If asked to define “Nazism,” most people think of fascism, racism, antisemitism, and the use of propaganda. Few people know that Nazism also included a strong religious component. Yet it did.
The Nazi religion was termed Positive Christianity, and it is directly cited in Hitler’s Nazi Party Platform of 1920. But what was Positive Christianity? In this book, Kathleen Burton details when and where this religion was embraced; how it was received and critiqued by the prominent theologians of the 1930s; and how a combined effort of rogue Catholic priests and Protestant pastors in France, aware of the religious threat, worked together to fight Nazism during World War II. This contributed to the survival of seventy-five percent of France’s Jewish population. Burton concludes by describing what work still needs to be done to fully understand, clarify, and debunk Nazism’s Positive Christianity. Today’s world is fascinated by the tragic events of World War II, yet Hitler’s propaganda coup against traditional Christianity is not well-known or understood. This book closes that gap.
Kathleen Burton has taught in the French department at Yale University since 2007. She has a PhD in theology from L’Université Laval in Québec, an MA in French from Central Connecticut State University, and a BA in political science from University of California, Los Angeles. She has studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Bordeaux.
PART I: THE NAZI RELIGION: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
Chapter 1: Point 24 of the Nazi Political Party Platform
Chapter 2: The Myth of the Twentieth Century
Chapter 3: Alfred Rosenberg and Positive Christianity
Chapter 4: Religious References in Mein Kampf
Chapter 5: Rosenberg’s Early Writings and Friends of Europe Publications
PART II: DUPED CHRISTIANITY: HITLER’S PROPAGANDA COUP
Chapter 6: A Weak Christian Shield in Germany
Chapter 7: Disunity in Germany’s Protestant Voice
PART III: THE RISE OF THE CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE IN FRANCE
Chapter 8: The French Churches Confront Nazism
Chapter 9: The French Christian Resistance
Chapter 10: Témoignage Chrétien (The Christian Witness)
Chapter 11: L’Amitié chrétienne (Christian Friendship)
Afterword: What Needs to Be Done?
Appendix A: The Program of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party
Appendix B: Paul Tillich’s “Ten Theses on National Socialism”
Appendix C: Friends of Europe Publications
This book, solidly documented and clearly written, retraces the action and the reflection of the spiritual resistance led by Pierre Chaillet, who courageously and effectively opposes the pagan religion that is fundamentally Nazism. This fascinating and too little-known story sheds light on the past and gives food for thought for the present.
A fascinating and deeply researched exploration of Nazi efforts to redefine Christianity and of the resistance mounted by both Protestant and Catholic thinkers to their hateful doctrines.
Kathleen Burton’s book, with its thorough historical and theological investigation, opens a window to the hitherto underestimated religious facet of Nazi Germany—the so-called Positive Christianity—as well as to the French resistance to it, which drew upon apparently the same religious source, Christianity. Readers concerned with the role of religion in politics will find it particularly appealing that the book furnishes a compelling case about how a dominant religion was co-opted for oppression while being simultaneously mobilized to defy the oppression. A dictum of the destiny of religion throughout human history is therefore reaffirmed: religion generates hope amid ambiguities.
11/4/22, Publishers Weekly: Burton and her book were highlighted in this feature about religion scholars.