Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Nazi Stuff

I offer an article from today's American Thinker by Bruce Walker concerning Nazis and Christianity. (That would be 11/17/07) I thought it piggybacks well on my recent post regarding Nazis and Homosexuality, and it even helps to understand the previous info as well. I do this for the sake of any who insist on using Nazi Germany as an example of Christian oppression, which has always been a pathetically laughable postition for anyone to take. Anyone who understands Christianity at all has to admit that though there are examples of Christians committing atrocities, it is difficult to find any that can be traced to Scriptural teaching. I'm not saying Scripture isn't used in such a manner, but rather, that it can't be based on any accurate interpretations. The Word is often twisted for selfish means, but unlike Islam, there are no directives of any kind that can be reasonably interpreted to condone such oppression. This will provide a little something while I finish a rant on a different topic.

24 comments:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

On the one hand, I agree with the contention that there is little connection between Nazism and Christianity. The Nazis were pagans, and looked forward to replacing Christianity with a form of pagan Teutonic polytheism, which was one of the pet projects of Heinrich Himmler.

On the other hand, as Richard Rubenstein noted in a long essay about forty years ago, one cannot deny the deep roots Christian anti-Semitism had in Germany. With Martin Luther leading the charge. Were the soil not fertilized by the kind of crap that came from Luther's pen, and nourished on generations of general Christian antipathy towards the Jews, the massive crime of the Holocaust would not have been possible.

Surprise, surprise, Marshall. We agree on some things, and I think you make some excellent, and valid, points.

blamin said...

Gosh, G K-S

I’m not as learned about this subject as you, but it’s my impression that Martin Luther’s problem was foremost with the excesses of the Catholic Church.

That’s not to deny he had a problem with the Jewish leadership, but ”anti-Semitism” is a little strong, don’t you think?

He may have had a problem with the then current teachings of a majority of the Jewish peoples, but anti-Semitism suggest a belief in a flaw of the whole race doesn’t it?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Luther wrote a treatise on the perfidy of the Jews, using language parallel to that of Nazi propaganda, including dehumanizing them with descriptions such as "vernmin", etc. It is true that "anti-Semitism" is a bit of a anachronistic word to apply to Luther, as the term wasn't coined until the 19th century. Also, the kind of biological language German anti-Semites who were the forerunners of the Nazis used didn't exist, Luther's tract, along with some selections from Immanuel Kant's Religion Within The Limits of Reason Alone are usually understood by scholars to be the basis for intellectually and religiously acceptable anti-Semitism in Germany.

This isn't to say Luther caused it. Indeed, Luther's views, and Kant's, and many others, were hardly unique. Yet, because of who they were, they were able to create a vocabulary for others to use, which was exploited by the Nazis. There were many thread in popular anti-Semitism - the blood libel, the popular belief that Jews kidnapped Christian children and sacrificed them, the rumor-panics of Jews poisoning wells, etc. - that had always been present. The simple fact of Jewish existence in the midst of titularly triumphant Christian nation-states was a threat to well-being, a foreign, alien presence that disturbed the kind of homogeneity people seem to think is necessary for true unity.

I am not saying that Luther was a Nazi. Nor am I saying that 19th century anti-Semitism is a Lutheran phenomenon. It is also true that Luther's main target was the Catholic Church (which he likened, in his last years, to the Whore of Babylon in Revelations). He had enough residual disgust and discomfort with the Jews, however, to spare a few harsh words for them. In so doing, seeds were planted which would bare bitter fruit centuries later. Indeed, 19th century Jew-baiters in Germany, many of whom were ultra-nationalists such as Treitschke and the British emigre Huston Stewart Chamberlain would point to Martin Luther and his essay as proof of the bona fides of their position, even if, later on, the Nazis themselves would be virulently anti-Christian as well as anti-Semitic.

Etienne said...

It also didn't help that Jews, because of their dietary and cleansing laws, were overwhelmingly immune to the Plague. That put a lot of fuel on the fires anti-semitic hatred. But that label, as G K-S points out, did not exist until mid to late 19th century.

Martin Luther's antipathy toward Jews is new to me, which gives me something new to look into. But if Geoffrey is correct, Luther had problems with more than just the Catholic church's sale of "Indulgences" among other things. Which, I'm guessing, proves how easy it is to take one verse out of context, and for an express command from God...

"Let His blood be upon us..."

Les said...

As the cultural significance of Luther's anti-Semitism should NEVER be glossed over simply because of its unpleasant inconveniences for the Lutheran Church, I've outlined the relevant portions of some of the more startling directives listed in the piece I believe Geoffrey was alluding to earlier:

"I shall give you my sincere advice: First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them...Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed...Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them...Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth ON PAIN OF LOSS OF LIFE AND LIMB...Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews...Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping...Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam..."

