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Positive Christianity

The racial concept Aryan is not to be confused with early said.[3] To accord with Nazi antisemitism, Positive ChrisChristian Arianism.
tianity advocates also sought to deny the Semitic origins
Positive Christianity (German: Positives Christen- of Christ and the Bible. In such elements Positive Christianity separated itself from Christianity and is considered
apostasy by Catholics and Protestants.
Hitler was supportive of Christianity in public, yet hostile to it in private. Hitler identied as a Christian in
an April 12, 1922 speech.[4] Hitler also identied as a
Christian in Mein Kampf. However, historians, including Ian Kershaw and Laurence Rees, characterize his acceptance of the term Positive Christianity and involvement in religious policy as driven by opportunism, and a
pragmatic recognition of the political importance of the
Christian Churches in Germany.[2] Nevertheless, eorts
by the regime to impose a Nazied positive Christianity on a state controlled Protestant Reich Church essentially failed, and resulted in the formation of the dissident
Confessing Church which saw great danger to Germany
from the new religion.[5] The Catholic Church also denounced the creeds pagan myth of blood and soil in the
1937 papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge.

Flag of the German Christians, the movement associated with


Positive Christianity

The ocial Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg played an


important role in the development of positive Christianity, which he conceived in discord with both Rome
and the Protestant church, whom he called negative
Christianity.[6] Richard Steigmann-Gall queries whether
this made Rosenberg a genuine anti-Christian.[7] Rosenberg conceived of Positive Christianity as a transitional
faith and amid the failure of the regimes eorts to control Protestantism through the agency of the pro-Nazi
"German Christians", Rosenberg, along with fellow radicals Robert Ley and Baldur von Schirach backed the
German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933, neo-pagan "German Faith Movement", which more comspeech by Bishop Hossenfelder
pletely rejected Judeo-Christian conceptions of God.[8]
During the war, Rosenberg drafted a plan for the future
tum) was a movement within Nazi Germany which of religion in Germany which would see the expulsion
mixed ideas of racial purity and Nazi ideology with el- of the foreign Christian religions and replacement of the
ements of Christianity. Hitler used the term in Arti- Bible with Mein Kampf and the cross with the swastika in
cle 24[1] of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform, stating: the Nazied churches.[9]
Party represents the standpoint of Positive Christianity.
Non-denominational, the term could be variously interpreted. Positive Christianity allayed fears among Germanys Christian majority as expressed through their hos- 1 Theological and doctrinal aspects
tility towards the established churches of large sections
of the Nazi movement.[2] In 1937, Hans Kerrl, the Nazi Adherents of Positive Christianity argued that traditional
Minister for Church Aairs, explained Positive Chris- Christianity emphasized the passive rather than the actianity as not dependent upon the Apostles Creed", nor tive aspects of Christs life, stressing his miraculous birth,
in faith in Christ as the son of God", upon which Chris- his suering, his sacrice on the cross and other-worldly
tianity relied, but rather, as being represented by the Nazi redemption. They wanted to replace this doctrine with
Party: The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation, he a positive emphasis on Christ as an active preacher,
1

POSITIVE CHRISTIANITY IN NAZI IDEOLOGY

organizer and ghter who opposed the institutionalized


Judaism of his day. At various points in the Nazi regime,
attempts were made to replace conventional Christianity
with its positive alternative.

