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Editors note: Douglas W. Krieger and S. Douglas Woodward contributed this research for Thomas Horn’s new book Blood on the Altar.
At the time he was rising to global power, Hitler’s audience was Catholic, but his announcement of the Concordat with Rome (the papal agreement, July 5, 1933) had meaning to Protestants as well.
The message was obvious and clear: Friendly relations—relations that are inclusive of the church—must be the norm in a resurgent Germany. “The fact that the Vatican is concluding a treaty with the new Germany means the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church. This treaty shows the whole world clearly and unequivocally that the assertion that National Socialism [Nazism] is hostile to religion is a lie.”
Hitler was even more effusive about the value of Nazism to benefit the church:
While we destroyed the Center Party [a Catholic political party], we have not only brought thousands of priests back into the Church, but to millions of respectable people we have restored their faith in their religion and in their priests. The union of the Evangelical Church in a single Church for the whole Reich, the Concordat with the Catholic Church, these are but milestones on the road, which leads to the establishment of a useful relation and a useful co-operation between the Reich and the two Confessions.
Furthermore, it was essential to separate the realms of personal faith from political action. Hitler’s “spheres of function” were altogether essential insofar as the church’s dominion was concerned, for without the spiritual health of Germany, there would be no political health. But he also took a hard line to distinguish their responsibilities: The church was to look after the spiritual and moral health of the flock—the state would tend to its material need:
The German Church and the People are practically the same body. Therefore there could be no issue between Church and State. The Church, as such, has nothing to do with political affairs. On the other hand, the State has nothing to do with the faith or inner organization of the Church.
The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity. It will be its honest endeavor to protect both the great Christian Confessions in their rights, to secure them from interference with their doctrines (Lehren), and in their duties to constitute a harmony with the views and the exigencies of the State of today.
So long as they concern themselves with their religious problems the State does not concern itself with them. But so soon as they attempt by any means whatsoever—by letters, Encyclical, or otherwise—to arrogate to themselves rights which belong to the State alone we shall force them back into their proper spiritual, pastoral activity.
In other words, both church and state must reassure its denizens the institution exists to provide for their well-being. But it is, from Hitler’s perspective, necessary that they split duties. Keep the church’s message personal and positive while the state should keep on its message of economic welfare for all (sound familiar as of late?). And of course, the supremacy of the state must be upheld. It was never to be questioned. The state dictated the role of the church. Furthermore, it mandated that any criticism of the state would not be tolerated.
Movement afoot for a new National Socialism between politics & religion?
Moreover, upon close inspection, Hitler would “gerrymander” the territory of the state whenever it suited him. Some theological modifications would be necessary. In a Germany liberated from the “old-fashioned” faith, the church should dismiss any talk of humankind’s sinful inclinations and its need for repentance. Evil must be mitigated—more specifically, downgraded—and reduced in substance to “mistakes” and not the more menacing notion of sin. Defects in human behavior amount to little more than “poor choices.” Thus, with sin redefined and evil eliminated as a “metaphysical reality,” the gospel was compromised and the church complicit. It could then pray reverently with the Führer:
We want honestly to earn the resurrection of our people through our industry, our perseverance, and our will. We ask not of the Almighty, “Lord, make us free!”—we want to be active, to work, to agree together as brothers, to strive in rivalry with one another to bring about the hour when we can come before Him and when we may ask of Him: “Lord, Thou seest that we have transformed ourselves, the German people is no longer the people of dishonor, of shame, of war within itself, of faintheartedness and little faith: no, Lord, the German people has become strong again in spirit, strong in will, strong in endurance, strong to bear all sacrifices.” “Lord, we will not let Thee go: bless now our fight for our freedom; the fight we wage for our German people and Fatherland.”
Furthermore, while the Führer did not directly confront Christian sensibilities, his prayer led one to conjecture as to what “positive Christianity” involved, and exactly what its opposite—“negative Christianity”—would entail. No doubt his listeners let the matter drop without questioning the meaning behind his exhortation for accentuating a “positive Christianity.” In contradistinction, like observing a lit firecracker failing to pop, we should be very alarmed when such a loaded phrase lies dormant for too long. Observers must be asleep if they have no apprehension about when the firecracker will detonate.
