Strange New Thoughts

The place where I slam down gauntlets and pick up the pieces.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mein Kampf, Mein Foot

A few years ago while browsing the video store I saw a title that intrigued me, as it would any WWII buff: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I rented it and watched in fascinated horror as Adolf Hitler hypnotized and enslaved a nation, made that nation a weapon of mass destruction, and finally destroyed it and took the coward’s way out through suicide. As I surveyed the ruins of Germany and the grisly legacy of the Nazi death camps, I had to ask myself, “How could so many people have been so deceived?”

As a teenager I once tried to read a few pages of Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), but I found it surprisingly dry and ideological for having been written by a screaming lunatic. In fact, the only words I remember having read were “The Jew is not a human being”. Hmm, Groucho Marx, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg - not human? The apostle Paul, Moses, Jesus? Maybe he meant “not human” in the sense that Tiger Woods or Eddie Van Halen or Stephen Hawking are so good at what they do that the rest of us “mere mortals” can’t relate.

Yeah, right. Hitler standing in awestruck admiration of Einstein, forgetting for the moment the latter’s Jewishness. Sorry, just kidding. A being so consumed with hatred and bitterness as Hitler was doesn’t go around looking for the good in people. No, his meaning was all too clear for such a frivolous interpretation, and I apologize to my readers for being so silly.

Having seen the Third Reich video, I promptly went to the Internet, where I knew that, for whatever reason, Hitler’s book, boring and deadly, would be found. I downloaded a few chapters and forced myself to read them, finding much that had eluded me as a schoolboy.

Hitler could never have so captivated and controlled Germany if he’d been merely a bad person. No, he had amazing, God-given powers of communication that could have been as easily used for good as for evil; we all know which direction he chose. And he was intelligent, amazingly intelligent; I doubt whether many of us could have withstood him in a debate. (There is a pattern here; most of the Aryan supremacists I have known have been intellectual types who allowed their minds to descend into poisonous cunning.)

For those who dare to match wits with an evil genius, a few chapters of Mein Kampf will be a worthy opponent. It’s all so reasonable, so matter-of-fact, so well informed. Or so it seems. Hitler knew firsthand the downtrodden state of Europe between the wars, the depressed economy that paralleled America’s at the time. And because of the prominent Jewish role in European economy and culture, it was easy enough for Hitler to make the Jews a plausible scapegoat. He does it point by point, in black and white, without screaming or thrashing about or stomping his jackboot. (That would come later.)

History shows how Hitler’s arrogant disregard of strategic reality cost him countless victories, how his obsession with exterminating Europe’s Jews cost him incalculable resources whose proper allocation against the Allies might have given his war machine the upper hand. But if we look deeper into his appalling folly, we’ll see more than just poor military strategy, hardheaded overconfidence, and creeping insanity.

I wish to suggest that Hitler’s single biggest mistake was ideological, spiritual, even theological in nature: He didn’t know the Word of God.

Oh sure, we’re told that Jehovah’s Witnesses know the Bible better than we do. We find ourselves embroiled in arguments with marginals and fanatics who belch chapters and verses like machine gun fire. But the Word of God isn’t scripture wrenched from its context and twisted into whatever shape happens to suit the twister. “The Word of God is living and active…” (Hebrews 4:12) It’s alive. Jesus is the Word.

But Hitler didn’t even know the Bible the way many marginals do, brandishing verses calculated to prove a point that would never stand up to real scrutiny. He instead made statements about the Jews that fly in the face of Scripture. Statements that challenge the most basic morality. Statements that targeted the apple of God’s eye for systematic extermination.

To so flagrantly slam down the gauntlet at God’s feet is the most extreme folly. Especially when it affects millions upon millions of other people. You might as well try bringing down an F-14 with a flyswatter. Hitler could not possibly have made a worse mistake than to go after God’s chosen people, and his whole country paid the price of going along with his idea. To die for a noble cause is not folly; to die for the wildly mistaken notion that “We’re the Master Race” is not merely to die, it is to bring catastrophic ruin on your country and others’ countries for no good reason at all.

My experience as a missionary working in at least fifteen different countries gives me a perspective Hitler could never have had (not that he would have had the clarity to see it.) In Mein Kampf he declares the “inferiority” not only of Jews, but of Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, etc., Well, Adolf, you may be Superman, but wherever I go in the world, I find myself surrounded by my betters and superiors. I know Colombians and Nigerians and Indonesians and Mexicans and Egyptians who are smarter than I am, nicer, cooler, stronger, wiser, better educated, more talented, more fun, more technologically advanced, more creative, more generous, and better looking. (That last one wouldn’t be too hard. And I even have blond hair and blue eyes! Shouldn’t that count for something?)

By the way, if the way we look on the outside is of such importance as the Aryan supremacists say it is, then Hitler is already in trouble. (His astounding evil generally overshadows the fact that he was one of the most hilarious looking people of the last century.) Well relax, mein Führer - God doesn’t look at outside appearances, He looks at the heart!

Wait a minute. In that case, Adolf, maybe you’re better off with Him looking at your outside appearance. It’s the only smile you’re likely to get out of Him anytime in Eternity.

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