Historian Derek Hastings has written about the Catholic


roots in the nationalistic, and disaacted Catholic circles of Munich, of the explicit endorsement of 'positive Christianity' in the Nazi party Program. This group
were of both
Positive Christianity diered from orthodox Christianity helped to shape its tenets, suspicious as they[13][14]
Ultramontanism
and
Political
Catholicism.
in that Positive Christianity:
In Mein Kampf, Hitler reassured his readers that
Rejected the Jewish-written parts of the Bible (in- both Christian denominations (Catholicism and Protestantism) were valid bases for the German people, procluding the entire Old Testament)
vided the Churches did not intervene in State aairs.
Claimed "Aryanhood" and non-Jewishness for In private Hitler scorned Christianity to his friends, but
Christ
when out campaigning for power in Germany, he publicly
[12]
The most
Promoted the political objective of national unity, made statements in favour of the religion.
persuasive
explanation
of
these
statements,
wrote
Lauto overcome confessional dierences, to eliminate
rence
Rees,
is
that
Hitler,
as
a
politician,
simply
recogCatholicism, and to unite Protestantism into a single
nised the practical reality of the world he inhabited... Had
unitary Positive Christian church[10]
Hitler distanced himself or his movement too much from
Christianity it is all but impossible to see how he could
ever have been successful in a free election. Thus his re2 Origins of the idea
lationship in public to Christianity - indeed his relationship to religion in general - was opportunistic. There is
Steigmann-Gall traces the origins of Positive Christian- no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever
ity to Higher Criticism of the nineteenth century, with its expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the
emphasis on the distinction between the historical Jesus, Christian church.[2]
and the divine Jesus of theology.[11] According to some
schools of thought, the saviour-gure of orthodox Christianity was very dierent from the historical Galilean
preacher. While many such scholars sought to place Je- 3 Positive Christianity in Nazi idesus in the context of ancient Judaism, some writers reconology
structed a historical Jesus who corresponded to racialist
and anti-semitic ideology. In the writings of such antisemites as Emile Burnouf, Houston Stewart Chamberlain Positive Christianity was highly supported by the Nazi
and Paul de Lagarde, Jesus was redened as an Aryan movement, which promoted its ideals in its journals
hero who struggled against Jews and Judaism. Consistent Der Strmer and Vlkischer Beobachter, both of which
with their origins in Higher Criticism, such writers of- stressed the "Nordic" character of Jesus. However, the
ten either rejected or minimized the miraculous aspects party was careful to stress that positive Christianity was
of Gospel narratives, reducing the crucixion to a tragic not intended to be a third confession, nor to contradict
coda to Jesuss life rather than its pregured culmination. the traditional theologies of established churches. As
Both Burnouf and Chamberlain argued that the popula- early as 1920 the Nazis proclaimed in their 25-point
tion of Galilee was racially distinct from that of Judea. program that the Party as such advocates the standLagarde insisted that German Christianity must become point of a positive Christianity without binding itself
national in character.
confessionally to any one denomination. It combats
Various historians credit the origins of Positive Chris- the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us.<ref
tianity more to the political acumen and opportunism =name"MichaelRosen">Michael, Robert; Rosen, Philip
of the Nazi leadership. Leading Nazis like Himmler, (2007). Dictionary of Antisemitism from the Earliest
Rosenberg, Bormann, and Goebbels, backed by Hitler, Times to the Present. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p.
were hostile to Christianity and ultimately planned to de- 321.</ref> Despite this, a number of Nazis openly chalChristianize Germany.[9] However, Germany had been lenged the established churches.
Christian for over a thousand years, and Hitler recognized the practical reality of the political signicance of
the Churches in Germany and determined that any moves
against the churches must be made in stages. In the words
of Paul Berben, Positive Christianity therefore came to
be advocated as a term that could be overlaid with any
interpretation required, depending on the circumstances
and the party declared itself for religious freedom provided this liberty did not endanger the State or clash with
the views of the 'Germanic Race'".[12]

Alfred Rosenberg, editor of Vlkischer Beobachter, wrote


The Myth of the Twentieth Century, in which he argued
that the Catholic and Protestant churches had distorted
Christianity in such a way that the heroic and Germanic aspects of Jesuss life had been ignored. For
Rosenberg, positive Christianity was a transitional ideology that would pave the way to build a new fully racialist
faith.[15] Instead of the cross, its symbol was the orb of the
sun in the form of a sun cross and in principle it was the
elevation of the Nordic race, a rejection of divine revela-

Hanns Kerrl (center). As Reichsminister of Church Aairs, he


described Hitler as the herald of a new revelation and said that
Positive Christianity was not dependent on the Apostles Creed
or belief in Christ as the son of God.[3]

tion, and the promotion of a German god.[16] For Rosenberg the Aryan-Nordic race was divine, and god was in
the blood and its culture was the kingdom of heaven, in
contrast the Jewish race was evil and it was a satanic
counter race against the divine Aryan-Nordic race.[17]
Adolf Hitler approved of the work[16] and emphasized the
desirability of positive Christianity, yet distanced himself
from Rosenbergs more radical ideas, wishing to retain
the support of the conservative Christian electorate and
social elite.
As an aspect of Gleichschaltung, the regime planned to
nazify the Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelical
Church) by unifying the separate 28 state churches under a single national church that was controlled by the
German Christian faction. However, the subjugation
of the Protestant churches proved more dicult than
Hitler had envisaged.[18] In 1933, the German Christians wanted Nazi doctrines on race and leadership to
be applied to a Reich Church, but had only around 3000
of Germanys 17,000 pastors. In July, church leaders
submitted a constitution for a Reich Church, which the
Reichstag approved. The Church Federation proposed
the well qualied Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh
to be the new Reich Bishop, but Hitler endorsed his
friend Ludwig Mller, a Nazi and former naval chaplain, to serve as Reich Bishop. The Nazis terrorized sup-

