The U.S. Church 2010 Meets the German Church 1933
By: Jonathan Harris
There has been growing an ever increasing fascination within me regarding how the Third Reich gained and managed to keep control in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Perhaps much of this can be attributed to my love for history, but not all of it. I see the study of Nazi Germany to be extremely relevant concerning the situation the United States finds itself in currently. We are ripe for a Hitler! Economically, socially, and politically much of the framework is already in place. A non-extensive list of parallels would include our economic condition, our “politically correct” ethic, our value for human life, our consolidation of power in D.C., our interest in Eastern religious philosophies, our “green” movement, our educational system, our familiar breakdown, and most importantly our compromise within the church.
Many conservatives think we should be afraid of a Hitler showing up in the ranks of the liberal democrats and many liberals, the conservative republicans. After going through both Mein Kampf and Liberal Fascism– both of which I highly recommend to anyone wishing to understand the Nazis- I think I can safely say that from a political, economic, and religious point of view we are looking more at a product of the left. Fascism is a political philosophy in which the state replaces God as the source of authority and rallies around a culture and/or ethnicity. Those who try to put communism on one side of the political spectrum and fascism on the other frankly don’t know what they’re talking about. The Soviets spread many slanders against the fascistic “right,” simply because it was a tenth of a degree off from their political agenda. Fascism is not concerned with socioeconomic class like communism. Karl Marx’s “worker’s of the world unite!” is replaced with Hitler’s figurative, “people of Germany unite.” Both are forms of socialism with this key difference. Communism is international and fascism is national. Both however are totalitarian in nature disallowing any vestige of Christ’s true church to practice unhindered. While I myself can honestly say Barack Obama has much more in common with Hitler than Glenn Beck will ever have, I due believe Glenn Beck is in the process of creating an open road for a future Hitler. This may sound ridiculous to some. I would simply ask that before dismissing my point you read the rest of what I have to say.
President Obama is more of an international socialist, whereas Hitler was a national socialist. This would put them both at odds with each other on a couple points, however, when it comes to the basics tenets of socialism they would be shaking hands in hearty agreement. Jonah Goldberg points out in Liberal Fascism– which you should order by clicking the previous link- that,
. . . in many respects fascism is not only here but has been here for nearly a century. For what we call liberalism- the refurbished edifice of American Progressivism- is in fact a descendant and manifestation of fascism. . . She is hardly identical to her uglier relations, but she nonetheless carries an embarrassing family resemblance that few will admit to recognizing.
Obama, being a modern progressive, does share many similarities with both Hitler and Mussolini. The consolidation of power in a central government, bypassing of the legislative process, the green movement, opposition to gun-rights, the expansion of government control over education, abortion, racial politics, and state capitalism, are merely a couple of the key points of similarity. However, there are some differences I should highlight as well. These differences will serve to point out why Glenn Beck could potentially lay the groundwork for a future Hitler with the full cooperation of the church. Obama and Hitler would disagree on the importance of reinstating the volk, i.e. “folk”, heritage of their nations respectively. Hitler looked back to the First Reich of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire and the Second Reich of Otto Von Bismark and the unification of Germany to propel the German people into believing he would usher in a Third Reich of perpetual government. Hitler spoke very favorably of the heroes of ancient Germany, even commending Martin Luther in Mein Kampf. He stated, “To them [i.e. the German people] belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.” The point is not that Adolph Hitler was a Lutheran. In fact, he bears almost nothing in common with Martin Luther. Let us depart one moment from our current discussion on the volk and examine what the Fuhrer’s religious beliefs were.
Hitler was raised in a loosely Catholic home but quickly rejected even that. He admired Guido Von List incorporating his “Heil” greeting, swastika, and rabid antisemitism into mainstays of the Nazi ideology. List was a worshiper of the German ancient god Wotan. In fact, the more one engages the religion of Hitler, the more one is forced to come to terms with a floodgate of twisted occult and sexual practices that lead to a rather damning conclusion. According to Hitler’s Cross by Erwin W. Lutzer, the Fuhrer hated Christianity and loved the demonic pre-Christian religious traditions of pagan Germany. Deitrich Eckart, one of the seven founders of the Nazi party and avowed Satanist spoke this of Hitler on his death bed in 1923.
Follow Hitler! He will dance but it is I who have called the tune! I have initiated him into the ‘Secret Doctrine,’ opened his centres in vision and given him the means to communicate with the Powers. Do not mourn for me: I shall have influenced history more than any other German.
