disgust in Westerners than Adolf Hitler.  Yet, in a conversation with Cenk Uyger (Young Turks), Reza Aslan states that Hitler must have been a Christian because he identified himself as such.  To bolster Reza Aslan's point about how a religious view can't disown anyone who claims to be part of it, Cenk Uyger digs up a quote from Mein Kampf that secularists have long been championing as proof that Hitler was a Christian:
The anti-Semitism of the new movement was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge.
Now, the charge of quote-mining is so overused, it almost "only does emotive work." And yet, one presumably had to read Mein Kampf to find this quote, and the context is not at all obscure in chapter 2.  The Christian Socialist Party was a political party that tried to wed liberal Christian "higher criticism" ideas with both ethnic paranoia and socialism, and thus leveled its bigotry against the faith of Judaism (an almost Marcionite brand of supercessionism). Ultimately, a truly nationalistic movement, Hitler thought, could not possibly be based on fluffy spiritualities but on cold objective material (i.e. biological) realities.  A Jewish person, in Hitler's mind, was a corrupt creature regardless of what he believed; an idea deeply antithetical to Christian canon and dogma in general.  By not being based on "racial knowledge" (what is now called "scientific racism" was commonly justified by evolutionary thought), the CSP was necessarily "a sham anti-Semitism which was almost worse than none at all" in Hitler's account.

In other words, the "new movement" "based on religious ideas" was not National Socialism, but so-called "Christian Socialism".  The "old movement" in this context was Pan-Germanism, a movement Hitler believed was more on target in principle but off target in method.  In fact, the CSP was so effective at convincing Hitler of the dangers posed by Jewish people that Hitler praised its methods rather than its principles, as it "recognized the value of large-scale propaganda and was a virtuoso in influencing the psychological instincts of the broad masses of its adherents." To absorb any of CSP theological ideas (which were neither conservative nor orthodox) would at least have required Hitler to entertain the notion that anyone can be saved through the truth.  And Hitler acknowledges in Mein Kampf that he would have none of this.  There is, in fact, not even a half-hearted attempt to base his political ideas on any kind of Christian doctrine. 

He does make a vague reference to "true Christianity" once in chapter 11, but like a good politician does not elaborate on what that means other than insinuating that it is antithetical to greed (still popular in anticapitalist rants), and makes a perfunctory jab about how Jesus was rejected and betrayed by Jewish people in the 1st century--an image that had been used for years to drum up and justify anti-Semitic sentiment at the expense of New Testament teaching.  Hitler brings this medieval passion play cliche into his book 9 chapters after explaining that the main thing he got from the Christian Socialists was how to use effective propaganda.  This would be the perfect place to explain how his political Weltanschauung meshes with Christianity, and Hitler is emphatically silent.  But there is no chance, according to secularists, that Hitler's appeal to religious imagery was cynically opportunistic rather than deep and heartfelt.  I mean, it's not like he was a politician.

Exactly how dedicated to the New Testament was Hitler's "National Reich Church"?
The National Church has no scribes, pastors, chaplains or priests, but National Reich orators are to speak in them. The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany... The National Church declares that to it, and therefore to the German nation, it has been decided that the Fuehrer's Mein Kampf is the greatest of all documents. It ... not only contains the greatest but it embodies the purest and truest ethics for the present and future life of our nation. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German national and therefore to God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels... and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika.* 

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