Alfred Rosenberg, was the Fhrers Delegate for the Entire Intellectual and Philosophical Education and Instruction for the National Socialist Party. A proponent of Positive Christianity,
he planned the extermination of the foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany, and for the Bible and Christian cross to
be replaced with Mein Kampf and the swastika.[3]

porters of Bodelschwingh, and dissolved various church


organisations, ensuring the election of Mller as Reich
Bishop.[19] Mllers heretical views against St Paul and
the Semitic origins of Christ and the Bible quickly alienated sections of the Protestant church. Pastor Martin
Niemller responded with the Pastors Emergency League
which re-armed the Bible. The movement grew into
the Confessing Church, from which some clergymen opposed the Nazi regime.[18]
Ludwig Mller was elected the rst Reichsbischof of the
new Reichskirche (so-called German Evangelical Church)
in September 1933. However, the German Christians
theological initiatives[20] met with resistance from many
pastors, most notably Niemller, whose Pastors Emergency League was supported by nearly 40 percent of the
Evangelical pastors.[21][22] Following this failure, Hitler
backtracked on attempts to directly nazify the churches
and became disinterested in supporting the German
Christians.[18]
The German Faith Movement founded by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer adopted a more thoroughly Aryanized form
of the ideology, claiming to represent the essence of
the Protestant spirit by mixing aspects of Christianity

7 NOTES

with ideas derived from Aryan religions such as Vedic


Hinduism and Aryo"-Persian religiosity (Manicheanism,
etc.). They attempted to separate Nazi ocials from
church aliations, banning nativity plays and calling for
an end to daily prayers in schools.
By 1934, the Confessing Church had declared itself the
legitimate Protestant Church of Germany. Despite his
closeness to Hitler, Mller had failed to unite Protestantism in a single Nazi-dominated Church. In 1935 the
Nazis arrested 700 Confessing pastors. Mller resigned.
To instigate a new eort at coordinating the Protestant
churches, Hitler appointed another friend, Hans Kerrl to
the position of Minister for Church Aairs. A relative
moderate, Kerrl initially had some success in this regard,
but amid continuing protests by the Confessing Church
against Nazi policies, he accused churchmen of failing to
appreciate the Nazi doctrine of Race, blood and soil
and gave the following explanation of the Nazi conception of Positive Christianity, telling a group of submissive clergy:[3]
The Party stands on the basis of Positive
Christianity, and positive Christianity is National Socialism... National Socialism is the
doing of Gods will... Gods will reveals itself
in German blood... Dr Zoellner and [Catholic
Bishop of Mnster] Count Galen have tried to
make clear to me that Christianity consists in
faith in Christ as the son of God. That makes
me laugh... No, Christianity is not dependent
upon the Apostles Creed... True Christianity
is represented by the party, and the German
people are now called by the party and especially the Fuehrer to a real Christianity... the
Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation.
Hans Kerrl, Nazi Minister for Church
Aairs, 1937

Demise

The Nazi policy of interference in Protestantism did not


achieve its aims. A majority of German Protestants sided
neither with the German Christians, nor with the Confessing Church. Both groups also faced signicant internal disagreements and division. Mary Fulbrook wrote in
her history of Germany:[23]
The Nazis eventually gave up their attempt
to co-opt Christianity, and made little pretence
at concealing their contempt for Christian beliefs, ethics and morality. Unable to comprehend that some Germans genuinely wanted
to combine commitment to Christianity and
Nazism, some members of the SS even came

to view German Christians as almost more of


a threat than the Confessing Church.
Extract from the Fontana History of
Germany (1991)

With the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945, positive Christianity as a movement fell into obscurity. However it
continues to be espoused by some Christian Identity
groups.[24]

5 See also
German Christians
Nazism and Religion
Race of Jesus
Clerical fascism
Adolf Hitlers religious views
The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century
Kirchenkampf
Christian Identity
German Faith Movement

6 Further reading
Snyder, L. (1998). Encyclopedia of the Third Reich.
Wordsworth Press.
Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich:
Nazi Conceptions of Christianity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-82371-5.
Whisker, James B. (1990). The Philosophy of Alfred
Rosenberg. Noontide Press. ISBN 978-0-93948225-2.

7 Notes
[1] NSDAP Party Program. 24 February 1920, Point 24:
We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger
its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic
race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to
any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic
spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting
recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on
the framework: The good of the state before the good of
the individual. Robert Michael; Philip Rosen (2007).
Dictionary of Antisemitism from the Earliest Times to the
Present. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 321.