It's worth noting that Luther's wrath toward the Jews stemmed from his own failure to convert them. I think a rather obvious yet important lesson in tolerance can be taken from this. Specifically, the glorification of one's own idealism and the calloused dismissal of another can inevitably lead to tragedy of the highest order. Live and let live, y'all.

Peace.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Thank you, les. For the life of me, I cannot find even the title of Luther's little anti-Jewish pamphlet.

In any event, I want to reiterate. I do not think that Nazism is a Christian phenomenon. The groundwork for it, however, was laid by two millennia of Christian anti-Jewish propaganda, including the outbreak of popular and official pogroms from Portugal to Russia. German anti-Semitism was no worse than most (until the rise of Hitler), but as it became part of official state policy even before the Nuremberg race laws were enacted in 1935, it was concentrated most heavily there.

I do have a question for our host. What does any of this have to do with gays and lesbians? I do hope there will be some clarity given here.

Les said...

"Von den Juden und ihren L├╝gen"

Martin Luther, 1543

Marshall Art said...

Thanks for all the fine angle presented here regarding the topic. I think, however, that the point of the article, to some degree, dismisses the effect of anti-semetism that was pretty much a given in much of the world. It takes pains to point out that Nazi hatred of Jews was a result of their having spawned Christianity, which was anathema to their philosophy of hedonistic secularism. As Baker states early in his article, his source material demonstrates that Germany was already well into an anti-Christian/anti-religion state of societal decay, with what sounds like 60-70% formally renouncing any Christian membership. Christianity was decidedly more of a problem in the advancement of their agenda than were Jews. It would have confounded their Darwinian survival of the fittest mentality and interfered with their eagerness to wipe out all they viewed as inferior. Judaism alone would not have posed this problem.

In addition, they also resented being told what was sinful and what wasn't and this never more apparent as it was regarding sexuality. In a society that was already well into decadence and debauchery, many of it's few remaining Christians only going through the motions, this allowed any and all forms of perversions to flourish. As presented in the article upon which the earlier post was based, two separate forms of homosexuality developed and took root beginning as early as the late 1800's. In a strongly religious society, which Germany no longer was, such a development could not have occurred. To a lesser degree, we have seen the same in this country since the late 50's and early 60's with a more liberal version of Christianity that does not value sexual purity in the same way as traditionalists do.

I will grant that I have drawn these conclusions on the strength of the two articles that provoked the two Nazi-themed posts. But I think I haven't taken any huge stretch to end up where I have.

Also interesting was a brief mention, easily missed if one only skimmed the Baker article, of the Islamic influence on Nazism.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

First, the Nazis were sexually puritanical in a way that mirrors more our own Christian fundamentalists than anything that happened previously. The most sexually and culturally decadent place in the world in the 1920's was Weimar-Republican Germany. With a lack of social cohension, little civil infrastructure, and almost no political legitimacy, Weimar-era Germany was a hotbed of vice.

One of the first thing the Nazis did was get rid of the Kurfurstendam and all the other red-light districts. Once public vice became not only criminalized, but rigidly enforced, the next step was outlawing "racial misegination" between "Aryans" and "inferior races", in 1935. One of the reasons for outlawing and enforcing restrictions on sexual vice was the fear of "race mixing".

Your entire thesis is flawed because there is no correlation between the enforcement of certain sexual standards and political freedom, or whatever it is you are trying to say. It is one thing to insist on certain social sanctions for what is deemed morally vicious behavior; it is another thing altogether to look for legal sanctions and enforcement. That is what the Nazis did.

If you are suggesting, on the other hand, that social, cultural, and political openness lead only to decadence, public vice, and the decline of social cohesion - that may or may not be true, but decadence is as much a symptom of larger social and political exhaustion than it is a sign of moral decay. Rather, the latter is as much a symptom of said exhaustion than it is a cause (see the late Roman Empire and Edwardian Britain).

Finally, I still want to know what any of this has to do with gays and lesbians. As the latter were exterminated with extreme prejudice (despite alarming outbreaks of it within the SS that Himmler has repeatedly to quell through rough measures), I really am failing to see a through-line here.

Les said...

"I do this for the sake of any who insist on using Nazi Germany as an example of Christian oppression..."

