Religious Right Leaders Warn: Vote Republican, Or We'll Have Another Holocaust
Obama is like Hitler ; his healthcare reform legislation includes a provision to create an army of Marxist brownshirt thugs ; the hour is late, the church now faces what German churches faced, with the rise of the Nazis, in the 1930s - we must fight now, or never ; taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's ovens ; stop Obama, or face another Holocaust.
At an October 30, 2012 pastors rally in Tampa, Florida, with the election only days away, prominent Texas Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who in 2011 attacked Mormonism (Mitt Romney's faith) as a cult, informed his audience that failing to stop President Barack Obama from gaining a 2nd term in office would be like failing to stop Hitler and could lead to another Holocaust.
The 2012 election may pivot on evangelical turnout, and now that the IRS has ceased enforcing its rule that prohibits tax deductible religious nonprofits such as churches from making political endorsements, evangelical leaders are free to openly warn their flocks that a horrific fate awaits unless they vote for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Typically dismissed by the left as mere lunatic hyperbole, there's a vast, dark ideological underside to such warnings.
From the far-right fever swamps of the Internet, to the leadership of the potentially revolutionary Christian right, to the heights of elite evangelicalism, at the Fellowship-sponsored yearly National Prayer Breakfast (attended by U.S. presidents since Eisenhower), conservative evangelicals paint a picture of America on the verge of full-blown, left-wing fascism.
Their evidence ? - the Obama Administration's health care reform efforts, including an HHS rule that some religious charities must offer birth control in their healthcare plans. Plus the existence of legalized abortion, and the spread of legal same-sex marriage.
While that might sound insane to American unfamiliar with such culture war tropes, these claims make eminent sense to millions of conservative evangelicals.
Pastor Jeffress' warning, of a looming 2nd Holocaust, was not an aberration - he was merely reinforcing a narrative that has been told to millions of evangelical Christians: from megachurch pulpits, from the pulpit of the Glenn Beck Show, via evangelical broadcast networks, through secular rightwing books and magazine articles, by Internet conspiracy theories.
As I wrote in an early 2010 article published by Zeek, an imprint of the Jewish Daily Forward,
"Who killed Europe's Jews? Millions on the American evangelical right have grown up believing the culprits were liberals and leftists, homosexuals, evolutionists and atheists, occult worshipers and even Jews themselves. "
While many observers have noted that American culture has split into culturally antagonistic factions, few have noted the extent to which these factions hold wildly conflicting views of reality.
Books like Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, pseudo-documentaries like MAAFA 21, and of course inflammatory TV and radio monologs Glenn Beck fit into a preexisting uber-narrative in which Hitler and the Brownshirts never cracked the skulls of communists and leftists in Germany's streets because the Nazis were communists, or socialists at least, and gay as well; and all the horrors of World War Two, especially the Holocaust, were natural outgrowths of secular, Darwin-inspired eugenicist thinking. This grand narrative also presents both legal abortion and civil rights for homosexuals as signs of incipient fascism.
Here are some examples of how these themes are deployed :
-- New Apostolic Reformation prophets such as The Call cofounder Lou Engle warn that legal abortion has caused the holocaust of our time and declare that the death of "fifty million little babies" will require repayment in blood. Before late-term abortionist George Tiller's assassination, Engle compared Tiller to an Auschwitz death camp worker.
-- Evangelical propagandist Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika, warns Christians from America, to Africa, to Eastern Europe and Russia that Hitler and his top Nazis were gay, and that homosexuals are, by nature, sociopaths. Lively's ideas have been cited as a key inspiration for Uganda's so-called "kill the gays" bill that has loomed before Uganda's parliament since late 2009.
-- Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee broadcasts to the world that Jewish Rothschild bankers based in Europe control America through the Federal Reserve and are scheming to bankrupt the common man, and declares that Hitler was sent by God, to chase Europe's Jews toward Palestine, the only home God even intended for the Jewish people according to Hagee.
-- Demons under Illuminati sway have have infiltrated liberal churches, says a military pastor whose overseer controlled six to seven percent of active duty pastors in the U.S. military and who toured America in the 1990s promoting anti-government conspiracy theories, broadcast out over TV and radio networks that could in theory reach 10% or so of Americans, in which Bill Clinton was ready to sign the U.S. over to UN control, after which Chinese, German, and UN troops would rampage out from their secret lairs in national parks, to rape, pillage, and round up good Christian citizens, packing them into boxcars en route to secret, razor wire-ringed concentration camps. Behind the plot ? Rothschilds and other Jewish banking families, the Illuminati, and the antichrist.
Of course, conspiracy narratives are anything but new to American politics - in the 1800 presidential election, New England press and Christian pastors tarred Thomas Jefferson as an infiltrator linked to a dark conspiracy of Illuminati and Freemasons that would bring the horrors of the French Revolution to America. In the 1960s, anticommunist conspiracy theories of the John Birch Society permeated the U.S. far-right.
