Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 4, “‘Two Masters’ Fascism vs. Confessionalism” pp. 56-77.
Veith observes that the Nazis and other fascistic movements recognized the truth of the biblical condemnation of trying to serve two masters. For this reason, they desired to eliminate the entire concept of a transcendent God or transcendent ethics. “They sought to replace it with either a paganized Christianity or a revival of ancient mythological consciousness” (Veith 1993, 56). One of the important attempts at synthesis was known as the “German Christian” movement, which was resisted by those who held to or rediscovered confessional Christianity (Veith 1993, 56). Those who allowed Christianity to be redefined by modern culture would be empowered, while others would face arrest and persecution (Veith 1993, 57). Veith sees much the same struggle in the early 199s, though not resulting in arrest as much as in cultural shunning.
The “German Christian” movement, Veith asserts, was “ genuine theological movement within the church” (Veith 1993, 57). After Hitler rose to power, this movement became pre-eminent within German church life and the recognized state church. Those church bodies which did not participate in the state church were relatively free from political, but not from moral or social pressure (Veith 1993, 58). Within the state church there was a distinct pattern of removing elements of Christianity which were dependent on Judaism. The movement also sought to remove Jewish converts to Christianity from office within the church. Veith observes that Christians with even a scanty commitment to the Scripture would not accept these moves (Veith 1993, 58). For this reason, the counter movement of the “Confessing Church” arose.
The “Confessing Church movement emphasized at least some adherence to the historic forms and confessions of Christianity. It formulated its stance in a document known as the Barmen Declaration (Veith 1993, 59). There was a specific commitment to God’s Word as transcendent and authoritative. The movement specifically rejected natural theology and modernist syncretism, saying that the world would not be allowed to set the Church’s agenda (Veith 1993, 60). The state could not be allowed to take over the role of the church (Veith 1993, 61).
Veith describes a number of theological luminaries of the first half of the 20th century, along with their reactions to both the German Christian and the Confessing Church movements. Many attempted to take no stand. Others, citing Luther’s doctrine of two kingdoms, attempted to ignroe the Christian responsibility to speak to government authorities (Veith 1993, 63). Veith quotes Hitler as being ery aware that appeasement would not be possible, but that the purity he desired could only be accomplished through genocide (Veith 1993, 64). This genocide was fairly broadly condemned, even within the “German Christian” movement.
At the same time that the German Christian movement was being formed, Veith observes that many people saw National Socialism as the religion which would displace others (Veith 1993, 65). This was a religious belief based on scientific principles. However, because of the prevalence of Christianity, Hitler and his top officials remained on the rolls of churches, though rejecting their teaching (Veith 1993, 66). Rank and file Nazis, including the Hitler Youth, were encouraged to reject church services and attend alternative meetings on Sunday mornings. The party was a substitute for the church (Veith 1993, 67). In effect, socialism assumed the role of God, as Veith demonstrates using several quotes from Nazi documents (Veith 1993, 68). Along with this shift was a concerted effort to revive the old folk religions and celebrate people in the arts community who promoted myth. “The recovery of a mythological consciousness meant the integration of the social, the spiritual, and the natural. Thus, alienation would be ended. This was the ultimate promise of fascism” (Veith 1993, 69). But to do so, it had to demolish all Judeo-Christian heritage.
Veith continues by evaluating the effects of the confrontation between fascism and 20th century theology. The conflict certainly tested some practical application of different doctrines (Veith 1993, 69). Although one could certainly find fault with the applied theology in multiple directions, Veith does find ome valid principles for analysis. For instance, “it is legitimate to ask what intellectual and religious trends helped to form fascist ideology and what positions proved most resistent” (Veith 1993, 70). The themes of a subjective versus objective faith structure could well serve to structure the debate. In every measure, the movement which conformed to the fascist demands was that which was more subjective and open to temporal change, while that which was more objective continued to resist fascism (Veith 1993, 70). Veith makes it clear that this was not necessarily a distinction between liberal and conservative, but more a difference between those who held to transcendence and those who did not (Veith 1993, 71). The later manifestation of this division, according to Veith, appears in our modern political and cultural context. “Today the ‘crude salvationism’ and ‘other-worldliness’ of traditional religion are giving way to elaborate efforts to use Christianity to sanction a political agenda. Liberation theology promotes a socialist utopia; fundamentalists who follow ‘reconstructionism’ promote a theocratic state” (Veith 1993, 71-72). Both of these movements would fit into the “Geraman Christian” movement. The plot thickens when we find an emphasis on community which is segmentated by factions or when we see an eclipse of distinct doctrinal teaching in the name of an irrational subjectivism (Veith 1993, 72). Eventually, all the means of testing truth claims are gone. The boundaries inherent in Christian orthodoxy are gone and, with them, the protections against abuse or cultic behavior (Veith 1993, 73). Veith links the removal of the protections inherent in confessionalism with the “God-is-dead” movement, which abandons the idea of a loving and traanscendent God. This movement seeks out a spirituality based “on the human and the immanent” (Veith 1993, 74). Ironically, in the past, this very philosophy led to the rise of fascism, when modern man took on the task of engineering society (Veith 1993, 75) In contrast, Elie Wiesel observed the survivors of the concentration camps held to the reality of God, their prayers, and their dependence on Scripture, questioning man rather than God (Veith 1993, 76). It is those who hold to confessions and a transcendent God who are finally able to resist the demands of fascism.