Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hate Mail - "You're lying about ......" No, Actually, It Was Hitler Who Was Lying Why Would That Surprise You?

I don't have time to write a response to that clipped, cherry-picked quote but, by chance, all that reading from the Cappadocians reminded me of this old program, an interview Krista Tippett did with Jaroslav Pelikan.   I would put it differently from the way Jaroslav Pelikan did because it was clear that the Nazi distortion of "Positive Christianity" didn't have Christianity as its goal but the destruction of Christianity.  Perhaps he hadn't read what the Nazi high command, including Hitler, said both publicly and privately about their intentions to do that.

MS. TIPPETT: No, and it — but it's so interesting, because I think that where someone goes when they hear that there are these thousands of creeds is that everybody's doing it differently all the time, and that's not really what you find. But I did want to dwell briefly on one that I sense is near and dear to your heart, which is this Maasai Creed…

DR. PELIKAN: Oh, yes.

MS. TIPPETT: …the Maasai people of Africa, which was written around 1960, the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in east Nigeria. I don't know. Would you like to read some of your favorite…

DR. PELIKAN: Like most creeds, it is designed on a threefold pattern of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and comes out of the experience of Christians in Africa who were animists, fetishists who worshiped things in nature and the mystery of life and who then, upon receiving the Christian faith, began reciting the creeds as they had been taught, in this case by Roman Catholic missionaries, in other cases by Evangelical or Orthodox missionaries. But after a couple of generations of that, a Christian community gradually comes of age, achieves a level of maturation where you want to do it for yourself, do it your way, speaking in your context, using the images of your culture. And the question is can you do that without sacrificing the integrity of what you have received? It's easy just to repeat, but then it's not your own. It's easy to say what is your own as though nobody had ever said it before, but then the question is whether it's authentically Christian. And I think this one manages to do both of those in a remarkable way.

DR. PELIKAN: "We believe in one high God, who out of love created the beautiful world. We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, and showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by His people, tortured and nailed, hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch Him, and on the third day He rose from the grave."

DR. PELIKAN: Now for one thing, the Nicene Creed as well as the Apostles' Creed go directly from born of the Virgin Mary to suffered under Pontius Pilate. And the whole story in the Gospels…

MS. TIPPETT: The life of Christ.

DR. PELIKAN: …yeah, is just leapt over.

MS. TIPPETT: And that's what a lot of modern people have criticized in the creeds.

DR. PELIKAN: You go from Alpha to Omega. And here, see, He was born, as the creed said, He left His home — the creeds don't say that — and He was always on safari in Africa. When I read that the first time, a student of mine who'd been a member of a religious order, she was a sister, and she had been in a hospital in east Nigeria, and that's the creed they recited at their liturgy. And so she brought it to me, and I just got shivers, just the thought, you know, the hyenas did not touch Him and the act of defiance — God lives even in spite of the hyenas. But it's a good example of this model that I quoted earlier, that it is not enough to Christianize Africa. We have to Africanize Christianity. No, the dangers in there are enormous.

MS. TIPPETT: Mm-hmm.

DR. PELIKAN: In the 1930s, under the Nazis, a movement that wanted to purify Germany of foreign — that is to say Jewish — influences and to affirm Aryanism — that is to say, we do not want to Christianize Germany, we want to Germanize Christianity — taking the same model, and they ended up…

MS. TIPPETT: …completely destroying…

DR. PELIKAN: …denying that Jesus was Jewish, refusing to ordain as priest or minister anyone who had one-fourth Jewish blood. And so intuitively, one knows that this Maasai creed has the ring of authenticity and that that Nazi creed does not.


You might like to listen to the entire show or, better, the somewhat longer unedited version.

Needless to say, what Hitler and the Nazis said for public consumption on the question was no more honest than anything else they said, especially in the early years of the Nazi movement and even a short while after they assumed power and quickly changed both their actions and their words.   It's always important to note the year and even month in which Hitler said something.  As he felt more empowered to display his depravity, he tended to give up the diplomatic lying.   He hoodwinked people, continually, even people who knew he was dangerous.   One of the strongest possible dangers to Nazism, from the start, was the Christian religion of the large majority of Germans and Austrians.  He couldn't, like Lenin, start with a wholesale attack on Christianity, though he rapidly moved to undermine Christianity almost from the start.  Pius XI quickly learned that he wasn't dealing with just another bad leader of a government but with an entirely new level of evil.  I would guess he realized that about two weeks after that concordat was signed.

I strongly suspect we  have more than a little to learn from that period about the danger and stupidity of assuming a normal level of evil intent by someone who happens to come out ahead in an election.  Like Trump, Hitler never got a majority of the vote.   The extent to which Christianity in the United States has already been corrupted - especially those parts which have declared most loudly their fidelity to the Biblical texts - is something which Christians have to deal with.  That was what I noted the yesterday with my link to Yolanda Pierce.   The extent to which Christianity has become corrupted and devitalized has a lot to do with how so many people voted, in the name of Jesus,  for a man who embodies everything that Jesus preached against.

1 comment:

  1. There was also the attack on Christian churches by the Nazis that was opposed by the likes of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (two people I'm guessing your "correspondents" have never heard of.) This is so deeply understood in Germany to this day (how the Nazis co-opted the Christian church, and fought those who sought to preserve a Nazi-free Xianity) that I met a young (younger than me) German pastor who was deeply upset at the sight of an American flag in my then-church's worship space.

    Her ideas about what that represented were radically different than those of her WWII era escort who was taking her around to UCC churches in Houston that day. The reasons for the difference are obvious.