If anything distinguishes this new evangelical conspiracy oeuvre, it is in the supple, sophisticated quality of its narratives, that can be used at will to selectively attack, scapegoat and demonize targeted populations and organizations - Muslims and liberal Jews, gays, abortionists, liberal Christians, the Federal Reserve and the federal government, the National Park system -- all of which are reduced to minions, witting or not, of a world banker/Illuminati conspiracy that will soon be controlled by an antichrist figure who will kill up to 1/3 of the Earth's population and will be, according to pastor Hagee, homosexual and "at least partially Jewish".
The intended victims of this vast apocalyptic end-time conspiracy will be, of course, good Christians who must, it goes without saying, arm and organize themselves and be ready, at a moment's notice, to fight back. As I wrote in my Zeek story,
"In 1990 [Pat] Robertson, responding to criticism from the Miami Herald for his involvement in the Florida governor's race, vented "Do you also have a ghetto chosen to herd the pro-life Catholics and evangelicals into ? Have you designed the appropriate yellow patch that Christians should wear... ?"
Robertson's views were no aberration. A video version of the Left Behind series narrative first released in 2001 by John Hagee Ministries, titled "Vanished - In the twinkling of an eye," portrays born-again Christians suffering their own "Kristallnacht" in which gays, Jews, and Catholics, led by the Antichrist, attack born-again Christians and set their churches ablaze. One burning church is identified as being in Berlin."
In the 1990s, such prophetic warnings helped give rise to the militia movement. But, largely unnoticed even by acknowledged experts who study the growth of the militant far right, starting in the late 1980s evangelicals, some with relatively high-level military backgrounds, began crisscrossing America warning of a looming, eliminationist dictatorship. Their tales were as shocking as they were unprovable - twenty thousand Chinese boxcars, fitted out with shackles and guillotines, had arrived at a West Coast port, ready for the great round up. Trust us, these former military evangelicals told their audience, We've seen it with our own eyes.
Their warnings went out via videocassettes and tapes, by fax machine and small-scale radio and television broadcast networks, sometimes even by growing evangelical broadcast networks too. Then, the rise of the Internet made the project far easier.
Former Undersecretary of Defense William Boykin was only the latest in a two and a half decade long lineage, when he stated, in a video promoted by the New Apostolic Reformation group The Oak Initiative, "Remember Hitler had the brown shirts and in the night of the long knives even Hitler got scared of the brown shirts and killed thousands of them...", then claimed that Obama's healthcare legislation was,
"laying the groundwork for a constabulary force that will control the population in America. You need to understand that this is happening in America and its fits the model that has been used when societies move to Marxism."
Why are so many conservative evangelicals hostile to the federal government ? One possible reason is the cumulative impact of such conspiracy theory narratives, which function like a CIA style infowar destabilization campaign, but directed against the United States government itself.
Fast forward to the 2012 election:
In March 2012, rising evangelical conservative Eric Metaxas, former Veggie Tales writer and author of a new bestselling biography of Hitler opponent and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, warned a select, elite audience of Opus Dei Catholics, at a Washington, D.C. Catholic bookstore, that Christian churches are now facing a threat similar to that confronted by churches during the rise of Hitler and declared,
"If we don't fight now, if we don't really use all our bullets now, we will have no fight five years from now. It'll be over. This it. We've got to die on this hill."
Then in April 2012, Illinois Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky delivered a sermon during mass warning that President Barack Obama "seems intent on following a similar path" as Stalin and Hitler. Stated Bishop Jenky,
"Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path."
Bishop Jenky seemed unaware that, while Stalin's Soviet Union was officially atheist, Hitler's Germany was very far from secular.
The rise to power of the Nazis was aided early on by the Duetsche Cristen movement, whose churches were known to display the Nazi swastika alongside the Christian cross, and in his book Mein Kampf, Hitler declared that "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..." Most of the top Nazi leaders both publicly and privately professed Christian belief. Hitler's Third Reich even sponsored an ambitious revision the New Testament of the Bible which, rewrote and expanded the original Ten Commandments, to twelve, and recast Jesus as a warrior.
These three incidents, dire warnings from Jeffress, Metaxas, and Jenky, were not anomalies but fit into a widespread pattern in which, since the inauguration of President Obama in early 2009, prominent evangelical conservatives have accused the Obama Administration of planning to launch a full-blown fascist dictatorship.
To be sure, liberals and Democrats have been known to play the "Hitler card", as this list on the conservative Free Republic website lays out.
But, whereas on the aforementioned list of offending Bush/Hitler statements from liberals I could not find any which included the word "Holocaust", amidst the current din of Obama/Hitler talk on the right Obama/Hitler/Holocaust tropes are many - And Metaxas, Jenky, and Jeffress are anything but peripheral.
Indeed, Eric Metaxas - who appears to have been groomed to step into the oversized shoes of the late Charles Colson - moves in high enough circles to have recently crossed swords with President Barack Obama, at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast, during which Metaxas gave a speech, prior to Obama's, in which he walked right up to the edge of the Nazi comparison that he would soon make openly, by rhetorically linking Nazism and abortion, and asking his elite prayer breakfast audience (with president Obama sitting only a few feet away), "You think you're better than the Germans of that [Nazi] era? You're not. Whom do we say is not fully human today?"
