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The Evangelical Left’s Nazi Obsession By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 30, 2008

David Gushee is a rising star of the Evangelical Left, having helped persuade the increasingly left-leaning National Association of Evangelicals last year to condemn "torture" by the U.S.  More recently, in September, he helped host an anti-torture [by the U.S.] symposium for religious activists at historically Baptist Mercer University in Georgia, where he is a Christian ethicist.

“The great majority of European Christians proved to be bystanders, neither helping the Nazis nor helping the Jews,” Gushee announced to the National Religious Summit on Torture, according to Associated Baptist Press.  He likened American Evangelicals to these passive Europeans who were quiet during the Holocaust.  Gushee had unveiled to the conference a poll showing that most southern Evangelicals supposedly support U.S. torture against terrorist suspects -- or at least they do until the pollster helpfully reminded them of Christianity's Golden Rule.

In typical fashion, Gushee declines to define "torture," but prefers to label it with all aggressive U.S. interrogation techniques, whether authorized or not, over the last 7 years.  Under this wide allegation of officially sanctioned U.S. torture, Gushee seems to sweepingly include Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, shouting, loud music, and the occasional lap dance or brassiere imposed on Guantanamo prisoners.

Gushee declines morally to distinguish between physical torture that remains illegal under U.S. law, and more nebulous interrogation techniques employed with terrorist suspects not covered by Miranda rights or the Geneva Convention.  Evangelicals and others who decline to join his blanket denunciation of the U.S. are somehow akin to Holocaust enablers.

Evidently liking the Nazi era analogy, Gushee employed it again in a recent article for Evangelicals for Social Acton.  He recalled that his visit to Auschwitz "clarified for me what matters most in Christian public engagement." As an example, he cited American Christians' "misuse" of Just War Theory, a "common 'worst practice'" that facilitated the "misbegotten Iraq War and that "happens in the run-up to just about every U.S. war." 

Like much of the Evangelical Left, Gushee prefers to deny that he is pacifist, while refusing to admit that Christianity's traditional Just War Teachings would ever properly allow for any military force under any circumstance, but especially by the U.S.  "Partly because of the  abuse of JWT [Just War Teachings], we are a church that can’t 'just say no,'" Gushee complained.  "That is a violation of the teachings of Jesus and thus a failure of discipleship."

In his column for the left-leaning evangelical newsletter, Gushee described Nazism's mass murders of Jews and the inability of European Christians to stop them.  Today, Europe's churches are mostly empty, thanks partly to Christianity's moral failures during the Holocaust, he wrote.  To avoid repeating that generation's calamity, today's Christians must set aside "internal church theological disputes" and "numerical growth efforts," which are "provisional" and interruptible," in favor of addressing "war, genocide, abortion, ecological disasters, hunger, crime, and every other worldly evil that takes or threatens human life."

Gushee's recollection of Holocaust history is spotty.  The morally blind European Christians of 60 and 70 years ago who pretended to ignore Nazi crimes were hardly akin to socially conservative American evangelicals.  Prior to Hitler's rise, much of European Christianity, especially German Protestantism, had already been eviscerated by revisionist liberal theology that made it ripe for exploitation by semi-pagan fascists.  American evangelicals, for decades if not centuries, have been moral crusaders, vigorously opposing Soviet communism during the Cold War, supporting Israel against Arab fascists and Islamists, and advocating human rights and religious liberty in places like Islamist Sudan and communist North Korea.

But Gushee and much of the Evangelical Left prefer to draw lines between the moral lepers of German-occupied Europe and today's American evangelicals who do not share the Left's harsh critique of America.  Most American evangelicals understand that the moral failures of Abu Ghraib do not equal Auschwitz, and U.S. missteps in Iraq do not equal a single hour of the horrors of Europe 1940-1945.

Insulated Evangelical Left activists, many of them tenured faculty, tend to imagine that the world's worst villians are mindless conservative American evangelicals who support the U.S. War on Terror.  At his September anti-torture conference, Gushee denounced a "broader evangelical authoritarianism -- especially in our most conservative quarters -- that elevates the role of the man over his family, the male pastor over his church, the president over his nation and our nation over the rest of the world." 

In other words, conservative American Evangelicals resemble the Taliban, except that the multiculturally sensitive Evangelical Left would probably be loathe to denounce the Taliban by name.  "All of these authorities are viewed as having been put into place by God and as answerable primarily or only to God," Gushee alleged of American evangelicals.  "The kind of checks and balances provided by democratic constitutionalism, the wisdom of other nations and international law are devalued."

American Christians are also bigots, Gushee implied.  "It is clear to me from the nature of conservative evangelical discourse about Islam and terrorism that many evangelicals after 9/11 perceived Islam as an intrinsically dangerous religion and Muslims as the enemy of both America and Christianity -- as the international cultural ‘other,’” he bemoaned, as quoted by Associated Baptist Press.  "Late-20th-century white evangelicals have often acted as if justice and human rights are strange, alien, irreligious concepts imported from the Enlightenment," Gushee sanctimoniously surmised.

Gushee regretted that American Evangelicals too often were left with "weak antennae for sensing injustices in society."  Perhaps, he fancies himself a sort of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, bravely resisting the Leviathan's oppressions while other supposed Christians are morally "weak." 

In fact, much of today's Evangelical Left resembles the clueless religious pacifists who filled American seminaries and some prominent pulpits  in the 1920's and 1930's.  Certain that World War I had proved that all military force was wrong, and obsessed with the real and imagined flaws of their own country, these now discredited theologians ignored or dismissed the nearly cosmic threats to the West posed by rising Bolshevism and Fascism.   

Fortunately, most American Evangelicals have greater appreciation for the greatness of America's "democratic constitutionalism," and more discernment of the true threats against it, than than do their condescending Evangelical Left critics.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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