Positive Christianity


Positive Christianity
Flag of the German Christians, the movement associated with Positive Christianity

Positive Christianity (German: Positives Christentum) was a slogan of Nazi propaganda adopted at the NSDAP congress 1920 to express a worldview which is Christian, non-confessional, vigorously opposed to the spirit of "Jewish Materialism", and oriented to the principle of voluntary association of those with a common racial-ethnic background.[1]

Contents

Theological and doctrinal aspects

Adherents of Positive Christianity argued that traditional Christianity emphasized the passive rather than the active aspects of Christ's life, stressing his miraculous birth, his suffering, his sacrifice on the cross and other-worldly redemption. They wanted to replace this with a "positive" emphasis on Christ as an active preacher, organizer and fighter who opposed the institutionalized Judaism of his day. At various points in the Nazi regime, attempts were made to replace conventional Christianity with its "positive" alternative.

Theological and doctrinal differences included:

  • Rejection of Jewish-written parts of the Bible (including the entire Old Testament)
  • Claiming "Aryanhood" and non-Jewishness for Christ
  • The political objective of national unity, to overcome confessional differences, to exterminate Catholicism, and to unite Protestantism into a single unitary Christian national socialist church[2]

Origins of the idea

Positive Christianity grew out of the Higher Criticism of the nineteenth century, with its emphasis on the distinction between the historical Jesus, and the divine Jesus of theology.[citation needed] According to some schools of thought, the saviour-figure of orthodox Christianity was very different from the historical Galilean preacher. While many such scholars sought to place Jesus in the context of ancient Judaism, some writers reconstructed a historical Jesus who corresponded to anti-Semitic ideology. In the writings of such anti-Semites as Emile Burnouf, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Paul de Lagarde, Jesus was redefined as an "Aryan" hero who struggled against Judaism. Consistent with their origins in Higher Criticism, such writers often either rejected or minimized the miraculous aspects of Gospel narratives, reducing the crucifixion to a tragic coda to Jesus's life rather than its prefigured culmination. Both Burnouf and Chamberlain argued that the population of Galilee was racially distinct from that of Judea. Lagarde insisted that German Christianity must become "national" in character.

In Nazi ideology

Such ideas were eagerly seized upon by the Nazi movement, which circulated them in its journals such as Der Stürmer and Völkischer Beobachter, both of which stressed the "Nordic" character of Jesus. However, the party was careful to stress that Positive Christianity need not contradict the traditional theologies of established churches. As early as 1920 the Nazis proclaimed in their 25-point program that the Party favored freedom of religion as long as it did not corrupt German morals or threaten the existence of the state, and that,

"[t]he Party as such takes its stand on a positive Christianity but does not tie itself in the matter of confession to any particular denomination. It fights the spirit of Jewish materialism inside and outside ourselves."[3]

Despite this, a number of Nazis openly challenged the established churches. Alfred Rosenberg, editor of Völkischer Beobachter, developed a radical version of Positive Christianity in The Myth of the Twentieth Century, in which he argued that the Catholic and Protestant churches had distorted Christianity in such a way that the "heroic" and "Germanic" aspects of Jesus's life had been ignored. For Rosenberg, Positive Christianity was a transitional ideology that would pave the way to the revival of fully Aryan religions.[citation needed] Its symbol was the orb of the sun in the form of a sun cross.

Hitler distanced himself from Rosenberg's more radical ideas, wishing to retain the support of the conservative Christian electorate and social elite, but he emphasized the desirability of Positive Christianity. As an aspect of Gleichschaltung, the regime planned to nazify the Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelical Church) by unifying the separate 28 state churches under a single national church that was controlled by the German Christian faction. After some initial setbacks, the Nazis' candidate Ludwig Müller was elected the first Reichsbischof of the new Reichskirche (so-called German Evangelical Church) in September 1933. However, the German Christians' theological initiatives[4] met with resistance from some pastors, most notably Martin Niemöller, who organized the Pastors' Emergency League.[5] Following this failure, Hitler backtracked on attempts to directly nazify the churches.

The German Faith Movement founded by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer adopted a more thoroughly Aryanized form of the ideology, claiming to represent the essence of the "Protestant" spirit by mixing aspects of Christianity with ideas derived from "Aryan" religions such as Vedic Hinduism and "Aryo"-Persian religiosity (Manicheanism, etc.). They attempted to separate Nazi officials from church affiliations, banning nativity plays and calling for an end to daily prayers in schools.

With the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945, Positive Christianity as a movement fell into obscurity. It continues to be espoused by some Christian Identity groups.[6]

See also

Further reading

  • Snyder, L., (1998). Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. Wordsworth Press. 
  • Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-82371-5. 
  • Whisker, James B. (1990). The Philosophy of Alfred Rosenberg. Noontide Press. ISBN 978-0-939482-25-2. 

Notes

  1. ^ NSDAP Party Programm of 24. February 1920, Point 24: "We demand religious freedom in the state, insofar as this does not offend the traditions and moral sense of the German race. As such the party holds with a position of Positive Christianity without confessing an association with particular denomination. It struggles against the Jewish-Materialistic spirit in and outside the party and is persuaded, that the enduring blessing of our people can only proceed from within to the larger world on this foundation: 'The good of The Many outweighs the good of The One'.“ Quoted from Friedrich Zipfel: Church Struggle in Germany; 1965; S. 1
  2. ^ Steigman-Gall chapter 2.
  3. ^ Protestant Churches in the Third Reich
  4. ^ These pro-Nazi initiatives included the introduction of the Aryan paragraph, which would exclude converted Jews, and the attempt to dispense with the Old Testament in church services.
  5. ^ Overy, Richard James (2004). The dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.. pp. 283–84. ISBN 0-393-02030-4. ; Stackelberg, Roderick (2007). The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany. Routledge. ISBN 0415308607. 
  6. ^ Kinsman Redeemer Church: Positive Christianity

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