Metaxas' less-than genteel speech at the National Prayer Breakfast was especially risque for the fact that Doug Coe, longtime head of The Fellowship, the global evangelical network that sponsors the elite yearly prayer breakfast event and has been tied to Uganda's so-called "kill the gays bill", has a history of praising the zealous, bloodthirsty dedication of the followers of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao - a penchant also shared by Fellowship member Rick Warren.
In all fairness, there are legitimate reasons to challenge the Obama Administration: for its authoritarianism, secrecy, and shaky human rights record, as left/liberal critics such as Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller have done.
But conservative Christians in the Metaxas/Jenky/Jeffress mold seem disinterested in making common cause with the left on those issues, and instead choose to peg the alleged creeping Nazification they warn about on what they define as "religious liberty" issues (which somehow fail to include concern over government-funded religious discrimination, via the Faith Based Initiative, against Jews, gays, and non-Christians), as well as on legalized abortion and the spread of legalized same-sex marriage.
It's noteworthy that with these chosen issues, the expansion of the religious liberty of evangelical Christians and organizations seems to come at the expense of the civil liberties of other Americans. In the case of abortion and same-sex marriage, the "religious liberty" agenda would use the power of the state to circumscribe the rights of women and LBGT couples, to terminate pregnancies and to marry their chosen mates: not libertarian at all.
Argues libertarian author James Veverka, during the 20th Century social conservatism, whether overtly Christian or not, has served as a coercive tool of repressive states from across the political spectrum, from left to the right. Writes Veverka,
"Uncomfortable as it makes people to compare religion with dictatorships, the most dangerous dictatorships of the 20th century were also radically socially conservative in regards to family values and sexuality...
Like religious conservatives throughout history and indeed, in the present, they used the state as a coercive tool to force their version of a conscience upon the rest of people... This is not to say fundamentalists and other religious extremists are Nazis or Stalinists, but that they hold very similar views on these 'family values' and sexuality subjects and employ similar language in their positions and propaganda."
While evangelical intellectuals such as Eric Metaxas frame the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in terms of threats to religious liberty, in 2006 noted conservative evangelical scholar David P. Gushee gave a speech in which he warned of a very different sort of threat.
At the September 2006 conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, David P. Gushee told his audience,
"Like all Germans, and many all around the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply troubled by World War I and the cultural and political crisis that afflicted his nation after the war. And yet he never demonstrated any susceptibility to what Fritz Stern called "the politics of cultural despair." I think it was because he believed in the interpretation of history offered by biblical revelation, which though realistic about human nature and history is never a counsel of despair.
It was this cultural despair--a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)--that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler's rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler's narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.
Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and "God withdraws his blessing" from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the "secularists" now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer--a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action--also has its parallels with the era under consideration.
It is in part my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer's example that has led me to a rejection of the toxic politics of cultural despair and commitment to a hopeful vision of Christian cultural engagement in light of the sure advance of God's kingdom."
The prospect of Christian pastors demonizing targeted minorities from their pulpits, amidst the rise of palingenetic ultranationalist narratives calling for national renewal and rebirth, has a dark history.
The rise of Hitler and the Nazis paralleled the rise of a popular conspiratorial, accusatory German cultural narrative which claimed the nation was in decline and in moral free-fall. The narrative blamed secularism and alleged subversive elements in society, notably Jews.
The closely related "Dolchstoßlegende," the "stab in the back" myth, blamed the German loss in World War One on a Jewish conspiracy and related narratives blamed Jews as well for crime, economic hardship and alleged immorality.
As I explained in my short essay "American Dolchstoss", written to accompany a ten-minute mini-documentary, on pastor John Hagee's promotion of a contemporary version of the Dolchstoßlegende,
In the buildup towards World War Two, Hitler and his Nazis used the pretexts of alleged threats from internal and external foes to launch vicious attacks on Jews, on gays, on communists and socialists, then on liberals. The Nazis were not in the majority initially, far from it, but they knew human mass psychology, they knew the power of threats and intimidation to silence possible opposition to the gathering Reich.
Few in the American Jewish community, or the Israeli Jewish community, grasp the magnitude of the anti-Jewish hatred that has been stoked, from American pulpits and American televangelist broadcast networks, literally for decades. The propaganda has been slightly coded but in the end not very subtle. Rather than directly vilify Jews, Christian fundamentalist preachers and leaders have for decades vilified groups and terms that traditionally, for better or worse, have been associated with Jews.
Christian fundamentalists have inveighed against Hollywood and "liberal media," they have singled out New York City as some purported, uniquely horrible "moral cesspool." They have railed against traditional Jewish occupational pursuits, such as law, media and journalism, blaming those for many of the evils they claim beset American society.
But anti-Jewish conspiracy theories involving evil cabals of Illuminati, Masons or Rothschilds, alleging that Jews control the World and are to be blamed for all manner of societal and national misfortune -- because they [Jews] are of, allied with and intimately related to the Devil -- are to be found nowhere in the Bible.
"New World Order" and "Protocols of The [Learned] Elders of Zion" styles of conspiricism have become interwoven in the American cultural fabric and especially on the Christian right and Pastor John Hagee, along with other prominent televangelists, routinely broadcast such ideas to millions around the globe.