Aaron David Fruh

An Antisemite Walks Into A Church—How Christian Nationalists Justify Contempt

It would not surprise us to learn that a contemporary Christian nationalist remarked, “[T]oday, I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

That statement, however, is attributed not to a present-day antisemite, but to Adolf Hitler. Found on page 65 of his book Mein Kampf—or “my struggle”—Hitler’s declaration has engendered much debate about his purported Christian leanings. What we do know is that he mastered the merger of Christian piety with his political ideology, and the combination appealed to the nationalistic hopes of German Christians. The context of Hitler’s famous assertion from Mein Kampf is frightening. He writes:

“For me, this was the time of the greatest spiritual upheaval I have ever had to go through. I had ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and become an antisemite. . . . Have we an objective right to struggle for our self-preservation, or is this justified only subjectively within ourselves?” (64)

In these words, Hitler explains his “supernatural” transformation into an antisemite, and he asks the question of whether or not there is a moral justification for struggling against the Jews in order to preserve Christian Germany. For Hitler, the core of his life struggle was the Jewish question. In his next few paragraphs, he answers his own question:

“As I delved more deeply into the teachings of Marxism and thus, in tranquil clarity, submitted the deeds of the Jewish people to contemplation, fate itself gave me the answer. The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of nature…thus it denies the value of personality in man…and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and its culture…the result of an application of such a law could only be chaos, on earth it could only be destruction for the inhabitants of this planet…If, with the Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity…Hence, today, I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” (64-65).

Hitler saw his struggle as a cultural war against Marxism and those he believed to be its creators and promotors—Jews. By blending his rabid antisemitism and political ideology of nationalism with Christian teaching, he was eventually able to inspire Christian Germany to morally justify contempt for Jews and ultimately commit mass genocide in the name of Christ. The fact that the Holocaust was planned and implemented by German-baptized Christians is an indisputable historical fact. In his book The Holy Reich—Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, Richard Steigmann-Gall makes a historically accurate and detailed argument that the Nazi Third Reich saw itself as a conservative Christian movement. Steigmann-Gall writes:

“Christianity, in the final analysis, did not constitute a barrier to Nazism. Quite the opposite: For many of the subjects of this study, the battles waged against Germany’s enemies constituted a war in the name of Christianity….Nearly all the Nazis surveyed here believed they were defending good by waging war against evil, fighting for God against the devil, for German against Jew. They were convinced that their movement did not mean the death of God, but the preservation of God…In the eyes of these Nazis, the Jew was an enemy of Christianity as well as of Germany and the Aryan.” (261-262)

Many of Hitler’s speeches and writing show the ostensibly conservative Christian tone of Nazism. On this subject, Richard Steigmann-Gall states:

“At a Christmas celebration given by the Munich branch of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) in December 1926, Hitler maintained that the movement’s goal was to ‘translate the ideals of Christ into deeds.’ The movement would complete ‘the work which Christ had begun but could not finish.’ On another occasion, this time behind closed doors and to fellow Nazis only, Hitler again proclaimed the centrality of Christ’s teachings for this movement: ‘We are the first to exhume these teachings! Through us alone, and not until now, do these teachings celebrate their resurrection! . . . In nearly evangelical tone, Hitler declares that the ‘true message’ of Christianity is to be found only with Nazism. He claims that where the churches failed in their mission to instill a Christian ethic in secular society, his movement would take up the task. Hitler not only read the New Testament but professes—in private—to be inspired by it.” (Holy Third Reich 27-28)

Christians who embrace the ideology of nationalism today in the US firmly believe they are on the frontlines of a cultural war against evil. In their view, America is in danger of being taken over by nefarious dark forces that promulgate—you guessed it—cultural Marxism. Sound familiar? The puppet masters behind this evil are, well, Jews. The same pathway that led German Christians to justify contempt for Jews prior to and during the Holocaust is being trodden by Christian nationalists today.

There is a bandwagon effect (a psychological phenomenon in which a person embraces a behavior or ideology because a large group is promoting it) happening in the American Christian Right today. It grew in strength and numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Churches that protested the restrictions were viewed as courageous heroes in the cultural war, and churches that complied were viewed as cowardly. In many cases, the churches that refused to submit to the restrictions grew exponentially, and their pastors have since become cultural warriors, preaching a mixture of scriptural piety and nationalistic ideology.

The Christian pastor who once felt called to minister to the poor and to care for widows and orphans must now decide if he needs to join the bandwagon of Christian Nationalism in order for his church to survive. If he joins that wagon train, he will begin to proclaim the antisemitic rhetoric embedded in the ideology of contemporary Christian Nationalism: Jews fund cultural Marxism; Jews are behind sex trafficking; Jews are pedophiles; the Rothschilds control the American economy; there is an occult element in the upper echelons of Jewish society; America is controlled by the Jewish mafia; the impeachment of Trump was undertaken by a “Jew Coup”; etc.

As the pastor rides the wave of Christian nationalistic fervor currently exploding in America, his audiences, as well as his church finances, increase—providing some solace for the crisis in his conscience for not being true to his calling. As he hops on this nationalistic bandwagon, he will struggle over the question of whether showing contempt toward Jews is morally justified as he attempts to “save” the country from what he believes is the evil of Jews.

The author of Mein Kampf struggled with the same question.

About the Author
Aaron David Fruh is a Research Fellow at The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and the President of Israel Team Advocates, whose mission it is to change the growing anti-Israel narrative on college campuses. Aaron is the author of five books including The Casualty of Contempt: the alarming rise of Antisemitism and what can be done to stop it (editor), and Two Minute Warning: why it’s time to honor the Jewish people before the clock runs out. Aaron has written for The Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner.
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