To the wary spectator, Hitler’s statement anticipated a pause “for the other shoe to drop.” And yet, assuming nothing but good intent from the Führer, the audience did not worry one iota that another shoe would hit the floor. Instead, they were enraptured by Hitler’s acclamation:
MY LORD AND SAVIOR…IN THE BOUNDLESS LOVE AS A CHRISTIAN…HE HAD TO SHED HIS BLOOD UPON THE CROSS. My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them [Peter should take up his sword, rather than put it away]. This is God’s truth! He was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. (emphasis added)
The notion that the Messiah was himself NOT Jewish was a view propounded by Richard Wagner, the famous German composer whose operas were expressions of the nineteenth-century German zeitgeist (the “spirit of the age”). Unquestionably, Hitler’s favorite composer, Wagner, stirred Hitler’s soul to envision a revived, irrepressible, and vengeful Germany. During World War II, Wagner’s legacy lived on as his music filled the putrefied air of Holocaust death camps. As a result, survivors would forever associate Wagner with Auschwitz. This was no disservice to Wagner—for he believed that Christ was Aryan, not Jewish. And like Friedrich Nietzsche, the “Philosopher Emeritus” of the German people (a good friend of Wagner until their falling out), he believed the German soul must not be dragged down by the “slave mentality” of the Jew. Consequently, it logically followed that Jesus could never be considered a Jew. To the aspiring German mindset, the Jews were a millstone about their necks. The Hebrew religion bestowed nothing but restrictive laws and depressive guilt. It was time for Germany to cast aside the Jewish mentality and its stifling effect upon the soul of humankind, but especially their Aryan race!
As to Nietzsche, he famously asserted a philosophy known as the will to power. To the extent Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, to that same extent Jesus was Himself the anti-Christ. For Nietzsche, Jesus’ commitment to die for the sin of the world was nothing but a death wish to be condemned and repudiated. For him, Jesus’ willingness to lay down His life remains the source of so much nonsense contaminating the true purpose for religion. Instead, a “true confession” encourages struggle! (Mein Kampf, of course, means “My Struggle.”) For Nietzsche, suffering saves no one. Moreover, this must be the stalwart creed of all true believers. The gospel of Wagner, Nietzsche, and especially Adolf Hitler held in common a disdain for the Jew.
The duty to be a fighter for truth, justice, (and the German way) comprises, of course, the motto of Superman, the quintessential American superhero. Indeed, less feted translators often seek to convey the meaning of Nietzsche’s Übermensch with the expression “superman.” However oversimplified this one-word translation (especially vulgar to the sophisticated), nonetheless, it likewise urges those loyal to Old Glory—the red, white, and blue—to stand and be counted! America boasts the greatest military ever assembled. Any concept of redemptive suffering preached from the Bible by ignoble vicars of Christ surely misses the mark. Turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) cannot be what Christ actually meant. “Fight back! Don’t get mad—get even!” Of course, the German people in the 1920s and 1930s were a frustrated, defeated people, wearing anger on their sleeves right below their swastikas.
Americans do not feel compelled to take such overt military action. Discretion is the better part of valor. We much prefer to keep our battles on the “down low,” equipping our intelligence services to act covertly (witness the current, 2013 conflict regarding the National Security Agency’s mining of private phone and Internet data, spying on multiple foreign [friendly] governments, accessing and cataloguing private data of one hundred million Americans, as well as the intrusive behavior of the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service), requiring our special forces to operate in darkness, and necessitating US sorties of the aeronautical kind be carried out in stealth mode. As the military is wont to say, “We own the night.” Unlike the saints to whom Paul addressed his letters, one could argue, that in the last one hundred years, the US government has seldom sought to be mistaken for children of the day.
Hating in the Name of Christ and Country
The unity of the church was important to Hitler. He could not consummate his grand plan without the support of the church. He required his backside be covered. Consequently, it was crucial that disputes in the church be silenced, if for no other reason than to keep quarrels from bubbling over into matters of state and distracting the populace from the bellicose but sacred duty before them.
It will at any rate be my supreme task to see to it that in the newly awakened NSDAP [Nazi Party], the adherents of both Confessions can live peacefully together side by side in order that they may take their stand in the common fight against the power, which is the mortal foe of any true Christianity [as Hitler would define it].
This is for us a ground for satisfaction, since we desire that the fight in the religious camps should come to an end…all political action in the parties will be forbidden to priests for all time, happy because we know what is wanted by millions who long to see in the priest only the comforter of their souls and not the representative of their political convictions. (emphasis added)
Furthermore, Hitler required that the church’s energy contribute to the Fatherland’s fighting spirit. Christ must not be seen as the Prince of Peace. Religious fires must burn brightly on his (Hitler’s) behalf.