Lutzer also states that “Allan Bullock, who wrote an extensive biography of Hitler, dutifully listed what Hitler studied in his youth: yoga, hypnotism, astrology, and various other forms of Eastern occultism. . .” Hitler’s use of psychedelic drugs in order to produce visions, his belief in reincarnation, and especially his obsession with religious objects have become so well known that movies have been made regarding them. Has anyone seen Indiana Jones? Again Lutzer explains,
Even those who knew Hitler from his early days were well aware of his occult powers. August Kubizek, a friend, said, “It was as if another being spoke out of his body . . . . It was not a case of a speaker carried away by his own words. . . . I felt as though he himself listened with astonishment and emotion to what broke forth from him.”
Indeed, even Hitler’s closest associates were occultists: Rudolf Hess, Himmler, Rosenberg, and Goebbels. The final solution itself was inspired by Hinduism’s ideas on race, a religion which itself regards Hitler as an Avatar. A reoccurring scenario described by Rauschning was one in which Hitler “yells for help . . . seized with power that makes him tremble so violently his bed shakes . . . in his bedroom he is muttering . . . ‘It is he! It is he! He’s here!’ His lips turn blue. . . . He was dripping with sweat. . . . He was given a massage and something to drink. . . . Then all of a sudden he screamed, ‘There! Over there in the corner!'”
He told Rauschning on one occasion, “I will tell you a secret, I am founding an order. . . . the Man-God, that splendid being will be an object of worship. . . . But there are other stages about which I am not permitted to speak.” On a separate occasion he exclaimed, “Man is God in the making.” This is why it should come as no surprise He told Rauschning that making peace with the church “won’t stop me from stamping out Christianity in Germany, root and branch. One is either a Christian or a German. You can’t be both.”
Now back to our discussion of the volk. As we have seen, Hitler was by no means a lover of Christianity. A plain reading of Mein Kampf will make this obviously clear. He intended to use the church as an organization for the furtherance of German nationalism, but it had to be in lock step with the Nazi party in order to justify its existence. When Hitler referred to Martin Luther in a favorable light notice he didn’t go into any specifics. Martin Luther was a hero of the German people of which about 2/3 were proclaimed Lutherans. Hitler saw the history of Germany and its figures, even the ones he would have disagreed with, as being worthy of study and admiration simply because they were German. This is undeniably, in our country, more of a phenomenon of the right. I myself enjoy the study of history and admire such men as Patrick Henry, Robert. E Lee, and Ronald Reagan. However, the idea of “American Exceptionalism” I fear is all to similar to Hitler’s German nationalism. Certain parts of our history are whitewashed in order to prove that “America isn’t really all that bad.” We are fooled into thinking that when we have made mistakes, that’s all they were, and they were somehow caused because of a departure from our “real” values. Some conservative Christians will even say that we are “special,” “unique,” or “chosen.” Rev. Peter Marshall’s children’s book The Light and the Glory comes to mind. Sometimes when I hear conservatives say such things I want to ask, “What are we, modern Israel?” Fortunately, American Exceptionalism has not been used by conservatives to rally us around the state, at least to the extent that Hitler used it. Of course Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster did go in that direction, but I wouldn’t consider them anything remotely similar to true conservatives. One of the mainstays of conservatism is that it is antithetical to state control and is instead for federalism and individual freedom. Glenn Beck I think understands this, but he’s on thin ice by reinforcing a tool that can easily be used against conservative ideals. Let me offer up a hypothetical. Barack Obama wants a Civilian Defense Force that’s as well funded as the military in addition to a Universal Volunteer Civilian Service organization. Mike Huckabee- who I agree with 88% of the time- stated this frightening proposal in his, for the most part insightful book, Do The Right Thing.
During the Depression, the WPA provided jobs to lift Americans out of poverty. Today we need national-service jobs so that more Americans can give back out of their abundance; others still need to be lifted out of poverty. A year of civilian service can be a path for those who have dropped out of school or who are trapped in dead-end jobs to gain some marketable skills and make a fresh start. . . If a voluntary system does not work, we should seriously debate making civilian service mandatory.
