In his book The Holy Reich (Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945) Richard Steigmann-Gall argues persuasively that the Nazis did not reject Christianity, but reinterpreted it to fit their own ideology. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most Nazi leaders, including Hitler, were not keen on reviving paganism. Rather, they talked about something which at first glance seemed very appealing - “positive Christianity.” Also referred to as “active” or “practical” Christianity, it emphasized deeds over doctrine.*
The Nazis contrasted “positive Christianity” with “negative Christianity.” The former strove to evoke good feelings - and, for that reason, was quite adaptable. The latter, with its doctrines such as original sin, worried more about the truth than whether people felt good about themselves. Thus, it resisted adaptation to popular opinion. The Nazis looked down upon “negative Christianity” and they particularly despised the dogma, ritual and internationalism of the Catholic Church. Those things they saw as evidence it had been “corrupted by Jews.” In the early years of his regime, Hitler worked hard to establish a Protestant Reich Church (modeled after the Church of England) but eventually dropped the project because of resistance from Evangelicals who valued doctrine.
In today’s Gospel Jesus makes a statement that will mean one thing for a practical Christian and something else for a doctrinal Christian. He says, “The Father and I are one.” A practical Christian might conclude that Jesus is simply saying that he and God the Father work in coordination, that Jesus knows the Father’s will and strives to put it into effect. A doctrinal Christian would say, “yes, but there is so much more.” For us Jesus' oneness with the Father means that he is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father.”
Much depends on whether we accept the doctrines of the early Christians. Jesus tells us today that he gives his sheep eternal life. Does he do this as a mere man or as God? If he is simply one more enlightened teacher in the style of Buddha or Mohammed, we hardly need to bother about “hearing his voice.” The “practical Christianity” of the Nazis gave them no firm ground for approaching Jesus. They actually went so far as to deny that Jesus was a Jew and to cast him as the model anti-Semite. We can marvel at such willful distortion, but today respected authors are making even stranger claims.
You and I live in circumstances far different from Germany of the 1930’s. Yet there are similarities and we can learn important lessons from how Christians responded to that challenge. Like them, we find ourselves in a society dominated by people who use the authority of “science” in order to discard the inherent dignity of some human beings. The sub-humans today are not Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, but unborn children and the terminally ill. Interestingly enough, opposition to abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation on human embryos has come not from humanists or liberals, but from conservative, doctrinal minded Christians. And we face the disapproval not only of secularists, but also of Christians who wish to accommodate to the “new realities.” The latter often admonish conservatives to not be so uptight, that what matters is not doctrine, but helping people feel good about themselves.
I do not advocate doctrinal Christianity because it makes one heroic. It may or it may not. I advocate it because it is true. One can only know the truth by listening to the Shepherd’s voice and following him.
*Like most educated Europeans of his day, Hitler believed that only “science” could judge if something were true or false, real or unreal. For that reason the Nazis disregarded Christian doctrines as “unscientific” but at the same time were careful to advance their own doctrines under the banner of science. They did find plenty of material in Darwin and other evolutionary scientists to justify their racial views.
See also: Hitler's Pope
by Fr. Martin Rhonheimer The Holocaust: What Was Not Said:
I am pained by unfair Jewish attacks on the Catholic Church. But I am also pained by a one-sided Catholic apologetic that minimizes the injustice done by Christians to Jews in history, or seeks to relegate it to oblivion. I am especially aware of the Jewish sensitivity to topics that Catholics often pass over either too quickly or in silence.
From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
My bulletin column (April 25, 2010)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Bulletin (Auction results, prayers for immigration reform, Mass for John Carr)
Archbishop Brunett's Letter to The Seattle Times:
The word "conscience" does not even appear in your editorial, which raises the question of whether you understand the issue you are editorializing. Of equal concern is the apparent religious bigotry involved in the selection and placement of the cartoon.
Archbishop Burke explains why he resigned as Chariman of the board of Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation
Bill Donohue on The Media Reaction in St. Louis
Bulletin (Confirmation, Da Vinci Code Presentation, Room Names)
By Mark Shea - The Shadow Tradition:
Now and then, as in a lightning flash, we see evil in almost chemical purity: in an airliner smashing into the World Trade Center, in a heap of bodies stacked like cordwood at Dachau, in a child dismembered on an abortionist's table. But typically, evil knows how to duck behind the legitimate moral ambiguities of life. And so the abortionist appeals to the Tradition's respect for choice, the Jihadist to the need for "tolerance" of his viewpoint, and the Jew-hater to need to honor "Tradition." Attempts to oppose the evil can then quickly be cast as attempts to oppose the good thing the evil hides behind.
New - If You Really Loved Me (100 Questions on Dating, Relationships and Sexual Purity) by Jason Evert
Fidelity to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Dolan
Who Said It? "It’s a tragic day in the lives of everybody when abortion is looked on as an alternative to birth control or as an alternative to having a child. I think that’s wrong. It should be the very last thing if it has to be anything, and I say that not just because I’m opposed to abortion but because I think that’s common sense. … I think the question of abortion is one that should be left for the states to decide."
What Vatican II Did and Didn't Teach Regarding Conscience
Cardinal Arinze on Kerry
From an Opponent of Iraq War: Is It Wrong for Catholic to Vote for Kerry?
Clarification regarding Canon 915 ("Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion")
Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? by Lavinia Spirito:
Novelists are free to invent whatever they want in their stories. But when they make claims of “scholarship” pertaining to real life disciplines like history, architecture and philosophy, they should bear a closer scrutiny. While there is much more to say, let’s concentrate on specific inaccuracies contained in the The Da Vinci Code.
Kathryn Jean Lopez on March for Women's Lives
And from Annie at After Abortion
Youth Banner at "March for Women's Lives": We Survived Roe...Roe Will Not Survive Us
Testimony from Seminarian at March
Dave Morrison re: Silent No More
New York Time's coverage of The Passion: It is not my intent here to indulge in Times-bashing. I spent eight very happy years on the Times staff...
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru