We watched PBS’s Bonhoeffer video last night (the full-length version; the current PBS airing is a shortened version for tv).

How’s that old saying from Santayana go? – something like “those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it”.

Hitler was deliberate about, and very effective at:

Using God-talk and religious talk
“Lord, we do not let you go. Now bless our struggle, our liberty, and … our German people.”

Lying about his intentions so as to make his agenda seem reasonable, even utterly necessary
“We will not harm anyone; but we WILL defend ourselves.”

Energetically blaming others for what he himself was doing
“If the Jews in charge of international finance plunge the world into another World War …”

[See a list of posts dealing with Hitler and with Nazi tacitcs.]

Why did so many Christians support him? As the movie makes clear many powerful, well-educated, highly respected church leaders eagerly supported the new wave of German reform and power – Nazism – as did the people in the pews. Church leaders and members really believed Hitler was a Christian and could be trusted to act legally and sensibly. As one person said, “many of our church people fell for this.”

In the movie we see the swastika superimposed over the cross. We see swastika flags in churches over kneeling couples during church weddings. Many Christians thought it was fine, or at least tolerable.

Many, many could or would not see at all what a few could see very plainly. Pastors who spoke out against what they could see happening – and yet to happen – were arrested. Unfortunately the majority of ordained ministers could not see, or chose not to see, and did nothing to warrant repression or arrest.

I know it is very offensive to point out similarities between the strategy of Hitler’s rise and the tactics of the current American administration, but there clearly are some important similarities. See the three items in the box above, for example. But in the movie one big difference did stand out to me. Hitler himself preached hatred very energetically and effectively – against the Jews and several other classes of people. He was a great public ‘evangelist’ for his ‘gospel’ of hate. George Bush, on the other hand, does not make modern Republican-style hate-talk a prominent theme of his speeches. I am glad for that fact.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t much matter, because in our country today there is a LOT of prominent hate-talk going on anyway (see Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, key Senators and Congressmen, even preachers) against our fellow-Americans who do not agree with or submit eagerly to neocon (radical Republican) domination and corruption.

And Bush clearly approves of others doing it on his behalf – and often hires them to do it, as has been so apparent in his various political campaigns. Unfortunately, in this country, that probably makes Bush’s hate-campaigns even more effective than if he himself were the prominent public voice of hatred.

I hope you will rent the dvd or tape, or arrange to see the tv version of PBS’s Bonhoeffer (made in 2003, and directed by Martin Doblmeier).