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Why The Deification Of Donald Trump By Right-Wing Christians Reminds Of Hitler Germany

2018 State of the Union (by The White House via Wikimedia Commons)

"Our Lord has made us free by sending us a man like Adolf Hitler as a leader," said Arnold Gustavs, pastor in the small northern German island of Hiddensee, in one of his sermons in the 1930s. "Heil Hitler! we shout. And day after day millions of arms are raised for this salute, and millions of lips speak out these words ... We often read the word Heil ['salvation', 'hail'] in the Old and the New Testament: but salvation is always given by God. Therefore, when we say Heil Hitler!, we wish him God's salvation. This salute is actually a prayer, for we pray that God save this man, our Führer, that he protect and bless him, that he give him the helmet of salvation so that he may bravely carry on the struggle for the renewal of the German people." 

Pastor Gustavs was only one of many church leaders in Nazi Germany who enthusiastically supported Hitler, and who portrayed him as a messiah and saviour. Indeed, National Socialism had from its very beginning a strong religious component. Many of Hitler's supporters openly drew on biblical themes and language to articulate their devotion and their belief in him.

In 1925 Joseph Goebbels, who would later become Germany's propaganda Minister, wrote: "I am about to finish reading Hitler's book [Mein Kampf]. I am terribly excited! Who is this man? Half plebeian, half God! Is he really Christ, or only John?" (quoted in: Politische Religion und Religionspolitik, edited by Gerhard Besier, Hermann Lübbe, p. 64, my translation).

In a 1932 speech Julius Streicher, publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer and of anti-Semitic children's books, said: "We National Socialists believe that Adolf Hitler is the emissary of a new Germany! We believe that he has been sent by God to liberate Germany from bloodsucking Alljuda. This is about the redemption of the German people, and the redemption of the world" (ibid., p. 65, my translation).

Paul Schmidt, Hitler's chief interpreter, used religious themes to describe the experience of the Nuremberg party conferences: "I always noticed the expression of nearly biblical devotion and of rapture on people's faces when they looked at Hitler," he said.

Munich Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, after whom to this day a street in Munich is named, wrote to Hitler: "We say sincerely: God save our Chancellor for our people." And the evangelical Bishop of Mecklenburg Heinrich Rendtorff called Hitler "the leader sent to us by God" and became a member of the Nazi Party.

Pastor Ludwig Müller, also a member of the Nazi Party, was head of the German Christian Movement that sought to incorporate Nazi ideology into Christianity, purge the Church of all Jewish elements, and promote Hitler's personality cult. In 1934 he said: "We must emphasize with all decisiveness that Christianity did not grow out of Judaism but developed in opposition to Judaism ... There is no bond between them, rather the sharpest opposition."

In 1933 Müller was nominated Reich Bishop, the head of the Reich Church, which was formed when the government ordered all of Germany’s 29 regional Protestant churches to merge. 

In the late 1930s Australian author Stephen H. Roberts wrote: "Müller marched through the door on which Martin Luther had posted his theses and stood in Luther's own pulpit to read out his programme for the Lutheran Church to act as the handservant of National Socialism. His talk was of Christian soldiers, of crusaders in a new age. Indeed, this typifies the man. Hitler's first bishop has the mentality of a soldier" (Stephen H. Roberts, The House That Hitler Built, 1938, p. 271).

During the Nazi era, churches were built which were decorated with Nazi symbols and insignia. One famous example is the Martin-Luther Memorial Church (Martin-Luther-Gedächtniskirche) in Berlin, which was inaugurated in 1935. The Nazi swastikas, which were still there a few years ago, have meanwhile been removed. But depictions of SA-soldiers and the imperial eagle can still be seen. 

German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933, speech by Bishop Hossenfelder (Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons)

Hitler supporters sent him letters, describing him as a 'saviour' and 'liberator', and as having been 'sent to the Germans by God' (see Volker Koop, Gedichte für Hitler: Zeugnisse von Wahn und Verblendung im "Dritten Reich").

Was Hitler's personality cult nothing but madness? Is it still relevant today? Only a few years ago, most people would have argued that the deification of political figures was a thing of the past, belonging to a dark age that would never return. And yet, we are seeing nowadays a similar phenomenon, we are witnessing the re-emergence of a false Christian narrative that corrupts the Bible to serve a political agenda, to defend and promote a political ideology that has nothing to do with religion.

In November 2017 Stephen Strang, a Pentecostal figure and the publisher of Charisma Magazine, published a book titled God and Donald Trump

"Christian leaders I respect have told me he [Trump] is a chosen vessel being used by God despite his flaws," Strang wrote. "Like General Patton, they said, he is a man with a heaven-sent mission, and the rough edges, crusty language, and arrogance are essential aspects of his character and force of will."

Strang's book was described by Politico as "part spiritual hagiography, part Fox News bulletin and part prophecy."

At a July 2017 event First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress declared: "Millions of Americans believe the election of President Trump represented God giving us another chance—perhaps our last chance to truly make America great again.”

In a sermon given the week of Trump's inauguration at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, Jeffress said: "The first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall. God instructed Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack. You see, God is not against building walls!"

In August 2017 he defended Trump's 'fire and fury' tweet directed at North Korea's dictator: "In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un," Jeffress told CBN News. 

He also justified Trump's 's***hole countries' comment: "Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment. As individual Christians, we have a biblical responsibility to place the needs of others above our own, but as commander in chief, President Trump has the constitutional responsibility to place the interests of our nation above the needs of other countries," Jeffress told the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I'm grateful we have a president like Donald Trump who clearly understands that distinction and has the courage to protect the well-being of our nation."

Alabama Pastor John Kilpatrick compared Trump to King David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, to justify his moral flaws.

"David committed adultery and had a man killed," Kilpatrick said in a sermon on August 26 at the Church of His Presence in Daphne. "God left him as king of Israel."

Like many evangelicals, Kilpatrick does not deny Trump's unethical behaviour, but he argues that Trump is God's chosen man to advance the agenda of right-wing Christians:

"He has defended the womb," Kilpatrick said. "The president has taken a stand for life. Second, the president has taken up for Israel and has declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Third, he has chosen Supreme Court justices - that's going to turn this nation around. Those three things are why the spirit of Jezebel hates him and wants him out. We may be on the verge of the greatest revival this world has ever seen."

"If the Lord put him in an office, the Lord will sustain him in an office. You better be careful that you don't lay a hand on him," Kilpatrick said. 

Fake Christians are using the name of God to create a personality cult around Trump in order to further their political objectives: an intolerant, white supremacist, kleptocratic agenda based on identity and privilege. 

Just like those Christians who supported Hitler, fake Christians today are unabashedly corrupting and distorting religion for political purposes, pretending to be the messengers of God, to interpret his will - and thus are not only lying to themselves and their fellow Christians, but are also perverting their own faith. 

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