Inflexible nationalism and beliefs a danger | Richard Elfers

World War II era German theologian Paul Althaus noted, “We Lutherans see Hitler as a gift and a miracle from God.” Why did most German Lutherans follow Hitler and not pastors like Dietrich Bonheoffer?

World War II era German theologian Paul Althaus noted, “We Lutherans see Hitler as a gift and a miracle from God.” Why did most German Lutherans follow Hitler and not pastors like Dietrich Bonheoffer? And why did many Jewish Christians disastrously turn away from their Christian beliefs and follow Jewish nationalism in their rebellion against Roman rule between 66-73 AD?

These are questions raised in my mind when I recently listened to retired PLU history Professor Robert Ericksen speak about Martin Luther’s influence on Hitler’s Germany. The answer for both seems to lie in the enduring but baffling human tendency to think in black-and-white terms.

Professor Ericksen gave a fascinating account of how many Germans were enraged over the losses during what is now called World War I. The vengeful, greedy and stupid British, French, and Italian diplomats had punished Germany during the Versailles Peace talks that ended World War I and set the stage for World War II a generation later.

Germany had lost their leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, their army and navy, their African colonies, and part of their territory to Poland and France. They were forced to pay billions of dollars in reparations to France and Britain, and worst of all, they were forced to create a weak new democratic government called the Weimar Republic which was unable to deal with the many financial and social problems created by the end of the war. Germans justifiably felt they had been “”stabbed in the back” by the Allies at Versailles.

Following Hitler was a radical response to the anger and the wrongs engendered from Versailles. Most German Lutherans were conservative and patriotic, according to Ericksen. The Protestant regions of Germany were more pro-Hitler than were the Catholic areas. Most Germans saw loyalty to their country and to God as the same thing.

Jewish Christians were shocked and confused by the martyrdom in 61 AD of their strict and righteous bishop, James the Just, half brother of Jesus, at the hands of a Jewish Jerusalem mob. Many had lost faith that Jesus would return in their lifetimes, according to Professor Ernest L. Martin in his fascinating book, “Restoring the Original Bible.”

During this time thousands of these Jewish Christians turned away from Christianity and toward Jewish nationalism. They rose up in rebellion against Roman rule in 66 AD and, like the German Lutherans at the end of World War II were mercilessly crushed and defeated. Thousands died and their temple and city were destroyed in 70 AD. Most of the surviving Jews were sold into slavery and exile throughout the Roman Empire. The Jewish nation of Israel was no more, and would not return until the end of World War II with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

What do these nationalist movements have in common? Both were made up of people who could only see the world in black-and-white terms. There was no middle ground for either group.

The German Lutherans were used to the state doing their thinking for them. So too, were the Palestinian Jews whose thinking was ensnared in their strict orthodoxy. Neither had developed the ability to examine their thoughts and feelings rationally.

Neither could separate love of their nation from belief in their God. The freedom of choice offered by the Weimar Republic confused and frightened German Lutherans. So, too, for Jewish Christians, the security of their beliefs died with the martyrdom of James the Just and the “Great Disappointment” of Christ not returning in their lifetimes.

What lessons can we of the 21st century learn from these nationalistic movements? The answer is that we must leave the immature black-and-white thinking that is common with teens and become mature, being able to live between extremes. We must examine ourselves and challenge our beliefs, because we, like the German Lutherans and Jewish Christians are all prone to simplistic answers to complex problems.

Both nationalistic movements ended in absolute failure because neither group was able to see the world from perspectives other than their own. That’s the warning and danger of thinking in black-and-white. That danger we all need to heed.

 

More in Opinion

Humility allows for tolerance of other’s opinions

Each of us has grown up in different circumstances. Each has been shaped by our life experiences. Each of us sees the world around us differently as a result. Why, then, should it be so difficult to understand that no two people will agree on every issue?

President Trump working toward the vision of our Founders

President Trump is working to return power and liberty to the people.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Culture, politics have and continue to shape race relations

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Better luck this year, Eyman

2017 was a stinky year for Tim Eyman. It ended with a thud last week when he confessed to not collecting enough signatures to get onto the ballot a measure that would reduce car tab fees and kneecap Sound Transit.

Every day, I was inspired by citizens of Enumclaw | Liz Reynolds

Whether we’ve seen eye to eye or simply disagreed, my conversations with all of you, on the sidewalks of downtown, at restaurants or in grocery stores, council meetings to community auctions, are what have kept me inspired, kept me going and kept me feisty.

Fake news or bad reporting?

This has not been a good month for reporting. But one wrong fact does not fake news make.

Don’t label all Trump supporters as racist

While the column correctly points out that Trump supporters are happy with his performance and still enthusiastically support him, Mr. Elfers had to inject the liberal “lie” that Trump supporters are racist.

Political turmoil makes nations stronger

Finish this sentence: “What doesn’t kill you___________.” This is how I introduced my recent continuing education class entitled, “President Trump a Year Later.” Of course, this quote is normally completed with the words, “makes you stronger.”

U.S., Russia agree on Middle East situation

Since Russia helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad stay in power and helped to defeat ISIS, are Russia and the U.S. at odds in the Middle East? Is Russia threatening American dominance in the region? The answer to both is no.

Page-turners: Best books of 2017

Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Anthem protests about equality, not disrespect

For all who write negative comments about the football players who took a knee and posted that “this is not the America we grew up in,” let me share a few of the personal events from my life growing up in Tacoma Washington as a white woman.