Nazi Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering was interviewed in a Nuremberg prison during his trial after the war for crimes against humanity and other such atrocities.
He spoke about ways to get common people to war – to leave their lives to fight. He acknowledged that most people don’t want to do it – they have nothing to gain and are lucky to come back alive.
Here’s the quote that caught my attention:
Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
This isn’t new. And it didn’t start with the Nazis. Nor are they the last ideological group to use this line of reasoning. As I’ve been saying recently, there is nothing special about this way of thinking. Nothing at all. There never has been and there never will be. There’s nothing special about the leaders who espouse this way of thinking either – regardless what ideology they label themselves with. Nothing unique, nothing special. They do the same things, speak the same ways, dehumanize people the same way, divide people the same way, create fear the same way, use anger the same way, get the same results, bring about the same destruction, and have the same followers. The only thing that is unique is the name of the person holding the ideology.
The same is true of theology that is not life-giving. There have been plenty of theologies that believe in a vindictive and small god who is full of wrath and only wrath. Let’s call these theologies what they really are – pathetic. They become about the personalities of the followers and how they live, rather than about any deity. The deity and their way becomes justification for the followers doing violence to others. There’s nothing special about these gods and theologies. They are pathetic at best, destructive at worst. They are just like the ideologies – same thing, just a different name.
Fear comes in relation to these things because people buy into the lie that these people, their beliefs, and their gods are unique and unlike anything or anyone before them – so that people don’t know how to deal with them. When we realize that they are not special, not the first of their kind, and are in fact a flawed repeat that ended in death, then they lose their power to enthrall people. They lose conformity. They lose respect. They only have threats of and acts of violence against those who will not comply with them.
These ideologies and theologies do not deserve fear as a response. They deserve to be treated for what they actually are – predictable, unspecial in every way, irrational, destructive.
They deserve to be spoken out against so we don’t repeat the same mistakes and suffer the same destruction.
More importantly, people deserve to have an alternative way proclaimed in contrast to what they offer – which is nothing special at all. People deserve an alternative vision for what the world can be like, rather than a tired, old, unspecial way that leads to death.
What would that alternative way be? New life, thriving life for all. For Christians it is the image of God’s kingdom unfolding before us. It is Revelation 21 being lived out. What God has to offer is special because it is far different from anything all of these ideologies and theologies can never offer – thriving and transformed life. Only God can offer that.