[2] Laurence Rees (2012). The Dark Charisma of Adolf


Hitler. Ebury Press. p. 135.
[3] William L. Shirer (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich. London: Secker & Warburg. pp. 23839.
[4] Hitler, Adolf. Munich - Speech of April 12, 1922. Internet Archive. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
[5] Paul Berben (1975). Dachau: The Ocial History 19331945. London: Norfolk Press. pp. 13941. ISBN 085211-009-X.
[6] Alfred Rosenberg. Jewish Virtual Library (AmericanIsraeli Cooperative Enterprise). Retrieved 19 May 2015.
[7] Hexham, Irving (2007). Inventing 'Paganists: a Close
Reading of Richard Steigmann-Galls the Holy Reich.
Journal of Contemporary History (SAGE Publications) 42
(1): 5978. doi:10.1177/0022009407071632.
[8] Aycoberry, Pierre (1999). The Social History of the Third
Reich. New York: The New Press. p. 191.
[9] William L. Shirer (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich. London: Secker & Warburg. p. 240.
[10] Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1351.
[11] Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 8, 33.
[12] Paul Berben (1975). Dachau: The Ocial History 19331945. London: Norfolk Press. p. 138. ISBN 0-85211009-X.
[13] Hastings, Derek. Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism:
Religious Identity and National Socialism. chapters one
and two
[14] Ericksen, Robert P. Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches
and Universities in Nazi Germany. p. 50.
[15] Spicer, Kevin (2007). Antisemitism, Christian ambivalence, and the Holocaust. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 301.
[16] Joseph Biesinger (1 January 2006). Germany: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase
Publishing. pp. 629. ISBN 978-0-8160-7471-6. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
[17] Maier, Hans; Schfer, Michael (24 December 2007).
Totalitarianism and Political Religions, Volume II: Concepts for the Comparison Of Dictatorships. Psychology
Press. pp. 219. ISBN 978-0-203-93542-2. Retrieved
1 April 2013.
[18] Kershaw, Ian. Hitler a Biography (2008 ed.). London:
WW Norton & Company. pp. 29597.
[19] William L. Shirer (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich. London: Secker & Warburg. pp. 23438.
[20] These pro-Nazi initiatives included the introduction of the
Aryan paragraph, which would exclude converted Jews,
and the attempt to dispense with the Old Testament in
church services.

[21] Overy, Richard James (2004). The Dictators: Hitlers Germany and Stalins Russia. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
pp. 28384. ISBN 0-393-02030-4.
[22] Stackelberg, Roderick (2007). The Routledge Companion
to Nazi Germany. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-30860-7.
[23] Mary Fulbrook (1991). The Fontana History of Germany
1918-1990 The Divided Nation. Fontana Press. p. 81.
[24] Downey, Mark (2009). Kinsman Redeemer Church:
Positive Christianity. Kinsman Redeemer Ministries. Retrieved 19 May 2015.

8 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

8.1

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Positive Christianity Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_Christianity?oldid=686723414 Contributors: The Anome, Paul Barlow, Choster, Andrewman327, Dogface, Omegatron, AnonMoos, EliasAlucard, Bender235, Lycurgus, Orangemarlin, Arthena, Goldom,
Je3000, Rjwilmsi, Musical Linguist, Str1977, Kinneyboy90, SigPig, Gadget850, Sardanaphalus, SmackBot, Jagged 85, Hardyplants, Kintetsubualo, Hibernian, Yakuman, Sct72, Savidan, John D. Croft, Mchavez, Giovanni33, Writtenonsand, Bytwerk, Makyen, CharlesMartel,
Hpfan1, CmdrObot, Treybien, R-41, Spylab, Thijs!bot, Al Lemos, Professor33, Puddhe, Sf67, R'n'B, Alexb102072, Bice, Rumiton, David
Marjanovi, AlleborgoBot, NHRHS2010, StAnselm, Vanished user ewsn2348tui2f8n2o2utjfeoi210r39jf, ImageRemovalBot, ClueBot,
Mild Bill Hiccup, PixelBot, Mitsein, Kakofonous, Csprrr, Alexander Tendler, Borock, MystBot, Addbot, Jafeluv, Yobot, AnomieBOT, Citation bot, Ulf Heinsohn, Sayerslle, SixBlueFish, Ozhistory, In ictu oculi, Dewritech, JanvonBismarck, ZroBot, ClueBot NG, Goose friend,
Helpful Pixie Bot, Marcocapelle, Oct13, BattyBot, Oh, Rupert loup, Excellentman9999, The MVP Prodigy, David-tgt, Connymenzel,
The Average Wikipedian, User000name and Anonymous: 49

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