There you have it. A “conservative” and a “liberal” agreeing on something that, if implemented, would erode individual freedom even more. We’re talking about a civilian draft for crying out loud! Hitler was supposedly able to reach 100% employment through the similar method of requiring that everyone in the nation be employed in a certain skill. The state would even pay for the training and the vacation expenses. As Mussolini so rightly described fascism, “Everything within the state. Nothing outside the state!” The United States secretary of education Arne Duncan wants every facet of social life to revolve around the government sponsored and controlled public school. Don’t believe me? Simply watch his interview on Charlie Rose last year. Here’s the point: If somehow the American Exceptionalism of the right is linked to the mandatory state control of the left, we will be witnessing a force for the destruction of the church like this country has never seen. The current rallying cries for state intervention in our lives- the ones coming from the left- have little do with our heritage or religion, and more to do with political correctness. The evangelical church, although it has bought into many politically correct ideas, will not consider this a very compelling rallying cry, and neither will the majority of the American people, at least not at this point. Liberals are always looking for a “moral equivalent to war” as Jonah Goldberg calls it, because war is the one situation in which the nation pulls together under the guidance of a powerful state. The green movement is perhaps the best modern example. We are supposed to re-knit the very fabric of our society for the good of the planet and accept any state imposition to this end. Ironically, Hitler had his own green movement which we will not go into detail about now. The green movement does not see the military as a solution. On the contrary, the military is the problem with their pesky bombs and use of gasoline. German nationalism however was entirely devoted to military service. This is perhaps another distinction between the right and left of the U.S. The left does not have the military fervor of the right and the right lacks the enthusiasm for the state that the left possesses. So what happens when in an effort to save our heritage and honor our military we rally around the state?
This is where Glenn Beck’s 8.28 comes into play. No it did not cause us to rally around the state, but it had the potential. Let me ask, “If there were a ‘conservative’ in the white house, how might it have turned out?” Beck held the rally near the footsteps of a giant Bolshevik looking statue of a true statist, Abraham Lincoln, with thousands of supporters flying the American flag and pledging themselves to “restoring” honor. Beck then invoked an “American” ecumenical like God while devoting most of the event to the honor of our military. None of these things is “fascistic” in and of itself, however, something smells awfully suspicious, and it’s about to stink even worse. If things don’t make sense, keep reading.
To understand the core of my concern with Glenn Beck, American Exceptionalism, and the Restoring Honor Rally, you must understand the most important institution of society, the church, and its history under Nazism. Be prepared for some shocking moments as we examine the church under Hitler, and the current church under Obama.
To comprehend the implications of what happened to the church under Hitler, we must first gain an understanding of the context in which the church was surviving. As Erwin W. Lutzer writes in Hitler’s Cross,
If the First Reich prepared the way for Hitler by unifying church and state, the Second Reich contributed to the paralysis of the church by teaching that there must be a split between private and public morality. . . . The state, it was argued, would not be judged according to conventional law because its responsibilities went beyond ordinary human values.
For a long time the church in Germany had been very nationalistic. “During the Prussian dominance the king was the head of the church. The clergy were servile to the political head of state.” However, this nationalistic church was prohibited from judging the state. The American societal structure featured a church that was answerable to God and a state that was likewise answerable. Each however possessed separate realms of responsibility before Him. This was not so in Germany. Fredrick the Great boasted that “salvation is God’s affair, everything else belongs to me!” Georg Hegel, the chair of philosophy at Berlin University in the early 19th century taught that war “was the great purifier that was necessary for the ethical health of the people. As for private moral virtues such as humility and patience, these must never stand in the way of the state’s agenda’ indeed the state must crush such ‘innocent flowers.'” The German church, even before Hitler, was in the dangerous position of being answerable to the state and possessing the pietistic notion that its only job was to cultivate “personal relationships” which had no bearing on culture. Sound familiar to anyone? “With a thicket of swastika flags surrounding the alter of the Magdeburg Cathedral, the dean, Dr. Martin, declared in 1933, ‘Whoever reviles this symbol of ours is reviling our Germany . . . the swastika flags around the alter radiate hope that the day is at last about to dawn.'” Now think about the American flags we so often see in conservative churches. As you can probably imagine, it wouldn’t be a stretch to hear a pastor speaking in America about its flag the same way in which Dr. Martin spoke about Germany’s symbol.
Aside from being nationalistic and culturally prideful, the German churches were also liberal in the theological sense. The historic faith had primarily been abandoned in favor of higher criticism. Those who attended the churches didn’t necessary believe God’s word was inspired and infallible. They were simply good Christians because they had been baptized as a child and after all, in order to be a good German you should be a good Christian. This was the reason that Hitler, although he despised the church, made it a point to come off as a religious person to the masses. The churches that were conservative abandoned the intellectual debates surrounding Biblical authority and instead focused on the Gospel and the Gospel alone having little effect on the world around them. In addition, the German culture itself was saturated with occultism.
