Opposing Evil 2
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Opposing Evil

Radio, July 14, 2009

The German people are, in every sense of the word, a great people.


          Intelligent, innovative, accomplished.


          But for me, the question about the Germans is always colored by the dark shades of Adolph Hitler, and the question of how it happened to them. And to the Jews of Europe.

Not long ago, I presented a program titled, “How Freedom is Lost.”


          I turned back the pages to an episode in the history of Israel—you can read it for yourself in 1 Samuel, chapter eight.


                      It came at the end of what may have been a period of unparalleled freedom, before or since.


                      And the story of why they laid that freedom down, and of what followed after, is an object lesson we must never forget.


                                  I am not going to retell that story today. I will tell you how to get a free CD of that program a little later.

What I want to do today is to draw another lesson from much more recent history, and to consider the implications for Christians living right now.

I knew that Germany was a great nation in European history.


          Christianity was strong there, and the Protestant reformation was born there.

I have heard people puzzle over how a people like the Germans of that era could possibly allow a man like Adolf Hitler to come to such absolute power.


          Strange as it may seem, it may have been for some of the same reasons I discussed in “How Freedom is Lost.

I knew of the great intellectual and artistic accomplishments of the Germans, and their great universities:

University of Heidelberg 1386

University of Leipzig 1409

University of Rostock 1419

University of Greifswald 1456

University of Freiburg 1457

University of Munich 1472

University of Mainz 1477

University of Tübingen 1477

Are those dates registering on you?

It was not until 1492 that Columbus set sail from Spain and discovered a new world no one even knew existed.


          It was in 1517 that Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a great cathedral.

In the early 1700s, Bach was turning out some of the greatest music ever heard.

In the late 1700s, Beethoven was at his peak.


          America was just figuring out who she was, and the Great German universities were more than 300 years old.

And here is a burning question for us and the Germans to consider

How could a nation like Germany produce an Adolph Hitler?


          I think maybe it is fair to say that she didn’t produce Hitler.


          She became vulnerable through European wars. And by the time the first WW was over, the people were dispirited, defeated, and craving leadership.


          The years following the war were desperate for many Germans. The Economy was crushed, hyperinflation made the currency worthless.


                      Some feel that this led to Hitler’s rise, but in fact, Germany came out of that era before Hitler came to power.


                      The 1920s saw the German economy in recovery. What we in this country called the roaring 20s, the Europeans called, the Golden 20s.


                                  It is fair to say, that the Great depression that came on in the early 1930s played a role.

I am not the only one, by a long shot, who is puzzled by the Hitler phenomenon.


I came across a remarkable book by Ron Rosenbaum titled, “Explaining Hitler.”


Subtitle, “The Search for the Origins of His Evil.”

            I bought the book because it was advertised as a “Thumping Good Read.”

                        And I happened to be looking for a good read at that particular moment.

The Book turned out to be, not merely about Hitler, but about the “Hitler Explainers,” And they have been many.


          Alan Bullock said, “The more I learn about Hitler, the harder I find it to explain.”


                      This is not an idle remark, but came after some 50 years of studying Hitler.


          Emil Fackenheim: “There will never be an adequate explanation . . . The closer one gets to explicability the more one realizes that nothing can make Hitler explicable.”


          Yehuda Bauer: “It is not impossible to explain Hitler, but it just might be too late.”


                      Too many witnesses have died, too much evidence destroyed. Too many gaps in the record will never be filled.

But these quotes reveal a truism. That things are inexplicable doesn’t keep us from trying, and the people who have attempted to explain Hitler are legion in number.

And I can’t help wondering if they aren’t trying to explain the wrong thing. Perhaps it is the German people of that era who need explaining even more than Hitler.

            For murderers are not in scarce supply. Brutal, evil men are a dime a dozen.


You can probably tick off a few from memory, right here in North America.


Charlatans are on every corner. Why are some people, at a given moment, vulnerable to them?


          Petty tyrants are a dime a dozen, and their ascension to power may say more about their people than it does about them.