Here's what I think, Art - oppression is oppression irregardless (yes, I'm going to continue using that fake word if you're going to continue using "it's" as the possessive form of "it") of the manner in which it manifests itself. Is it silly to compare "Christian" oppression to the nightmare that was the Third Reich? Of course it is, and I think most rational folks can agree on that. The admirable principles found in what I consider genuine Christianity highlight love and charity, not state-sponsored genocide.

Where one might find a slimmer of similarity is in the evil that has often DISGUISED itself in the "name" of Christianity throughout history, ala the Teutonic Knights. Again, I don't think such extreme examples are particularly relevant today, and thus make such comparisons to Nazism essentially pointless. The key issue to pull out of this mess, however, remains unchanged throughout the ages - when only one faction's personal moral convictions become codified, the freedoms of the people as a whole are left open to threat.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Who uses Nazi Germany as an example of Christian oppression? Ignorant folks, to be sure, but they can be ignored.

As for what Les said - I agree. Oppression is oppression, and it is bad whoever does it, Christian no less than any other group. Part of the challenge we always face is balancing what we believe is correct with the reality of difference that is just that and not moral error. For example, it is one things to believe that gays and lesbians are morally vicious human beings, acting out of selfish sexual impulses. To live in a society where that is the law, however, would be monstrous.

A less contentious issue, perhaps, is the example of temperance and Prohibition. One thing so many people insist on claiming is that Prohibition failed. In fact, it was a rousing success - the alcoholism rate in the country plummeted, and alcohol-related crime also declined. Yet, even though it was a relatively successful social experiment, it codified a very narrow understanding of acceptable human behavior in to law, and for that reason alone deserved to be repealed. Rum-runners, gangsters, and speakeasies made headlines, but in reality, Prohibition and the Volstead Act which enabled the amendment were an affront to what it means to live in a free society.

Freedoms includes the sad necessity of living with people whose life choices, including moral choices, are ones we find distasteful. Since there is no hard and fast rule about that, it seems to me that rather than create one, we make it up as we go, as we in the US have been doing for 231 years.

As for the whole "Nazi" label - that only shows those who fling it around are ignorant both of Christianity and of Nazism. It is best to dismiss them out of hand. Despite the multiple nightmares of various communist regimes around the world - and few serious people would argue that such regimes were not nightmarish, brutal places - there have been few that were as dedicated to evil from top to bottom as the Third Reich. Trying to make judgments in these extreme cases is difficult, and to be honest, using body counts is a diminution of the horror. Were we to do that, we would rank Mao's China as far worse (and this may be rightfully so, but China did not attempt to cast its dark shadow across the rest of the world; they preyed upon themselves quite nicely), and miss many of the distinctions between the various murderous regimes the 20th century spawned like fungus on a locker room floor.

Marshall Art said...

Obviously, Geoffrey, your sources differ from those upon which the two posts were based. The Conservapedia info presented homosexuality as being a major factor in the beginnings of the Nazi party and you're saying that it was heavily frowned upon. But, just like Hitler used religious rhetoric to further his ends, which was a sham, the executions and imprisonment of homosexuals was, as I may or may not have explained in that post, was a matter of political differences more than due to their homosexuality, and/or the manner in which their homosexuality was made manifest. That is, the Nazis saw certain forms of homosexual expression as being inferior and signs of weakness compared to the mannner in which their adherents expressed it. I want to re-iterate that I am only basing all on the sources used to present these two posts. These sources are my first real exposure to this aspect of the Nazi party.

(The first post didn't come with a link, but go to Conservapedia.com and search Homosexuality and Nazi, or words to that effect, and your likely to find what I read. Sorry for not having a more specific link. My bad.)

But I think the connection is clear, that the overriding tenor of the times in Germany was one of less religiosity amongst their society and the thriving hedonism that marked their character. Once the belief in a higher power is eliminated to the extent it was then, then one makes one's own rules. Morality is defined by the self, rather than the self bowing to existing morality. In this environment, anything goes.

Now, I didn't mean to suggest that their morality was made law (your last comment being a bit confusing). My point was that according to the sources used, morality was non-existent by either of our standards, and what there was publicly was for show. The Nazi philosophy was the definitive "my way or the highway" "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy.

And the point of this post was not about oppression per se, but that their oppression, their morality, their essence if you will, had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. I never meant to suggest, BTW, that anyone here has used the Nazis as an example of Christian terrorism, only that it is often used when terror in the name of Islam is being discussed. It's amazing how often I hear of Hitler's Catholicism, as if he actually believed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Marshall Art said...

If my last was a bit rambling, cut me some slack. I'm watching the Bulls cough up another to the Lakers. This after seeing the Bears seal their doom earlier today.

Marshall Art said...

