If made-for-T.V. movies and documentaries are any indication of the public's interest and fascination with a subject, then Adolph Hitler is the subject liberals are most fascinated with. Seldom does a week go by without some special on the Führer. Yet for all their fascination with Hitler, the liberals have no understanding of his life or of what he represents.
It used to strike me as strange that the liberals had so little understanding of Hitler, but then I realized that in order for the liberals to understand him and the Nazi phenomenon, they would have to examine their own metaphysic. This they dare not do, because their metaphysic, although diverging at a fork in the road, emanates from the same city as Hitler's metaphysic.
Hitler was not some alien monster from outer space, nor was he a gangster like Stalin or a barbarian like Idi Amin. Hitler was a pagan, as Julian the Apostate was a pagan. Hitler was raised by a devout Catholic mother and an indifferent Catholic father. His childhood was not an unhappy one, but the Christian vision did not inspire him. In this he was not unlike other Austrian and German youths of the early 1900s – Christianity did not inspire them either.
"If men will not have a religion of Christ," William Blake told us, "they will have a religion of Satan." Hitler chose one of Satan's religions for his own, much like his fellow apostate countrymen. The only difference between the apostate Hitler and his apostate countrymen was that he was totally devoted to his new religion, while most of them were indifferent apostates. Hitler chose, like Nietzsche and Wagner (whom he adored), the religion of the ancient Greeks. Of course I don't mean he literally adopted the entire Greek pantheon of gods as his own, but that he adopted pagan naturalism as his own. He sought a return to the gods of the hunt, the field, and the stream. Hitler believed that Christianity had emasculated the German people, and that he, Adolph Hitler, could bring them back to their former glory. This is a very old heresy; the previously-mentioned Julian the Apostate wanted to do the same thing for the Roman empire, namely, restore the empire to its pre-Christian, glory days.
Is this, then, the reason the liberals hate Hitler? Because he wanted to destroy Christianity? Of course not. The liberals also want to destroy Christianity. Do they hate him because he killed a great number of people? No, they do not hate him for that reason either. Stalin and Mao Tse-tung killed more people than Hitler, and the liberals do not hate them. In addition, the liberals have killed more people than Stalin and Mao by way of legalized abortion. So, a little blood for a great cause does not appall the liberals. What does appall them is an anti-Christian ideology that opposes their own anti-Christian ideology. Hitler and the liberals are fighting cousins. What the liberals object to in Hitler is his preference for the racial myth over the liberals' egalitarian, universalist myth.
I think Hitler failed because he did not understand the European people. You can sway most, if not all, non-white cultures by simply appealing to their lust for power. "Follow me and I'll make our race the dominant race in the world," says the non-white demagogue. But white people need something more to inspire them. The pagan Europeans who conquered Rome had power; they had the world in their hands and they found it lacking in substance. They needed something more. And they found something more in the God-Man.
Hitler couldn’t mobilize enough European support because he failed to frame his heresy in the form that Europeans were used to. The democratic heresy and the Marxist heresy, because they were post-Christian heresies, were more appealing to the bulk of the European people. So the post-Christian democracies joined with the post-Christian communists to defeat Hitler.
Personally, I prefer the manliness of Hitler's victory-or-death paganism to Stalin's and Roosevelt's slimy universalism, but that, for a Christian, is not really the point. A Christian is not permitted to choose the lesser of two evils. The proper Christian response during World War II should have consisted of a two-front war, against Russian communism (and its twin sister, American democracy) on the one front, and against Hitler's paganism on the other front. But two-front wars are difficult; only a resolute Christian warrior can maintain such a war. We all tend to pick the lesser of two evils and join in with the more congenial devil. But Christians should know better. In the pre-war days of Hitler's era, the historical record shows that the upper ranks of the pro-monarchy, Austrian-German nobility did know better. They opposed Hitler and the Marxists. (It seems there is some advantage to having a European cultural education that includes more than the catechism. After all, Hitler knew his catechism.)
It is something that gives one pause, this very human tendency to make a pact with the lesser devil. I've never seen it work. The Christian Democratic parties in Latin America and Europe are a disgrace, and I needn't mention the slimy, now largely defunct Christian Coalition in our own country. It is much better to go down fighting a large group of anti-Christian enemies arrayed against you than to be stabbed in the back by a coalition member who suddenly, on the day of battle, decides he hates you more than his other enemy. Or better yet, when one's prayers are pure, because they are not soiled by the desire to please unbelievers, perhaps God will give the victory to the few. Who knows? It's happened before.