So far as the Evangelical Confessions are concerned, we are determined to put an end to existing divisions, which are concerned only with the forms of organization, and to create a single Evangelical Church for the whole Reich… And we know that were the great German reformer [Martin Luther] with us today he would rejoice to be freed from the necessity of his own time and, like Ulrich von Hutten [1488–1523, an outspoken German scholar, poet, and reformer], his last prayer would be not for the Churches of the separate States: it would be of Germany that he would think…and of the Evangelical Church of Germany [Hitler loved putting words in the mouth of Martin Luther].
After all, to Hitler, the real enemy was the “international Jew.” Christianity must unite, Catholics and Protestants, laity and priesthood—“against the power”—i.e., the international Jewish conspiracy that, he argued, warred against the church of Jesus Christ and the German people. Not that this tactic was especially risky. His approach was tried and true: Unite around a well-defined, mutual foe. Foment hatred against the scapegoat. Exaggerate images to make plain their villainous ways. Build the faithful into the “hammer of God”—make it an instrument of righteous indignation such as is developing now against the viewpoints of Born Again believers around the world.
Impulse for a New Hitler-Style Christian Ecumenism?
The pathway to co-opt the church in America today first requires the encouragement of unity within the varied hallowed institutions, then secondly, aligning them according to the preferred political agenda. The broad strategy for managing religious institutions has not changed all that much over the past eighty years—although selected tactics do differ.
So what is the method to achieve an ecumenical union? It involves reconstructing the Christian message. Building unity in the contemporary church comprises a modern-day equivalent to building the tower of Babel. The most relevant message, what will really bring us together as one, requires the church to substitute the content of the gospel with a message of confusion, which is what “Babel” means. How can this be accomplished? By creating confusion over the nature of good and evil. We could say that reaching new heights in cooperation with other beliefs and faiths is not based upon clear communication and seeing things eye to eye. It is about not seeing things at all. “Coming together” necessitates closing one’s eyes to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. The less said the better. Indeed, regarding traditional Judeo-Christian values, the nature of sin, and the reality of evil in particular, stand out like sore thumbs. Therefore, church leadership in its aspiration seeks to be mainstream. Americans must paper over the notion of sin and evil with platitudes of self-improvement, overcoming self-doubt, as well as proclaiming health and wealth to magically make their congregations (and especially them) wealthy. In today’s evangelical church, it is most certainly about expressing a positive Christianity! Hitler would feel especially vindicated if he attended the typical mega church and listened to the sermons there. Christianity has been effectively shorn of biblical discernment and blinded to the reality of evil as it presents itself in our world today.
Diminishing doctrine as an essential element in “confessional Christianity” is hardly new. Liberal Christian churches dispensed with meaningful theological content decades ago. They embraced a social gospel, replete with platitudes of pluralism, while promoting the practice of social good works, unwittingly leading to greater government intervention and involvement in the church. When American theologians sentenced God to death in the 1960s, they simultaneously (albeit unwittingly) assigned their own ecclesiastical institutions to death row. Fifty years ago, they reduced the gospel to what was left over after so-called science ravaged the Bible. Theology became nothing more than existential philosophy. The meaning of being a Christian amounted to repeating holy words in ritual ceremonies. It did not matter how far out (i.e., how “supernatural”) the notions of the original creeds or “Psalters” were. Theology became applied psychology. It was reconstructed to be a frame of mind or, better yet, a mental state. Once the creeds had been ransacked of all calls to spiritual transformation and relieved of all genuine miracles recorded in the Bible, what remained was Friedrich Schleiermacher’s “feeling of absolute dependence,” Paul Tillich’s ruminations about God as the “ground of being,” or Karl Jaspers’ yearning for an “ultimate experience.” Consequently, today’s mainstream churches are now so emaciated it is a wonder they have not already given up the ghost.
In contrast, today’s evangelical churches (that proclaim that oh-so-positive message) swarm with “believers.” But the question is, “What do they believe in?” To be sure, there are many assemblies of faithful, believing Christians who keep science in its place and rightly esteem spiritual reality; who regard the Bible as God’s Word; and rely upon the Spirit of Christ to be an ever-present reality in their daily lives?not so much as an emotional impulse stimulating a mystical faith, but as an enabling power to conquer the challenging circumstances of everyday life. On the other hand, as we contend, the most well-known churches appear guilty of depriving their congregations of meaningful content—biblically based content. It is almost as if the gospel so successfully preached there today is derived from aphorisms in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Or to misquote a famous mega-church preacher: “It IS about you!” Or worse yet, the evangelical message transforms spirituality into a transaction: You do “x” and God does “y.” “Give and it shall be given to you”—not out of need but out of greed. God guarantees our destiny to be healthy, wealthy, and wise (although the last item in this threesome is not always requested). At issue is only whether you count yourself entitled to merchandise from the heavenly commissary, stocked wall to wall to assure your material needs are met in full.
