New Things I Learned and Experienced this Summer #4

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Along with numerous Anabaptist sites of the 16th century we also visited Dachau concentration camp this summer. It was a sobering visit, as it is for all people who spend time there. Most of us prefer to distance ourselves from people like Adolf Hitler, who is seen by many as one of the most evil people in history. One quote we encountered there kind of jolted me and spurred me to read some more of what Hitler wrote and spoke. It seems he saw himself as a Christian leading out of Christian convictions [See fellow countryman Martin Luther on anti-Semitism and connect the dots]. We do not like to think of him as “our kind of Christian” but I think it might be good for us if we looked inside and saw the same potential for evil within all of us. Here’s that quote:

There is a road to freedom. Its milestones are Obedience, Endeavor, Honesty, Order, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland.

It sounds like a list of North American Christian values does it not? And here’s another one that might surprise you it’s Hitler.

Today Christians stand at the head of this country… We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past few years.

The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pg. 871-872.

It makes me shudder how much like a modern day evangelical preacher he sounds. Not only Jews were tortured and killed, but also the disabled, homosexuals, immigrants, liberals, artists, journalists, and any who would dare to resist or speak out. They were all categorized, vilified and dehumanized, and then they could be exterminated.

Later this summer on a road trip we passed the restored site of the Heart Mountain Relocation Centre in Wyoming and I was reminded of the fact that our history in North America is not that much different from Germany. And I had forgotten that during WW2 there was another “relocation centre” for Japanese Canadians in Agassiz not far from where I live now! The fear of human difference persists in all places, including our own hearts. Do we still couch it in terms of immorality? Whom do we categorize, vilify, and dehumanize today? The Gospel is about humanization; God became a human being in Jesus Christ and those of us who claim to believe in this God are called to be human as Christ was human and to treat others as we are.

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