Les,

"(yes, I'm going to continue using that fake word if you're going to continue using "it's" as the possessive form of "it")"

Oh f**k you.

Actually, I have long ago given up trying to remember which is which, so I use "it's" universally. IT'S a stupid grammatical rule, anyway. As if one couldn't tell what is meant by the context in which it is used. IT'S similar to Pluto being the only dog that can't speak. Damned English language!

Les said...

lol

Les said...

"...the overriding tenor of the times in Germany..."

I think it's also crucial to point out the absolute desperation of those times in Germany, Art. There were so many things at play here. Society was adjusting, quite poorly, to a non-monarchical form of government. Poverty was rampant. Seldom, if ever, had the Fatherland suffered such humiliation as it did following the Great War. Never had a perceived sense of betrayal been so keen. What was once one of the elite cultural gold mines of Old Europe was essentially reduced to the continent's groveling beggar. Not to rationalize what ultimately culminated with one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever committed, but can you really fault the German people for the seething frustration and anger they felt during the Weimar years? Again, this was a unique situation in history, when an evil albeit cunning manipulator of public sentiment masterfully exploited an environment that was vulnerable to deception. Desolation and hopelessness can be fatal to the human soul - whether one has faith in God or not - and such emotion was certainly a key ingredient of German life in the years following the shameful Treaty of Versailles.

Democracy Lover said...

"My feelings as a Christian points 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 and who, God's truth! 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. To-day, 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."

Adolf Hitler, Munich speech April 12, 1922. And to Catholic bishops on June 26, 1934:

"The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity. It will be its honest endeavour 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 to-day."

One can assert that Hitler USED Christianity rather than believing in it or following its teachings (and that he was a singularly poor theologian), but certainly one cannot assert that there was no connection between the Nazis and Christianity.

It is hardly uncommon for Western politicians seeking to consolidate their power to ally with the popular Christian groups in their nations. This has been a feature of Western history from Constantine to George W. Bush and it is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The fact that the Christianity of the period did not summarily reject the anti-Semitic bigotry of the Nazis made them a natural ally and the fact that there was a long historical strain of anti-Semitism in Christian thought was a handy tool in the hands of Nazi propagandists.

One might well reflect on how politicians today use religion and bigotry to achieve and retain power and what role Christians and churches should play when their faith is misused in this way.

Marshall Art said...

DL,

You miss the point I think. That they used Christianity, albeit poorly, is not in question. The source material explicitly illustrates that they did indeed seek to align themselves, but that it was a ruse to further their ends. This is a far cry from having actual Biblical support for their actions, which of course, they could not. As the next thread on the subject shows, real Christians were persecuted by Nazis and real Christians were the only ones in Germany protecting Jews.

The comparisons that are made by those defending Islam when talk of terrorism arises, seek to show that Christians are doing or have done the same thing as the radical Islamists. But the difference is that there is NO mandate of any kind to commit heinous acts of terrorism in the Christian Bible, but there are within Koranic teaching. One has to really twist Scripture to justify violent behavior, but not so much with the Koran. Or do you say "Q'uran"?

Democracy Lover said...

While in this case, I agree with your distinction between Christians who cooperated or were co-opted by the Nazi regime and those who resisted, I am quite sure both could have and did defend their stance using the Bible.

Assuming you have read the Old Testament, your claim that one cannot find Biblical basis for acts of terrorism is rather specious. If there is anything we learn from Western history, it is that humans can find support for virtually every action, good or evil, in the Bible. I am sure you will claim this is "twisting" the Bible, just as many Muslims would claim that bin Laden is "twisting" the Koran.

Hitler used religion to defend his terror just as bin Laden uses religion to defend his terror. Since there is no single valid interpretation of either the Koran or the Bible, it is simply not possible to state categorically that either promotes or condemns violence.

We have to realize that hatred and violence are ingrained in human nature and the responsibility for overcoming them or giving in to them rests with the individual, not with an ancient Holy Book or an unseen Deity. When an evil individual rises to power in a society, he or she is likely to claim some close relationship to the dominant religious meme of that society as a means of gaining support. It is equally invalid for bin Laden to claim that Allah wants him to attack America as for Bush to claim that God wants him to attack Iraq. The problem is not with the religion, but with the human being using the religion.

Marshall Art said...

DL,

First of all, I don't think we've ever had such a civil discussion between us. Much coolness.