Betraying the Meaning of the Kingdom of God
After the death of Pope Pius XI in 1939, the electoral procedure to seat another pope began. The election favored Eugenio Pacelli (1876–1958), and four days later, Pacelli made it clear that he would handle all German affairs personally. He proposed the following to Hitler:
To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler, Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich! Here at the beginning of our Pontificate, we wish to assure you that we remain devoted to the spiritual welfare of the German people entrusted to your leadership.… During the many years we spent in Germany, we did all in our power to establish harmonious relations between Church and State. Now that the responsibilities of our pastoral function have increased our opportunities, how much more ardently do we pray to reach that goal. May the prosperity of the German people and their progress in every domain come, with God’s help, to fruition!
Pacelli was crowned pope on March 12, 1939 (becoming Pius XII). The following month, on April 20, 1939, at Pius XII’s expressed wish, Archbishop Orsenigo, the nuncio (ambassador) in Berlin, opened a gala reception for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday. The birthday greetings thus initiated by Pacelli immediately became a tradition: Each April 20 during the few years left to Hitler and his Reich, Cardinal Bertram of Berlin would send “warmest congratulations to the Führer in the name of the bishops and the dioceses in Germany,” to which he added “fervent prayers which the Catholics in Germany are sending to heaven on their altars.” The walls of the kingdom of God were thoroughly breached. The homogenization of church and state was complete.
In 1939, Adolf Hitler summarized why he was so confident that the Third Reich was imminent: “The National Socialist Movement has wrought this miracle. If Almighty God granted success to this work, then the Party was His instrument.” In retrospect, the reader would be hard pressed to find a historical leader who levered faith, however skewed, more effectively as a power tool for REALPOLITIK. Hitler was almost unparalleled in the annals of leadership as a champion for the relevance of spiritual belief. He saw man created by God, rewarded for his reliance upon God, and sustained when cooperating with Him on a grand scale. In Hitler, we confront a leader who abandoned all self-consciousness—he was so tightly coupled with his constituency that they became of one mind. Yes, he learned the craft of public speaking like few others—maybe better than anyone. But we are dangerously mistaken if we regard his fervor as only an act. NO, he believed in what he was doing. He lost himself in his cause.
He was not tepid in faith, darting hither and thither, equivocating whenever the opportunity afforded itself. To the contrary, the leader of the Third Reich was a champion of conviction that was so “in your face” it was contagious. If faith wavered, Hitler reinstated it, bolstering public confidence in his program for a new Germany. His power hinged on claiming that a brilliant destiny lay at Germany’s feet. God’s providence guaranteed success. In every darkened pathway, he claimed God would enlighten the path and keep National Socialism on track because it fulfilled the Almighty’s plan. Hitler pleaded it, believed in it, and “owned” what he stridently confessed. All doubt concerning Germany’s mission fled from his presence, because, as far as he was concerned, God mandated that the German people be ultimately victorious. History would demonstrate divine preference. God would honor Hitler’s unfeigned devotion to his people. Listen to his confident faith:
In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that, as in the past, so in the years to come He would give His blessing to our work and our action, to our judgment and our resolution, that He will safeguard us from all false pride and from all cowardly servility, that He may grant us to find the straight path which His Providence has ordained for the German people, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right, never to falter, never to yield before any violence, before any danger…. I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty…. If Providence had not guided us I could often never have found these dizzy paths…. Thus it is that we National Socialists, too, have in the depths of our hearts our faith. We cannot do otherwise; no man can fashion world history or the history of peoples unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.
In the final analysis, the Antichrist may be dangerous not because he is the best actor ever to mount the world stage or that he will hide insincere intent and cloak satanic motive. He will be exceptionally treacherous because, like Adolf Hitler, he will be utterly convinced that defeat is inconceivable. The thoughts of his mind will swim with confidence of triumph over Born Again believers in the upcoming war between Christian vs. Christian . . . and for a while it will appear he is right:
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:7-8).
If you go to the store to buy Meat, don't run to the Milk section or the Junk Food aisle looking for it!!
The Meat Section is the True Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Milk Section is likened to those who will not preach on sin and Hell, just a feel good message, the Social gospel.
The Junk Food Isle is the outright false doctrine AKA the prosperity gospel, name it and claim it, the Hebraic Roots movement and other false teachings!!
Feasting on just Milk and Junk will eventually cause you great harm, you can count on it!!
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