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Positive Christianity is a religious movement that aimed to combine Christianity with Nazi ideology. Although Nazi Germany was politically secular, the Nazis sought to appeal to the largely religious populace by means of constructing churches, establishing concordats, and having Hitler's birthday celebrated in every church. Steigmann-Gall argues that Hitler and many leading Nazis embraced Positive Christianity as a way to bridge the confessional divide in Germany (Germany was religiously divided between Catholics and Protestants).
Doctrine and history
In its essence, Positive Christianity was heavily warped from anything that we might call Christian. It jettisoned the entire Old Testament and other "Jewish" parts of the Bible (most notably the letters of Paul of Tarsus), and declared Jesus to be Aryan, focusing more on the "active" parts of his life as a preacher who opposed the Jewish establishment of his time. Martin Luther's 95 Theses also became a figurative rallying point for German nationalism in the minds of many pro-Nazi Christians, especially given that Luther later became strongly anti-Semitic. The Nazis' promotion of Positive Christianity occurred in fits and starts; they tried to unite Germany's Protestant churches under its banner in 1934, using the pro-Nazi Deutsche Christen movement as their base, but they ran into stiff opposition from the anti-Nazi Confessing Church movement, which resented the Nazis' violation of the separation of church and state. The Nazis quietly de-emphasized Positive Christianity starting in 1937.
Positive Christianity was primarily the brainchild of Adolf Hitler and Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. Hitler's relationship to Christianity was complex. He was raised Catholic and even thought of becoming a priest at one point (a claim denied by Goebbels), but later came to despise the Roman Catholic Church (though he never officially left it). At the same time, however, he associated atheism with Bolshevism and "Jewish materialism". Rosenberg, meanwhile, was far more overt in his rejection of Christianity, viewing it as a religion of weakness that trapped the Aryan race under original sin (he believed that Germans were "born noble") while declaring all races to be equal before God, and called for a new "religion of the blood" derived from ancient pagan faiths that would elevate the "Nordic soul" as the master race and God's chosen people. This was in contrast to Hitler, who viewed paganism with disdain and often ridiculed the mysticism of Rosenberg and Himmler. Furthermore, the ideology and rituals of the Nazi party were themselves quasi-religious and, in some senses, a competitor with Christianity. At the very least, Nazism included elements that are incompatible with Christianity as it is usually taught, some of which were derived from other religions. Many leading Nazis, such as Rosenberg and Martin Bormann, viewed Christianity as incompatible with Nazism, owing chiefly to its Jewish influences.
Nevertheless, practical politics made it desirable for Hitler to make his "peace" with Christianity and specifically with the Catholic Church. The primary appeal of the Nazis was to conservative/populist middle and lower middle class Germans and Austrians, who also tended to be observant Christians; for example, over half of the Waffen-SS were Catholics. As a result, Hitler made frequent public affirmations of Christian faith, stating in 1928 that the Nazis "tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity ... in fact our movement is Christian." It should be noted that the only Nazi to be formally excommunicated from the church was Joseph Goebbels -- on the basis that he had married a Protestant, Magda Goebbels.
Accounts of what Hitler and the Nazis believed about Christianity are contradictory and confusing. That may be because the Nazis were confused about Christianity and contradicted themselves/each other. It may also be due to the fact that misleading comments about Nazi beliefs are often made deliberately to associate or dissociate specific groups or beliefs with Nazism (see Godwin's Law or quote mining).
Hitler and Christianity
Scholars dispute whether Hitler was a "true" Christian. Hitler claimed Jesus was a fighter and imagined Jesus saw Jews as vipers and adders, which is why He drove the Jews out of the Temple. In a similar vein, Hitler saw his own perverted campaign against the Jews as a Christian fight for truth and justice, claiming he had a Christian duty to fight for the "Aryan" people. This may be why Positive Christianity went to such great lengths to deny that Jesus himself was a Jew, replacing him with an Aryan superhero created by God to fight the Jews.
“”And the Founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of His estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God; because then, as always, they used religion as a means of advancing their commercial interests. But at that time Christ was nailed to the Cross for his attitude towards the Jews; whereas our modern Christians enter into party politics and when elections are being held they debase themselves to beg for Jewish votes. They even enter into political intrigues with the atheistic Jewish parties against the interests of their own Christian nation.
|—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, pg. 174|
Hitler also believed that Jews were involved only with "this world", and were without a spirit (this is untrue of Judaism). Hitler felt the political parties of his time were humiliating themselves by "begging for Jewish votes," while Jesus let Himself be nailed to a cross, rather than compromise with Jews.
Some of the time, Hitler and the Nazis may have been appealing to traditional German Christian values and restating these values in a way that supported Nazism. Hitler certainly was deceitful when he wrote treaties and later broke them. It is unclear whether Hitler believed the version of Christianity above. Certainly Christianity did not protect the world from Nazism; nor, despite Hitler's insistence that God was on his side, did it protect Nazi Germany from being crushed in the Second World War.
Positive Christianity today
Somewhat surprisingly, "Positive Christianity" did not die with Hitler and the Nazi party but still exists today. Complete with assertions that Hitler was right and replete with biblical justifications and explanations.
- American Taliban
- Cafeteria Christianity
- Christian Identity
- Hitler and evolution
- Hitler's quotes on religion
- Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-82371-5.
- John Toland; Hitler; Wordsworth Editions; 1997 Edn; chapter 1; Kershaw chapter 1. By his account in Mein Kampf (which is often an unreliable source), he loved the "solemn splendor of the brilliant Church festivals." He held the abbot in very high regard, and later told Helene Hanfstaengl that one time as a small boy he had once ardently wished to become a priest. His flirtation with the idea apparently ended as suddenly as it began, however.
- Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; p.76
- Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology.
- Speech in Passau 27 October 1928 Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf; from Richard Steigmann-Gall (2003). Holy Reich: Nazi conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 60–61
- NNDB's "Goebbels" entry
- Was Hitler a Christian?, The Straight Dope
- Heschel, S., The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, Princeton University Press, USA, 2008.
- Quoted on Wikiquote
- Positive Christianity today