I don't deny that people will use the Bible as it suits them. This is not really the issue here. What is the issue is that, as the source materials show, Christianity isn't what was driving Naziism. For bin Laden, Islam is without a doubt what is driving him. I'm not going to debate whether or not he's justified in his beliefs, though there are plenty of people that show that he is, but one indeed MUST twist Scripture to justify the same kind of behavior. Justification just doesn't legitimately exist. OT examples are specific to the story being told and are not mandates for Christians in general. There are no directives to kill or enslave "infidels".

Of course violence is a human condition. This isn't in dispute, either. But a call to action by any holy book needs to be examined for accuracy or potential. Scripture does not present the type of calls answered by Islamic terrorists. Nazi Germany's use of Christianity to justify their call is plainly eroneous and pathetically so. And considering the source material for these posts shows that the majority of the German population had already denied their Christianity makes the corrupted use of Scriptural justification even more apparent.

Democracy Lover said...

"True" Christianity or Islam is in the mind of the speaker or writer since there is no way to conclusively determine which of the many theological positions in either religion are "true" or "false". Many who know a great deal more about Islam than I suggest that bin Laden is using the religion through an alliance with fundamentalists to further his political ends. Given that the vast majority of Muslims do not agree with him, that seems accurate.

To digress a bit, it seems to me that today fundamentalism in any religion is most susceptible to misuse by politicians bent on tyranny. As a general rule, these groups (regardless of religious context) are independent of established hierarchies and their leaders tend to be charismatic individuals. Fundamentalist groups tend to see themselves as separate from an evil world that is heading for destruction unless it conforms to their belief system.

Such groups are natural allies of those who seek dictatorial power. These would-be tyrants readily offer to cleanse society from whatever evil the religious groups see in order to gain their support. In return the political leader gets to wrap himself in the cloak of religion and thus insulate himself from attack.

Whether we are discussing Nazi Germany, Iran, or present-day America, the best position for religion is separate and distinct from government and politics. One cannot claim to stand outside as a prophetic voice while supporting one political group over all others. Once a religious groups allies itself with a political party it loses its prophetic voice.

Marshall Art said...

"Once a religious groups allies itself with a political party it loses its prophetic voice."

Not so. It is discriminatory to suggest that a devout and pious person of faith cannot support and recommend a particular party or political movement if that person feels the party is closest to the ideals of the faith. This is a twisted notion of the 1st Amendment protections and absolutely not in tune with original intent. I agree that it is incumbent upon everyone to be wary of those who would abuse the faith for despotic goals. This is a far cry from saying that faith cannot work in tandem with politics. In fact, many founders saw it as a given that it should and even must. People fear such for all the wrong reasons and a few of the right ones, but it doesn't preclude it being acceptable or even beneficial for the nation at large.

As to Islam, there are many who show that bin Laden is not distorting anything of the faith. In fact, it is hoped that the so-called moderates stand up and deny those aspects of the Q'uran that encourage the type of behavior that now is manifest in the actions of terrorists. My humble study of the situation bears this out, and sadly so. Within Christianity, we've only had to adjust our thinking about what we choose to believe about what Scripture tells us. Within Islam, they actually have to change the book. Referring to your digression again, fundamentalist Christians do NOT seek an overthrow except of the hearts and minds of fellow citizens. There is no profit in forced conversions for the Christian. Our votes might reflect our faith, and some may feel they are losing out as a result. But that's just the way the system works and not a failing at all.

Democracy Lover said...

I think you miss my point. Certainly a religious person should participate in politics and as an individual associate with a political party. When the church, locally or nationally, or a church-affliated group endorses a particular political party, they (in my opinion) lose their prophetic voice. A party, like any other human institution, has within its ranks good and bad people and its leaders are focused on winning, not on morality or even commitment to an ideology. An alliance between a church and a political party diminishes the church's witness.

If a religious group calls upon the government to enforce its doctrinal or ethical positions in absence of a popular, broad-based consensus on those positions, it unwittingly invites government to take an absolutist and undemocratic position that will often require the use of force.

Marshall Art said...

You're welcome to your opinion, but I must respectfully disagree. There are any number of organizations, groups, or bodies of like-minded people who petition the government, or their chosen party, for considerations. What better for a party than to have the influence of a group that seeks to live in the best possible manner? The church or religious group in question thus does not lose their prophetic voice as much as causes it to be heard by even more people. People of faith are an inconvenient conscience for the culture as a whole, and I see that as a good thing and the reason they have their tax exempt status.

Like any other group, a religious one has a stake in the workings of our government. And a distinction would be that they aren't so much looking for enforcement of a particular code or philosophy, as much as looking for equal consideration of it, as is their right. Then, the population at large can decide, by their votes or their votes for candidates, whether or not they agree on the worthiness of the proposal. This is as it should be.