Comfort, Ray. Hitler, God, and the Bible. Washington, D.C.: WND Books, 2012. $25.95.
Reviewed by Joseph Keysor
“Nazi Germany was a Christian country. The churches supported Hitler. Hitler supported the churches. Hitler emerged from the religious right and opposed abortion, homosexuality, and pornography.” These and other charges are more common and effective than many Christians realize. Linking Christianity to Naziism in one way or another is a common tactic in the culture wars, and there has been too little response from our side.
Evangelist Ray Comfort has taken note of this problem and addressed it in his new book Hitler, God, and the Bible. The book makes a brief but helpful contribution to this debate. Comfort demonstrates Hitler’s paganism by printing in full the “Thirty Point Program for the National Reich Church”—Hitler’s plan for the unification of the Protestant churches in Germany. This program included the removal of crosses and Bibles from churches; forbade the publishing of all religious books, papers, pamphlets, and publications in Germany (including the Bible); and expressly condemned the “strange and foreign Christian faiths” that had been imported into Germany.
Comfort also touches on larger themes, including the collapse of the German churches, Hitler’s mysterious and baffling hatred of Jews, Hitler’s clever manipulation of religion to gain support and minimize opposition, the problem of evil, and parallels between the Holocaust of the Jews and the ongoing holocaust of the unborn.
I have read several of Comfort’s other books with profit. However, I did not like this book as well. One problem I had with the book was that approximately half of it was devoted to a historical overview covering Hitler’s childhood, his experiences in World War I, and his rise to power. This story has been told many times, and while it will be interesting to readers who have read little about the subject, anyone with some knowledge of these events will probably be disappointed by a superficial and hasty overview.
This is especially significant as many of the larger themes mentioned above are very briefly discussed. They would have made fascinating reading if covered in more depth by someone with Comfort’s spiritual and biblical background. Take, for example, Hitler’s hatred of the Jews. While this is often considered to be simply incomprehensible, Hitler represented the final development of a long train of secular philosophical and racial anti-Semitism going back a century and more before the Holocaust. Long before Hitler, people like Paul de Lagarde and Julius Langbehn had called for the extermination of the Jews, and they were not concerned about God’s wrath on the Jews for the rejection of Christ.
Comfort mentions some external influences like Wagner and H. S. Chamberlain, but their peculiar logic and twisted philosophy is almost completely missed. That the Jews were to blame for corrupting the purity of German blood, and had furthermore corrupted Germany’s heroic paganism with Jewish-inspired Christianity were common themes before Hitler was even born. More information about this would have helped to put Hitler into a broader historical perspective and made him somewhat less incomprehensible. Also, since Comfort is writing as a Christian and an evangelist, some comments on Satan’s hatred of the Jews, as we see it in Revelation chapter 12, would not have been out of place.
More could also have been said about the collapse of the churches in Germany. Comfort refers to the fact that liberal theology had robbed the Lutheran churches of their integrity and left them helpless before Hitler, but he covers this in less than a page. To me, more information about this would have been much more instructive than reading about Hitler’s rise to power. Also, relating the failure of the churches in Germany to our own day would have been compelling reading. When we have gay pastors, gay congregations, lesbian pastors, is this any different than the German churches effortlessly abandoning biblical teachings, and accommodating themselves to the spirit of the age as it manifested itself in the Third Reich?
Similarly, the opposition of the churches to Hitler is mentioned, but there is also much omitted. There were a few Christians who did speak out publicly, even from the pulpit, and directly denounced Hitler and Naziism. Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink told his congregation that a recent, devastating air raid was the result of God’s judgment. He was beheaded. Pastor von Jan denounced the Crystal Night pogrom from the pulpit and was arrested. Pastor Kloetzel denounced Nazi “racial insanity” and died shortly thereafter in captivity. Catholic Provost Lichtenberg was outspoken in his concern for the Jews. Pastor Paul Schneider disobeyed Gestapo orders and died in a concentration camp. These and others did not confine themselves to undercover work while outwardly pretending to be loyal to Hitler. More needs to be said about them.