George Victor, following the trail of Hitler, observed: “Charismatic leaders are masters of an illusory type of intense sincerity. Hitler boasted that he was the greatest of liars—a boast he fulfilled—yet he he came across as sincere. One observer said: “Not only did he say what seemed most advantageous to say at the time; he actually believed it.” Passionate oratory, combining underlying sincerity with false words—as opposed to honesty—is what gives words “the ring of truth.” Footnote

Then, Victor quotes Nietzsche [knee-chuh]


In all great deceivers, a remarkable process is at work to which they owe their power. In the very act of deception with all its preparations—the dreadful voice, the expression, the gestures— they are overcome by their belief in themselves, and it is this belief which then speaks so persuasively, so miracle-like to the audience.

Victor unaccountably stops at this point, but Nietzche goes on:


Not only does he communicate that to the audience, but the audience returns it to him and strengthens his belief.

And it is in this last that I think we may come to understand, not so much Hitler, as would be Hitlers are a dime a dozen, but the people who put him in power.

And it was in this light I came to an interview Rosenbaum had with Daniel Goldhagen.


Charisma, as we know, (Goldhagen began), although it is not often treated this way, but as Max Weber first expressed it, [Charisma] is not a property of leaders, it’s a property of the people, really. The extent to which the leader is charismatic . . . depends on the belief of the people in his infallibility and the prophet-like nature of the leader. They grant him his charismatic quality. Footnote

Maybe, just maybe, Goldhagen is right. In that case, we have a feedback loop that grows in intensity until it becomes vulnerable to great evil.


          The Apostle Paul wrote of something like this.

(2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV) This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. {2} For men shall be lovers of their own selves,


          There is a word for this: Narcisism.

covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, {3} Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, {4} Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; {5} Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.


          I had not considered before how narcissism intiates every evil that follows.

someone once observed that, while people can become demon possessed, they are usually first mentally ill.

So it becomes impossible to separate the Germans of that generation from Hitler, though we must separate the Germans of today from that. They are not the same people, just as we are not the same people who engaged in the slave trade.

Do you remember the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s new clothes.” by Hans Christian Anderson?


An emperor of a prosperous city who cares more about clothes than military pursuits or entertainment hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new "clothes". During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, "But he has nothing on!" The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth. The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

When you think about it, this is what Jesus was driving at when he spoke about the mind of children:

(Matthew 18:1-4 KJV) At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? {2} And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, {3} And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. {4} Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


          It may seem odd, but it is true. It is vanity that blinds great men to things the least of us can see.



We become vulnerable to swindlers through our need and our ego.


          For the Germans of the 1930s, They had been humiliated by the loss of WWI, and had a need for restored self respect.


                      So they were willing to believe a lie to get it back.


          The German people were worn out after that first war, were tired and dispirited, so they grasped at the lies Hitler was telling him, and in turn, reinforced his own belief in himself.

Don’t consider what I am saying as a complete explanation of the horror of Hitler and the Nazis.


          What I am driving at is not explanation, but understanding.

          Understanding that might be useful to us where we stand.


          Evil can creep up on a people in ways they cannot imagine. And the only defense against it is to rely on a higher power.

Christian people, believers in Scripture should be, but aren’t always, immune to this sort of thing.

Following the bread crumbs, I came on a statement by the Spartacus School,


          In the original programme of the Nazi Party drawn up by Adolf Hitler, Anton Drexler and Gottfried Feder in February, 1920, promised religious freedom for all those religions except those which endangered the German race. Endnote


          Once Hitler gained power he was quick to express his hatred of the Jews. Based on his readings of how blacks were denied civil rights in the southern states in America, Hitler attempted to make life so unpleasant for Jews in Germany that they would emigrate. The campaign started on 1st April, 1933, when a one-day boycott of Jewish-owned shops took place. Members of the ...(SA, the brown shirts) picketed the shops to ensure the boycott was successful.

I have noticed recently, in the remarks of some, references to brown shirts. I wonder how many of the listeners have any idea what they are referring to?


          The hostility of towards Jews increased in Nazi Germany. This was reflected in the decision by many shops and restaurants not to serve the Jewish population. Placards saying "Jews not admitted" and "Jews enter this place at their own risk" began to appear all over Germany. In some parts of the country Jews were banned from public parks, swimming-pools and public transport.


