December 7, 2004
|MAUREEN FARRELL ARCHIVES|
"God Is With Us": Hitler's Rhetoric and the Lure of "Moral Values"
by Maureen Farrell
"God does not make cowardly nations free." -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
A couple weeks ago, while asserting that the Founding Founders intended for the U.S. government to be infused with Christianity, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Holocaust was able to flourish in Germany because of Europe's secular ways. "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?" Scalia asked a congregation at Manhattan's Shearith Israel synagogue. "I don't think so."
One might expect regular citizens to be ignorant of history, but a Supreme Court Justice? Does he imagine that the phrase "Gott mit Uns" was a German clothier's interpretation of "Got Milk"?
If photographic evidence of the Third Reich's Christian leanings were not enough, Hitler's own speeches and writings prove, at the very least, that he presented many of the same faith-based arguments heard in America today. Religion in the schools? Hitler was for it. Intellectuals who practiced "anti-Christian, smug individualism"? According to Hitler, their days were numbered. Divine Providence's role in shaping Germany's ultimate victory? Who could argue? In other words, there is enough historical evidence to color Scalia deluded. Writing for Free Inquiry, John Patrick Michael Murphy explained:
For anyone wanting even more proof, Mein Kampf is chock full of the Fuhrer's musings on God. ("I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord," Hitler wrote). But anti-Semitic rants aside, some of Hitler's religious musings are interchangeable with Mr. Bush's.
Hitler was raised a Catholic and spoke of his faith in God, yet, singling out his rants against religion, politicians and pastors continue to characterize him as a pagan barbarian. Such distortions are convenient -- particularly in an age where propaganda concerning "moral values" is readily gobbled up and Christian nation legislation waits in the wings -- but, to paraphrase the Bible, overlooking the truth will not make us free.
Scalia, who also cited the Bible to claim that government "derives its moral authority from God," is hardly alone in his assertions. Leo Strauss, the philosopher who has influenced neoconservativism, and by proxy, George Bush's America, felt that religion, like deception, was crucial to maintaining social order. Meanwhile, neoconservative kingpin Irving Kristol has argued similar points -- bragging about how easy it is to fool the public into accepting the government's actions while arguing that America's Founding Fathers were wrong to insist on the separation of church and state. Why? According to Jim Lobe, it's because religion, as Strauss and his disciples see it, is "absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control."
Saying that neoconservatives believe that secular society is undesirable "because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats," Lobe explained why Kristol and other neocons have "allied themselves with the Christian Right" and, in some cases, have also denounced Darwin's theory of evolution. "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers," Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey explained, pointing to publications like Commentary which has espoused the virtues of religious fundamentalism and has questioned evolutionary science.
(Hitler did the same. The book The German Churches Under Hitler includes his assertion that secular schools should not be tolerated while Hitler's Table Talk quotes him questioning the wisdom in teaching children both creationism and the theory of evolution. "The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution,"he said. "Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall.")
Professor Shadia B. Drury also noted the similarities between the methods endorsed by Hitler and neoconservatives' favorite philosopher. She explained:
Although several others, including the legendary Seymour Hersh, have noted the neoconservatives' belief that deception is essential, the religious aspect of their philosophy is especially unnerving. Religion may be the opium of the masses, but when zealots become so certain of their own righteousness that they ignore their own humanity, horror is the natural consequence. Islamic extremism offers the most glaring recent example, and now that Osama bin Laden has been granted permission to nuke America, the most extreme changes within the U.S. could very well come from the outside world.
In the meantime, however, for those who have not yet noticed, our own homegrown zealots -- those who advocate hatred in the name of the Lord -- have made considerable headway, with gays and lesbians currently at the center of legislation which, should it pass, will alter this country forever.
When the Marriage Protection Act passed the House in July, the New York Times called it "a radical assault on the Constitution. "If it passes in the Senate, the bill could obliterate the separation of powers and wipe out Constitutional protections for all minorities, stripping the courts and possibly paving the way for Christian nationhood. Other pieces of court stripping legislation bills designed to topple the wall between church and state are also in play.
This encroaching infusion of church and state, combined with recent decrees concerning moral values, doesn't resonate with inclusive tolerance. "When was the last time a Western nation had a leader so obsessed with God and claiming God was on our side? If you answered Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany, you're correct," Bob Fitrakis wrote. "Nothing can be more misleading than to categorize Hitler as a barbaric pagan or Godless totalitarian, like Stalin."
While many of us reserve a soft spot for true Christian generosity and the warm teachings of Jesus, it's important to remember that Christianity can be (and has been) distorted for darker purposes. Whether you're talking about Nazi Germany, the pre-Civil War American South, or the atmosphere in the U.S. these past few years, whenever questions of conscience are vigorously denounced, you can bet there is trouble ahead -- and the hijacking of faith and the manipulation of religion should always arouse suspicion. Moral values as a mandate? What better way to foster civil obedience and "One nation Under God" unity in a time of preventative war, suppressed liberty and sanctioned torture.
So, yes, despite tales of Hitler's atheism and Germany's Godlessness, the list of Hitler's religious assertions and Nazi Christian affiliations is long, and before Americans swallow more WMD-type baloney, it's best to comprehend this history and understand that no nation, including our own, is immune to faith-based fascism.