Comfort could also have said more about the Nazi persecution of the churches. Along with overt attacks such as murder and imprisonment, the churches (Protestant and Catholic) were subjected to many restrictions and harassments. Clergymen were assaulted. All religious organizations, clubs, societies and political parties were banned. Church property was seized, meetings were broken up, worship services were under constant surveillance, and “separation of church and state” was interpreted to mean that religious people were to have no say in government, while the government was free to control every aspect of church life. Relating these historical events to increasing trends in our own day would have made the book more helpful.
There are some inaccuracies in the book. For example, Comfort refers to Hitler as a Catholic (“as a Catholic himself”) and links this to Hitler’s 1933 agreement with the Vatican, the Concordat (in which Hitler promised to respect the rights of the Catholic Church in exchange for political non-involvement by the Church). It was not pointed out that the Nazis repeatedly violated the Concordat, and the Vatican lodged numerous (but futile) protests through diplomatic channels. It might also have been explained that the “Catholic” Hitler never went to confession, partook of a mass, or even mentioned the Virgin Mary once during his years in power. Moreover, he attempted to destroy the Catholic Church in Poland. But, maybe Hitler wasn’t a Catholic after all, for Comfort points out in a different place that Hitler “severed his connection with the Church” after WWI.
It is also inaccurate to state, as Comfort does, that the Protestant “Confessing Church” defied Hitler. The Confessing Church Christians resisted attempts to bring their churches under the complete bureaucratic control of the government, but were (with rare exceptions) careful to keep their protests within the confines of loyalty to the state and to Hitler. Even the well-known Barmen declaration was a safe, abstract theological document that failed to confront strongly the lies and the crimes of the Nazis and specifically avoided anti-Semitism.
One other deficiency was in the comparison of the ongoing abortion holocaust with the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. The comparison is a valid one. In both cases we have a totally false view of life. Those who do not fit in are arbitrarily declared to be less than fully human, and slaughtered legally, in the millions. In his (again) very brief analysis of this, Comfort focuses on the profit motive: abortion providers make lots of easy money, and Hitler seized billions of dollars of Jewish wealth. This is a good point, but what about the ideologies behind the views that Jews were a threat to German dominance in the struggle for survival, and that taking care of children is a waste of a woman’s life, a burden that denies her true fulfillment as a human being?
Comfort says something, in a haphazard way, about the first of these two ideologies, and he says nothing about the second. Yes, the abortionists provide a service for profit, but why do the women want it? How have they come to believe that a career as a college teacher or a television newsperson, is more important than bringing new life into the world, loving it, cherishing it in its formative stages, guiding it to adulthood, and reaping rich rewards along the way?
Both the Nazis and today’s secularists dismissed/dismiss the Bible and (immeasurably strengthened by Darwinism) held/hold to the view that people are essentially animals, and so should act “naturally.” To the Nazis, this meant being ruthless and hard in a violent struggle for survival, and the behavior of beasts of prey was used to justify human violence. To the secularists of today, our alleged animal nature is used to justify immorality of every sort, and examples of “homosexual” behavior in the animal world are sought as justifications for human behavior. That Aryans were superior, and that differences between men and women are to be removed or minimized—that women are to be as much like men as possible—these are new ideas, and require dismissal of the Bible and the marginalization of Christians for their acceptance.
At the close of his book, Comfort says that the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the slaughter of the innocent unborn can be explained by the profit motive. So, he says in his final sentence, “The love of money is still the root of all evil.” Now, the biblical teaching that the love of money is the root of all evil is not as far-fetched or impossible as some have thought. If we consider that the love of money shows more concern for this world than for the world to come, disbelief in God’s provision for our needs, and the desire for pleasure and benefits that we can gain by ourselves or for ourselves, then we can indeed say that that within us which loves money and which ignores God to pursue the things of this world is in fact the root of all evil and has unbelief at its very heart. Moreover, this basic tendency then expresses itself in many different ways in different contexts.
The book includes a salvation appeal to the lost. Placing such an appeal in the context of a discussion of contemporary history is an effective technique, and we need to hear more about the relevance of biblical teaching to historical and also to current issues. The more people that respond to it the better, and we can hope that Comfort’s efforts here will be widely successful. But, those who want a deeper understanding of the “the Hitler problem” will have to go far beyond Ray Comfort’s starting point.
Joseph Keysor has a Masters Degree in education from Northern Illinois University and teaches English at a private school in the Sultanate of Oman. He is the author of Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible and Contra Feminism. He blogs at www.hitlerandchristianity.com.