I can’t bear a modern American church service

So how intolerable do you think a Nazi church service would be?

In contrast to the post-war myth-making that tried to paint the Nazis as pagans and atheists, Stephen Waldron points out that instead, Nazi Germany was soaking in Christianity, and that the Nazis themselves were fanatically devout, seeing religion as an obliging tool to gain support for an agenda that was anti-semitic, anti-feminist, and anti-intellectual.

We can easily forget how deeply Christian Nazi Germany was. As historian Doris L. Bergen puts it, “Christianity permeated Nazi society” (9).

Although Hitler was not very pious, the 97% of Germans who identified as Christian mostly convinced themselves that he was. [Sound familiar? –pzm]

Most Protestant Christians at the time were ecstatic at the creation of a newly Nazified world. And they went to church.

This new world demanded a renewed church with reinvented liturgies. In the midst of a fierce struggle for control of the churches, the pro-Nazi “German Christian” faction preached sermons, edited Bibles, revised hymn-books, altered liturgies, and changed the church calendar.

The whole thing is terribly familiar. Every aspect of this story reminds us that fascism was something imposed from above by a strong leader, but bubbled up from the inclinations of the citizenry, often tied to religious beliefs in their superiority over others. It’s happening here, right now.

What can we do with the knowledge that Nazi church services were public, masculine, anti-intellectual, anti-Jewish, and nationalist?

Especially in the U.S., we can let go of the idea that the real danger is that fascism could happen. Fascism can happen in everyday life without government control or a dictatorship, and it’s not any better because it isn’t full-blown.

The fact that Nazis were able to recycle already-existing aspects of church services in the service of their ideology should disturb us all. We can already find U.S. flags at church altars, desperate attempts to make church more masculine, and anti-Jewish readings of New Testament texts. That’s bad enough.

We might get rid of Trump, eventually, and we’re lucky that he’s an incompetent boob…but we’re still going to have to do something about the christofascist churches and the right-wing thugs who cloak themselves in the new holy trinity of God, guns, and capitalism.


  1. says

    Religion has always been a way of supporting and justifying power, which (today) means nationalism. It’s all religion’s there for, really. We shouldn’t be surprised – what should surprise us is how shoddy and silly the whole stinking mess is.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Hmm, and all the legislators asserting ISA is Christian state ONLY all Muslims must be excluded. Where have I heard similar in history somewhere. Oh ancient times, all of 70 years ago. Ancient, irrelevant. Gee whiz

    Of my, satire fail

  3. laugengebaeck says

    No matter what the Nazi leaders believed in, they for sure knew how to buy the churches’ (in Germany that is basically Catholic and Lutheran) support and thus consolidating their power in the early days of the regime. For example, the Reichskonkordat of 1933 between Germany and the Holy See gave the Catholic church nice benefits like the establishment of religious education in public schools or church taxes — things that are still around till this very day.

  4. ragdish says

    “Nazi Germany was soaking in Christianity…”

    Rev. MLK and much of the civil rights movement was soaking in Christianity. But I would not consider the civil rights movement as a whole a Christian movement. Also, although German Protestant Christians supported Nazis, there were ample number of other Christians that opposed them.

    Heinrich Himmler adopted eastern mysticism and carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita in his pocket. He was even quoted as saying he was following the scripture of Lord Krishna. The man behind the worst genicide of the 20th century loved Hinduism. So I guess the Hindus should be blamed for the Holocaust. Linking Christianity to Nazism is just as ridiculous as saying it was based on Hinduism.

    Nazism is a bioidentitarian ideology that at its core was eugenics and scientific racism. It was racist and anti Semitic that resonated with many German Christians. However, to say it was soaked with Christianity? Nazism is not a theocratic movement like the Taliban. And I see no purpose in making a false association via Christian bashing. It is just as irrational as saying that Nazism is an atheist movement.

  5. says

    “Every aspect of this story reminds us that fascism was something imposed from above by a strong leader, but bubbled up from the inclinations of the citizenry…”

    I’m guessing that there’s a ‘not’ not there?

  6. davidnangle says

    We need to push the First like all the fascists push the Second. It ought to become a measurable touchstone of who can or can’t hold office higher than dog catcher.

  7. kaleberg says

    Wasn’t the Nazi policy for women “kirche, kinder, kuche”? I think the first word in that means church.

  8. DanDare says

    Its not “Nazis wanted a christian state” its “a heirarchic christian polity is no big impediment and easily used by the Nazis”.