Why Did German Protestants Support Hitler?
Horton and contemporary Reformed two kingdoms theologians agree that the church must preach the whole counsel of God, declaring racism to be heretical, marriage to be between a man and a woman, and the life of the unborn to be inviolable. But they insist that the church must distinguish between our politics and God's law to avoid just the sort of politicization of the church that occurred in 1930s Germany. This is in contrast to the project of American Vision, which involves a worked out synthesis between Christianity and a very concrete political ideology. McDurmon reveals his hand at the end of his essay, when he compares those who do not support his brand of conservative politics with those who failed to resist the Nazis.
When the government protects abortions, when the government demands Christian businesses fund abortifacients against Christian conscience, when the government maintains standing armies and unnecessary foreign invasions, oppressive levels of debt and taxation, 70,000 pages of unread new regulations every year, fiat money and monopoly control over it, massive entitlements built on debt secured by the labor of our children and grandchildren . . . the list could go on . . . When the government does these things, it is the job of Christians and of the church to "maintain a prophetic stance" against the civil realm and declare those things as ungodly and tyrannical. To avoid this task, or to condemn others for performing this task, is to be the practical equivalent of the German Evangelicals described above. (emphasis added)
McDurmon wants the church to use its prophetic voice to promote the sort of politics he thinks will "restore America to its biblical foundations." No doubt he believes his particular political perspective is scriptural. But I suspect most Christians would interpret McDurmon's political theology somewhat less graciously.
The German experience under Hitler is certainly a warning to the church not to tailor its proclamation in misplaced allegiance to the policies of an evil regime. But at an even more basic level, it is a warning to the church not to allow its witness to be subverted by human political ideologies at all. For politicization reduces the church's moral credibility; it does not strengthen it.
Far too much of the legacy of Christendom is the tragic way in which Christians have used the church and its religion to support their own oppressive politics and misguided ideologies. Christians' moral and political authority has deservedly weakened. For the sake of the gospel and the church's witness contemporary Reformed two kingdoms theologians warn the church against confusing its mission with political ideology, and against conflating its allegiance to Christ with its allegiance to secular powers. They rightly call the church to its fundamental mission of preaching Christ to a sinful world. Perhaps that wouldn't have been such a bad foundation for German Protestants under Hitler after all.
Matthew J. Tuininga is a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society at Emory University, currently writing his dissertation on John Calvin's two kingdoms doctrine. He is a licensed exhorter in the United Reformed Churches of North America and he blogs at www.matthewtuininga.wordpress.com.