Can The Religious Right Please Stop With The Nazi Comparisons?

Ever since the Religious Right drafted and released The Manhattan Declaration in 2009, the authors and supporters of the document has made no bones about the fact that they believe themselves to be courageous heroes in the mold of those who resisted the Nazis in Germany.

And just in case the analogy had not yet been made crystal clear, co-author Timothy George has an essay in the Spring edition of Beeson magazine [PDF] in which he explicitly links the Manhattan Declaration to the Barmen Declaration, the 1934 statement by the Confessing Church standing in opposition to the Nazi take over of the German church.

George admits that “the plight of the church in North America today, serious as it is, is not analogous to the repression Jews, Christians and many others experienced in Hitler’s Germany,” but then proceeds to explain how the Manhattan Declaration and the Barmen Declaration are two sides of the same coin:

First, both Barmen and the MD appeal to the authority of Holy Scripture. Each offers quotations from the Bible as the theological basis of its statements. Each recognizes that the Christian faith can be, and often has been, distorted by accommodation to the “prevailing ideological and political convictions” of the day. Thus, it is not surprising that both Barmen and Manhattan have been controversial. Each document subscribes the claim of Jesus in John 14:6, an assertion that demands a decision: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Second, neither Barmen nor Manhattan are “political” statements in the sense of being tied to a particular political party or ideology. The MD has been signed by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike. Some say today that the church should take a sabbatical from speaking to the culture at large. Hitler himself was happy (at least for a while) to leave the Christians alone so long as they stayed within the four walls of their church buildings and refrained from “meddling” in matters related to public policy and the common life of the German people. But both Barmen and Manhattan refuse to say that there are areas of life which do not belong to Jesus Christ. Both affirm the sovereignty of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Finally, both Barmen and Manhattan are more than mere statements of academic discourse. They are not mere declarations of religious opinion. Both are movements of the Spirit and calls to commitment. Stefanie von Mackensen, the only woman delegate at Barmen, later said that she had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit sweep the room when the Barmen Declaration was unanimously adopted and the congregation rose and sang spontaneously, “Now Thank We All Our God.” Both Barmen and Manhattan recognize “the cost of discipleship.” Both call for the kind of conscientious courage that dares to count the cost of following Jesus Christ along the way that leads finally to the cross.

Give the apparently profound significance of the document, I feel compelled to point once again that organizers of the Manhattan Declaration expected to secure one million signatures on the document within a month of its release.  It was now been over a year and a half … and they have not even received half that.