Are we now too far afield from the late Führer of the Third Reich? I think not. Hitler is a man we dare not make common cause with, but let us not be deceived into thinking his enemies are creatures of light. They reside in the same city as Hitler – the City of Man-without-God. The Marxist and the Americanist are moving toward a secularized Zion; their eschatology is similar to Christianity except (and the exception is everything) for the absence of Christ. And Hitler bids us return to the Sturm und Drang of paganism.
Hitler seems like the lesser of two evils because, after all, at least in paganism there is a reverence for nature and for something outside of man. Yes, but we must realize that Hitler's paganism, was a post-Christian paganism. The ancient pagan was stuck with paganism until the God-Man came to destroy the pagan gods. Hitler chose the pagan gods over Christ. That is a crucial distinction which we should always have before us. Hitler, if he truly knew Christianity, would not have rejected Christ. In addition, if he truly knew paganism, he would have embraced Christ. Why? Because the two greatest lights of pagan culture – Sophocles and Virgil – both told anyone who bothered to read them that life was meaningless without a God that stood above nature, who guaranteed the spiritual continuance of every creature doomed to go the way of pure nature. Sophocles and Virgil bore witness to the eternal qualities of the human personality. If there was no Christ, then there was nothing but the hell of dumb nature without the life-giving spirit.
In both Oedipus at Colonus
and The Aenid
there are indications that Sophocles and Virgil intuited the coming of the Messiah. If Hitler had really understood pagan antiquity, he would have rejoiced to have lived to see the coming of the Lord, and he would have wielded the sword on behalf of Christian Germany instead of Nietzsche's Übermensch.
Unlike the liberals, I have not had a life-long fascination with Hitler, but a good biography of him by Marlis Steinert (Hitler
, W. W. Norton, 1997) has set me thinking about the man, or actually I should say, about the boy. It is the young Hitler, not the Führer, who interests me. He had depth of soul; he was not as far gone (and I mean this sincerely) as many students I have had. Hitler had a great thirst for beauty and for the transcendent. He was neither a sadist nor a sensualist. And a boy with Hitler's thirst for beauty is easier to reach than a modern student who has no such thirst.
The question is, why did Hitler find his vision of the Third Reich more beautiful than the Christian faith? Well, there is free will, and Hitler ultimately bears the responsibility for his rejection of Christianity, but he was not alone in his rejection. Europeans have for the most part followed Hitler in this rejection of Christianity. They have not all followed Hitler's way, but most have pursued their own godless courses. In Hitler's case, I wonder if the case for Christianity was ever presented to him; was he ever exposed to Chateaubriand's "The Faith is true because it is beautiful" form of apologetics? Was he ever taught that what was good in German culture, including the half-pagan, half-Christian Wagner, was a product of Christian culture? I doubt it.
The sad fact is that when the Christian faith is presented in only a catechistical way, it does seem to be a great polluter of life. Many Christians seem to feel that just as poetry had no place in Plato's Republic, it has no place in the Christian churches. But that is throwing the baby out with the bath water, as the saying goes. The poetic of Christianity is the soul of Christianity. If we take out the beautiful and true story of Christ's death and resurrection in favor of a stripped-down, streamlined version more compatible with the bureaucratic-structured man of today, what will be left of Christianity?
Again, Hitler must answer for his own soul as we all must some day, but I, at the risk of being completely misunderstood, must claim that what I see in Hitler's soul, as evil as it was, is not half as frightening as what I see in the souls of so many of our modern "educated" young people. How can it be otherwise – their gods are even more fearsome than Hitler's pagan gods.
The Hitler movies will keep coming. The liberals need him. They need him to continually prove to the world that they, the liberals, are necessary. Without them, the liberals tell us, we will all either become Nazis or be killed by Nazis.
But the dirty little secret that the liberals hide even from themselves is that Hitler is their child. He does not live in the sanctuaries of the right-wing Christians; he lives with the liberals. And they remain fascinated and appalled by Hitler because he is their own wayward child. They are like the free-love advocate who is appalled when his daughter actually practices what he teaches. "Christ is not risen," scream the liberals.
"Then I will resurrect the old German gods," Hitler replies.
"Why wasn't he able to settle for wine-and-cheese parties?" the liberals lament.
The legions of Satan are diverse; once you have rejected Christ, there is no rule that you must choose the politically-correct version of Satanism. Hitler's great sin was that he chose Apollo over Christ, and his minor virtue was that he was not politically correct.
Labels: paganism, poetic vision, post-Christian rationalism