          The Jehovah's Witnesses were also persecuted in Nazi Germany as they refused to do military service. Nazis also hated the sect because they believed in the imminent return of a Messiah. The rejection that this was not Adolf Hitler led to its members being sent to Germany's concentration camps.

I knew the JW’s were persecuted, but I did not know the second reason. It is chilling.

As is what the Spartacus group said next.


          Leaders of the Protestant and Catholic churches remained silent throughout this period. The main opposition to Hitler came from a group of young pastors led by Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoffer and Heinrich Gruber. Initially the main complaint was the decision by Adolf Hitler to appoint Ludwig Muller, as the country's Reich Bishop of the Protestant Church.

That was a new one for me. I knew that Constantine did that, but not that Hitler had followed.


          With the support of Karl Barth, a professor of theology at Bonn University, in May, 1934, these rebel pastors formed what became known as the Confessional Church. Over the next few years hundreds of these pastors were sent to concentration camps and some were executed.

One wonders what the outcome would have been had Christians, with one voice, opposed the actions of the Nazi regime, right from the start.


          Perhaps they would have ended up where the Jews were. Perhaps not.


          But, they were divided.

What we need to bring to the fore is a clarity of vision, and that only comes from a strong stand on the principles of the Bible.

We aren’t without manifestations of charisma madness among Christian folk, either.


          Christians are as suggestible as anyone to this kind of mania—and it arises from the same sort of need.

But reading the Bible provides a kind of antidote to insanity.

(2 Peter 2:18-19 KJV) For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. {19} While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

Having said all this, there is one more idea that Rosenbaum introduces: Primitive hatred.


          According to a well known [but unnamed] German physician, Hitler’s attitude toward the Jews “is a primitive hate typical of half civilized or even uncivilized persons.”


          What struck Rosenbaum was the concept of primitive hatred. The reason this is important is that the source of Hitler’s hatred (which no one dismisses) focuses on what might have caused it.


          “One of the things that made the Holocaust so unique and uniquely horrifying was precisely that it arose from a society widely regarded as the most civilized, in the sense of “learned” or “Cultured,” and philosophically sophisticated—convinced of its own rectitude —in the world.”


                      Another author characterized Hitler as “convinced of his own rectitude.” He considered Hitler’s hatred as “sincere,” that is, based on rational belief—an ideologically based hatred.


          But Rosenbaum acknowledges that there is “another kind of hatred that is not intellectual but visceral, personal; an irrational hatred that can assume the guise, the mantle, of an ideological antipathy but which is primitive in the sense of being prior to ideology—its source rather than its product.

There does come a time when the human mind, being sick, becomes open to something far more evil than anything we would expect of human beings.


          Not merely sinister, but actively evil.


          Some have rejected the idea of a demon possessed Hitler, because it mitigates his evil.


                      But it doesn’t, not really.


          No one believing the New Testament can deny the existence of demons, or the possibility of demon possession.


          And Scripture tells us categorically that Satan himself entered Judas.

In a strange sort of way, this may explain the hatred of the Jews, not merely among the Nazis, but antisemitism in general.


          For the Jews are the oldest of all representatives of God in the world.


          The chosen people. Chosen by whom? By God.

Why not Christians?


          They have been too many and too much in power to attack.


          Remember, we are not talking about objective hatred, but primitive hatred.


          And there can be no hatred more primitive than one arising before the creation of man.

What lessons can Christian folk take away from this?


          We cannot, must not, remain silent and passive in the face of evil.


          It is never true to say that there is nothing we can do. There is always something.

Too many Christians have remained silent while more that 50 million of our children to be have been destroyed.


          No politician can be elected who loses the vote of all the Christian folk in his district.


          Thus, all the pro-abortion congressmen, senators and presidents were elected with the consent and participation of many Christians.


          Remember the German Christians? There were too many of them to kill. But they were divided and remained silent.


                      It is not that they didn’t all attend the same church.


                      All Christians should recognize evil when it appears and should oppose it.


          Why didn’t they German Christians?


          Because they would not call evil by its name.


          Was it fear or apathy? Both are unworthy of us who name the name of Jesus Christ.

The 83rd Psalm begins: “Keep not thou silence, O God:

hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.”


          But the voice of God in the world is his people.


          We cannot complain that God is silent when we will not speak for him.

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