So then, what were the effects of this pietism? Lutzer outlines a number of changes to the education system which should cause us to shudder as we notice the parallels that exist between “them and us.”
– In 1935 prayers ceases to be obligatory in schools
– Christmas was turned into a totally pagan festival. . . Carols and Nativity plays were banned from the schools. . . Christmas was changed to “Yuletide.”
– Crucifixes were eliminated from classrooms
– Easter was turned into a holiday that heralded the arrival of spring
Regarding these changes Hitler stated, “Your child belongs to us already. . . what are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.” In another speech he reinforced, “This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.” Private schools were abolished, textbooks were rewritten, and those who didn’t fall in line were reprimanded. Regarding law Goring put it best, “The law and the will of the Fuhrer are one.”
It wasn’t long until the National Reich Church was formed to consolidate the church into further obedience to the government. A thirty point program outlined the chilling impositions. Complete control was given to Hitler, the Bible was forbidden from being published and disseminated, the church was required to declare Mein Kampf as the greatest of all documents (over the Bible), crucifixes, symbols of saints, Bibles, and the cross were required to be removed and in their place Mein Kampf, the swastika, and a sword were to be placed.
From 1934 on, a battle enraged between the “Confessing Church” lead by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller, and the “German Christians” who were headed up by different Nazi officials. The Barmen Confession, adopted by the Confessing Church rejected the doctrine of the “two spheres” (Christian pietism) by stating, “We reject the false doctrine that there are realms of our life in which we belong not to Jesus Christ, but to other masters, realms where we do not need to be justified and sanctified by Him.” Unfortunately, because of political pressure and the lust for peace, the confessing church all but disbanded with Hitler arresting those who refused to join the “German Christians.” Niemoller was arrested in 1937, though he lived through the war. Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis a couple weeks before it ended. He had been in the process of formulating a plan for the assassination of Hitler. Their story, and the story of the other confessing Christians should be read. This is why I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Hitler’s Cross. Simply click the preceding link and order it off of Amazon. Their stories will provide inspiration for how to stand firm amidst the America of tomorrow.
You may be wondering, what all this has to do with Glenn Beck and the Restoring Honor rally? The answer is, “everything.” Listen to the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. . . . In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. . . . Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner . . . it is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
No let me ask you, “What kind of grace is Glenn Beck selling?” Don’t get me wrong, I agree with much of what Glenn Beck says about politics, and I’m not in anyway saying he’s Hitler. Nevertheless, he is both offering and revealing something damning that has already taken place in our churches. Russell D. Moore ties everything together with this statement from His syndicated blog.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
Moore goes on to say,
Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 John 4:1-3). . . The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the Kingdom of God and the latest political whim.
I second one of Moore’s opening lines. “It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck.” Francis Schaeffer repudiated the pietistic compartmentalized version of Christianity that plagued the church of the Nazis and plagues ours today. The church must be involved in the political process as salt and light, but it must not compromise the fact that it is the church. In America we have both extremes. We have the hundreds of evangelical leaders- including the entire upper echelon at Liberty University- who have decided to look for revival from an ecumenical Mormon, and then we have the churches that stay completely out of the political process. One side says, “We’re willing to compromise in order to be salt,” in which case they loose their saltiness, and the other affirms, “We’re not willing to compromise anything, you can’t have your salt.” Either way the salt is never truly injected into the culture. We have bought into cheap grace in America. Doctrine doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is a “personal relationship,” which saves me from hell, society be damned! What we need is a yellow Gadsden Flag (i.e. the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag) which instead of a snake in the background, pictures the Holy Scriptures.
If we compromise on the Gospel for the sake of politics, how are we any different than the “German Christians?” We’re simply “American Christians,” and in that order. We have bought into a right wing type of fascism where the military and our exceptionalism come before the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I fear we will follow in the footsteps of Germany, only time will tell. All it takes is a “conservative” to rally the churches into a frenzy over something of temporal importance. Christ said it best in Matthew 6:20-21. “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where’s the heart of American Christianity. Is it with the Gospel or Glenn Beck? Does it resemble Germany 1933 or Rome 35 A.D.? More importantly, where’s your heart?