Substituting "America" for "Germany," many of Hitler's religious assertions could have been uttered by Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson -- with Hitler even asserting that God punished Germany for turning away from Him -- before promising that renewed piety would protect the Fatherland and make it prosperous and successful once more. "Once the mercy of God shown upon us, but we were not worthy of His mercy. Providence withdrew its protection and our people fell, fell as scarcely any other people heretofore. In this deep misery we again learned to pray," Hitler said in 1936, sixty-five years before Falwell and Robertson blamed abortionists and feminists for the tragedies of Sept. 11.
Hitler's religious phrases could have also come from the lips of George W. Bush. "Our prayer is: Lord God, let us never hesitate, let us never play the coward, let us never forget the duty which we have taken upon us,"Hitler said in March, 1933, sounding much like our president, who believes that God wants him to liberate the people in Middle East -- even if he has to torture, maim and kill tens of thousands in the process. "I believe we have a duty to free people," Bush told Bob Woodward. "I would hope we wouldn't have to do it militarily, but we have a duty.. . . Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. . . ."
Speaking in Berlin in March, 1936, Hitler said something remarkably similar. "I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people to be allowed to wage this battle for Germany," he said, before launching the preventive war heard round the world.
Both leaders also promised peace while planning for war. "We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended," Bush said, in his State of the Union address in Jan. 2003, two months before launching a preventative war in Iraq. "Never in these long years have we offered any other prayer but this: Lord, grant to our people peace at home, and grant and preserve to them peace from the foreign foe!"Hitler said in Nuremberg on Sept. 13, 1936.
Yes, many of Hitler's faith-based comments could have come from George Bush himself, and are undoubtedly the kinds of sentiments many Americans not only agree with -- but take comfort in. This is not to say that Bush is Hitler or that religion is evil, but to serve as a reminder that things are not always what they seem. Christianity was used to justify everything from the Salem witch trials to slavery in America, and facilitated group-think in Germany -- when individuality and questions of conscience were needed the most. These are but a few of the Fuhrer's assertions:
In his book, They Thought They Were Free, Milton Mayer interviewed Germans who discussed how their society changed right before their eyes, and how, despite Hitler's rhetoric, God was nowhere to be found. As one interviewee put it:
Of course, America has hardly "gone all the way" and is unlikely to become as psychotic as Nazi Germany any time soon. But what do you suppose God thinks of preventative war based upon deception? Or about the use of depleted uranium? Or about dropping napalm on civilians? Are Iraqi insurgents are any less certain that God is on their side than our own Evangelical Marines?
Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug, but why do so many insist on forgetting that the U.S. helped him to power in the first place? Does God see our role in all of this as lightly as we do? And how many U.S. citizens do you know, who, mired in fear, readily dismiss America's use of torture and rationalize our disregard for international law? What else might they overlook?
In 1937, Hitler said that because of Germany's belief in God and God's favoritism towards Germany, the country would prevail and prosper. "We, therefore, go our way into the future with the deepest belief in God. Would all we have achieved been possible had Providence not helped us? I know that the fruits of human labor are hard-won and transitory if they are not blessed by the Omnipotent. Work such as ours which has received the blessings of the Omnipotent can never again be undone by mere mortals,"he said.
While attempting to solidify his power, Hitler also denounced those who denounced religion -- as if he were talking about Hollywood or blue states or Noam Chomsky. "For eight months we have been conducting a fearless campaign against that Communism which is threatening our entire nation, our culture, our art, and our public morals, "Hitler said in a speech in Oct. 1933. "We have made an end of denials of the Deity and the crying down of religion."
There will be no more crying down of religion in George Bush's America, either. Though oft-repeated assertions made by the media in the immediate aftermath of the election have proven to be nothing more than myth, propagandists would have you believe that the American people have spoken: "Moral values" reign supreme.
But how can any one of us know God's desires -- especially when our enemies claim to have God on their side as well? And doesn't it seem that religious hubris -- believing that God sanctions one's own inhumane treatment of others -- always invites a fall?
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever," Thomas Jefferson said, of the price America would eventually pay for slavery. "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions," Ulysses S. Grant advised, describing karmic retribution without pointing hateful fingers at lesbians.
And long before that, the poet John Milton tried to "justify the ways of God to Man." But yet, the world, with its conflicting visions of morality, ethics and truth, still struggles to comprehend.
Perhaps Truth, for want of a better definition, is what God sees when he looks at any given situation. And perhaps it is ultimately impossible for us to know God's mind. After all, it's obvious that Hitler wasn't telling the truth when he spoke of God and country -- and by the same token, it's difficult to look at Najaf or Fallujah or Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay and see God's hand in any of it.
After one of Bush's operatives promised to "export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation" Bob Woodward wrote: "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan." And sure enough, when Woodward asked Bush if he had discussed the impending invasion of Iraq with his father, President George H.W. Bush (who could have offered sage advice), the President responded: "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength; there is a higher father that I appeal to."
But, without knowing God's mind, most of us have only History to help us judge. And the fact is, without the benefit of History, some of the "moral values" Hitler embraced sound eerily like those being peddled today.
George Bush is not Hitler. America is not Nazi Germany. But buying into religious assertions or thinking that God is on your side is not wise when it comes to matters of war -- particularly when that war is an aggressive preventative war based on false premises and assumptions.
So, aside from Jerry Falwell, who speaks with hate-filled authority, most of us do not know how God will judge us. We will have to settle for History's imperfect record.
All of this begs the question, however. Given his assertions regarding God's role in helping him decide policy ("I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible" Bush told Woodward. . . "I felt so strongly that [invading Iraq] was the right thing to do") how does Bush view the more mundane, secular implications of his actions? When asked by Woodward how History would judge the war in Iraq, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."
I challenge anyone to find the moral value in that.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell