Modern Fascism by Gene Edward Veith – Lecture notes (3)

“Whereas Hitler could deal with the Jews by a policy of extermination, Christianity could not be dealt with so neatly. Christianity, after all, had become part of the texture of the ethnic culture that he was trying to restore. If Christianity could not be eliminated, it could be changed. Cured of its ‘Hebrew disease,’ Christianity could be repaganized. Hitler hated Christianity, but expressed a perverse admiration for Catholicism.”

“Catholicism makes the transcendent immanent. It does so by bringing the spiritual down to earth by tangible means in a collective, hierarchical, and authoritarian institution. Pound liked Catholicism for its pagan roots. The cults of the saints are close to the old polytheism. The liturgical calendar aligns human beings with the cycles of nature. Catholic rituals are communal, binding individuals together into a ‘collective and organic’ culture.”

Biblical Protestantism was as irreconcilable to fascism as Judaism. And yet Protestantism too was deeply ingrained in European and especially German culture. If the fascists thought they could appropriate Catholicism, they had to take a different approach with Protestantism. Taking advantage of the lax doctrinal structure of the official Protestant church, the fascists simply had to change its theology. If they could excise the authority of the Bible, the heart of Protestantism would be cut out. The fascist theologians could use the institutional shell that remained as a framework for the new “folkish” faith. The attack on the Bible within Protestantism was the work of both textual scholars and theologians. By the 20th century, the “higher criticism” of the Old Testament, which undercut traditional ideas about the authorship and composition of the Bible, had already weakened the doctrine of Biblical authority. By assuming that the Biblical text and the events it describes are to be explained in naturalistic, scientific terms, historical-critical scholarship vitiated the Bible’s status as supernatural revelation.”

What is left when the Bible is taken out of Protestantism? There are two possibilities, both of which have been developed by 20th-century theologians and both of which came together in the fascist church. Christianity could be transformed into a cultural religion. Instead of attending to otherworldly concepts such as individual salvation and everlasting life, the church would focus upon this world. Moral pronouncements, social involvement, and political activism would become the work of the church. Such “cultural Protestantism,” to use H. Richard Niebuhr’s term, came to dominate 19th-century Protestantism and continued as a major strain of 20th-century theology. For all of its apparent “liberalism” cultural Protestantism, like fascism, rejects the transcendent in favor of a religion centered wholly upon the immanent world. Those who believed that “the world sets the agenda for the church” to use a modern slogan of liberal theology, were easily manipulated by fascist ideology. They lacked a transcendent reference point from which they could criticize the existing society. Their impulse to help the society became directed by the Nazis’ diagnosis of the society’s ills. To be sure, many liberals opposed the Nazis—often in the name of another secular ideology such as Marxism rather than on Biblical grounds. But, as Robert Ericksen has observed, “many of the most enthusiastic supporters of Nazism among theologians were in the nineteenth-century liberal theological tradition.”

“Even Hitler praised “positive Christianity” by which he meant a focus on the life of Jesus. He only opposed “negative Christianity” the focus on Christ’s death and sacrifice, which he, like liberals from the time of Matthew Arnold, attributed to the malign influence of St. Paul. Christianity drained of the supernatural was no competitor to the Nazi mysticism of the blood and the soil. Indeed, if Christianity could be reduced to a vague ethical idealism, it could serve the state by encouraging self-sacrifice and social solidarity.”

“Better yet, the new fascist spirituality could be injected into the church, filling the spiritual void left by rationalistic liberalism, while transforming the church into a vehicle for the new ideology. This was the project of the “German Christian”movement, which, with Hitler’s accession, gained control of the institutional church in Germany. Christianity could be reinvented, that is to say, repaganized; it only had to be drained of its Biblical and Hebraic content.”

One Comment

  1. UAU ! Paul, inca o data imi confirmi faptul ca, cartea Modern Fascism de Gene Edward Veith, OBLIGATORIU trebuie studiata.

    Problema este, oare cati din liderii evanghelici realizeaza azi că acelasi proces politico-religios care a îmbalsamat crestinismul si societatea din Germania în stransoarea de anconda a misticismului nazist, se dezvolta azi, doar sub un camuflaj si decor diferit, la nivel mondial si afecteaza Crestinismul (în special evanghelic, caci el tinta spirituala ravnita) dar si intreaga umanitate ???

    SCENA DE FINAL, DE CARE VORBESTE FOARE CLAR BIBLIA, ESTE IN DESFASURARE ! Durerea mea personala este ca asa de putini dintre crestini o vad derulandu-se, si in consecinta vor fi luati total prin surprindere, cu garda jos, nepregatiti pentru confruntarea spirituala decisiva ce se arata la orizont…

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