The question is worth asking. Even Whoopi Goldberg has an opinion. Her logic, speaking on The View
, wasn't exactly impeccable, but there's certainly an argument to be made in favour of the proposition.
Hitler was raised Catholic and remained a member all through his life.
He was never excommunicated and his opus, Mein Kamf
, was never put on the church's index of banned books.
Hitler even claimed on a number of occasions to be a Christian. "My Christian feeling directs me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter...As a Christian I do not have the duty to allow the wool to be pulled over my eyes, but I have the duty to be a fighter for the truth and for what is right...As a Christian I also have a duty toward my own people."
It's hard not to draw a parallel with Donald Trump, a man many regard as the antithesis of Christianity and yet is a member in good standing in the Presbyterian church.
Which leads me back to Anthony Le Donne's post on Trump
at The Jesus Blog
. Here's the opening paragraph, substituting Hitler for Trump and changing the tense.
Adolf Hitler was a Catholic. He may well have been the most famous Catholic in the world at the time. Does this make Hitler a Christian? Well, I suppose, sort of…. yeah. As a Catholic myself, I would like to make a distinction between identity and representation. In other words, someone can be a Christian (e.g. many Nazis were) and not represent Christianity.
Does that work for you? Or how about this adaptation...
If someone claims a label—especially when that label represents an ideology—it is difficult to prove otherwise. But few will doubt that Hitler’s emphasis of his Christianity was political expediency... We should not commit the sin that American xenophobes did in claiming that Obama is not really a Christian... Rather we should acknowledge that there are Christians who do not, by their words or actions, represent Christianity.
Some may object to drawing a comparison between Trump and Hitler, but the issue is still relevant; what to think about someone who claims to be something when they fail, in your view, to meet essential criteria. That 'someone' could be a politician, an End Times televangelist, or just the guy next door who yells at his kids. (Of course, there are fundamentalists who would deny that Catholics could possibly be true Christians anyway. These are likely to be the very same people who respond most enthusiastically to Trump-like rhetoric).
Hitler was opposed in Germany by many Catholic organisations and public figures.
In the Spring of 1931, a Catholic Reichstag representative, Karl Trossman, published a best-selling book entitled Hitler and Rome, in which he described the National Socialists as a "brutal party that would do away with all the rights of the people"... Not long after, the Catholic author Alfons Wild... proclaimed that "Hitler's view of the world is not Christianity but the message of race, a message that does not proclaim peace and justice but rather violence and hate. (Cornwell, Hitler's Pope, p.110)
Similar warnings are being sounded today among thoughtful Christians, though the 'rank and file', as in Hitler's day, doesn't seem to be especially paying attention.
So does the "distinction between identity and representation" work for either (or both) men?
Le Donne concludes:
Is Trump a Christian? Yes. Does he represent my Christianity? No.
So is it fair to say, "Was Hitler a Christian? Yes. Did he represent my Christianity? No."?