Tuesday, November 21, 2006

National Socialism vs. Christianity

A few excerpts from a historical source that I mentioned a few posts down:
[I]t is obvious that, although the position of the Christian churches in Germany is in many respects quite precarious, as every newspaper-reader knows, the churches still carry on their work. On the basis of past Christian experience, it is permissible to assume that, however difficult the present plight of these churches may be, they will outlast the Nazi movement. There can be no doubt that, consciously or unconsciously, many church leaders, Protestants and Catholics alike, are trying to formulate their programs of action in line with this expectation. But even so, they do not escape the immediate necessity of facing the actuality of National Socialism. The longer this movement persists, the more impossible neutral attitudes become. Hence the influence of those who take clear-cut positions, either negative or positive, becomes more and more important.
[A Christian anti-Nazi] argument runs as follows: The church is a community of “people who have found in Jesus Christ their own comfort and hope and the comfort and hope of the whole world” and who therefore can do no other than bear witness before the world to Jesus Christ. This witnessing to Jesus Christ involves two things: the church of today must join in the confession of the prophets and apostles and the church in all ages that Jesus Christ as the revealer of God is the Lord. The church of today must also “actualize this confession in relation to those contemporary questions which agitate the church and the world.” It must speak a definite “Yes” or “No” in making a decision from its faith about the events of the day. “The political problem of our day” is the problem of National Socialism. Its “double character as a political experiment and as a religious institution of salvation shuts out any possibility of dealing with the question it puts ‘only’ as a political question and not, indirectly and directly, as a question of faith as well. Consequently, in no event can the church adopt a neutral attitude to the political problem of today.” National Socialism cannot be understood unless it is seen “as a new Islam, its myth as a new Allah, and Hitler as this new Allah’s prophet.” It is a church, although a very secular one, of which to be a member means to affirm its principles “in the form of faith, of mysticism and fanaticism.” If it exhibits, therefore, “all the characteristics of an ‘anti- church’ fundamentally hostile to Christianity,” then it must become evident, by the way in which the church of Jesus Christ confesses its faith, that the Christian rule of faith and life and the National Socialist rule of faith and life are mutually exclusive. No peace is possible between confessing to Jesus Christ and accepting the sovereignty of National Socialism. It follows, then, that “the church may and should pray for the suppression and casting out of National Socialism, just in the same sense as in former times and when confronted by a similar danger she prayed for the ‘destruction of the bulwarks of the false prophet Mohammed.’”
This argument formed the basic content of a lecture by Barth before a meeting of the Swiss Evangelical Organization of Help for the Confessional Church in Germany on December 5, 1938. It was therefore presented in support of the Confessional churches of Germany, whose fight for the independence of the church from Nazi politics and Nazi views has attracted the attention of the entire world. When still a professor in Germany, Karl Barth was one of their leaders. Evidently, he still looks upon them as that body of Christians who must bear the brunt of the conflict between Christianity and National Socialism. In spite of the heroic resistance of the Confessional churches to the Nazi regime, it can hardly be said that they have dared to state their case as bluntly as Barth has done.
(National Socialism and Christianity: Can They Be Reconciled?
by Wilhelm Pauck
The Journal of Religion, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Jan., 1940), pp. 15-17)

It's interesting to me how moral relativists tend to view Nazism in "absolute" or defined terms and structure their arguments accordingly. I.e. "Only fascists are intolerant enough to view things as right and wrong so people who believe that things are right and wrong are like fascists or somethin', which means that they're absolutely wrong." Given moral relativism it is not exactly clear how we can assume that people living in the culture of Germany were wrong to support Nazism because Nazism came to be their culture and supposedly morality is relative to culture because it is merely an artifact or creation of culture as is indicated by the fact that it varies from culture to culture.

It seems to me that people do not apply moral relativism to Nazism (while at the same time they tend to in the case of Islamic culture) because the Allies so thoroughly crushed Nazism that there are not millions of "nice Nazis" around to allow relativists to hide among all the Nice People instead of dealing with the ideas and civilization at issue. After all, no matter the depth of the evil that overtakes a culture or civilization there is always a mass of nice people who tacitly go along with things because the mass of men generally isn't interested in seeking or standing for self-evident truths as they usually just want to live well, eat well, have some sex, get married, etc. Critics of evil civilizations are often responded to with: "If this type of civilization is so evil then how can there be so many nice people who live in it? Huh, huh? I know some nice people, for the tolerance of me!" Etc. All I would note of that is that of course people generally seem nice...until they aren't.

Note how politically incorrect it is to directly criticize Islam the way the Confessing church did, although it would be difficult to point out a way in which their criticism was intellectually or theologically incorrect on Christian terms. It seems to me that the anti-Nazi pastors were correct to point out similar forms of cultural evil because no matter how different the cultural history that evil slithers through it seems to come to the same basic ends. The main one: "The Jews must be killed."

Interesting to note that similar interests were recognized by Islamic clerics and Nazis at the time. For exampe, a leader who helped create the Palestinian Arab cause and the pattern of "The Jews must be killed. Hey, the Jews just tried to kill me! So you see why the Jews must die." Etc. Example:
The rise of Hitler to power in 1933 marked a turning point in the new mufti's activities. He sent a cable of congratulations to the Nazi leader and expressed support for the Jewish boycott in Germany. In doing so, Haj Amin was merely responding to a widespread sentiment among Muslims in general and Arabs in particular. Indeed, the German dictator was seeking revenge against the British and the French, two dominant infidel intruders in the Muslim world. He could also be an ally against the Jews in Palestine. Accustomed to their own authoritarian regemes, Muslims were not bothered by Hitler's repressive and antidemocractic policies.
(The Broken Crescent: The "Threat" of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism
by Fereydoun Hoveyda :10)

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