November 12, 2018

Luther’s Deadly Doctrine

Apocalyptic Sky. Photo by Christopher Martin

UPDATE: Added a paragraph below, showing how Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress” applies to this subject.

Luther’s Deadly Doctrine

I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that those miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews and who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God’s word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.

Martin Luther, The Jews and Their Lies

• • •

Last Saturday, eleven people who went to pray on Shabbat at Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh were gunned down in the worst antisemitic attack against Jews in American history. We know the motive was antisemitic because Robert Bowers, the accused shooter, left a trail of white nationalist, anti-Jewish vitriol on social media.

On Tuesday, Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewed Eli Sasso, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter who is the author of a book about the white nationalist movement called Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist. It tells the story of Derek Black, son of Don Black, who founded the largest white nationalist website, Stormfront. Derek began following in his father’s footsteps, but ultimately renounced white nationalism. Before he did, he and his father helped create and disseminate the language and talking points contemporary white nationalists use in advancing their views.

One of those phrases is “white genocide,” by which they promote a conspiracy theory that immigrants are fomenting a “race war” designed to make the white race subservient and ultimately destroy it. And they think “the Jews” are playing a prominent role in encouraging this.

Yeah. I mean, in the horrific sort of hierarchy of white nationalist beliefs, they really consider Jews their primary enemy. What white nationalist believe, although it’s ridiculous and awful and scientifically inaccurate to say, is that people of color and immigrants are by and large inferior to white. And left on their own, they would not be able to challenge the white race. But white nationalists believe that Jews are, while not white, very smart and sort of scheming and also are trying to propagate a scheme of multiculturalism which will weaken the white race.

So they believe that Jews have used immigrants, people of color and pushed for greater immigration, pushed for things like now this caravan to change the demographics of America so that ultimately white people will become a minority. And then white nationalist believe Jews will have even more power than they do now in the country.

That’s why they identify Jews as their No. 1 enemy. And it’s why throughout the history of the white nationalist movement we’ve seen more attacks on synagogues and more bombing threats on Jewish schools than we have almost any other demographic group.

Robert Bowers’s attack on the synagogue worshipers was prompted specifically by white nationalist paranoia about the so-called “caravan” of migrants now in Mexico, moving toward our southern border — or “invaders” who are “assaulting” America, as they would say. His last post on the social media platform Gab was about HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit that assists refugees. Right before the attack, Bowers tweeted: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

All this highlights that there is an undercurrent of antisemitism in our country that has been emboldened in recent years and disseminated through technology now available to create communities online that can strengthen and refine messages of conspiracy and hatred. But antisemitism has a long and varied history, and we who are Christians, particularly those of us who practice our faith in traditions that grew out of European Christendom and the Reformation must realize that antipathy toward the Jewish people has been a theme running through our religious story as well.

In this Reformation season, a tragedy like that in Pittsburgh reminds us of our forbears’ shortcomings in this regard. Martin Luther himself is a notorious example. His 1543 tract The Jews and Their Lies is an infamous example of public defamation against the Jewish people. His call to burn their synagogues and books calls to mind for modern readers the terrorizing of the Jews in Germany on Krystalnacht in November 1938. Indeed, the Nazis displayed Luther’s inflammatory words at rallies as they agitated the German people against their Jewish neighbors. And this week we saw a similar kind of racially motivated anti-Jewish hatred explode in a deadly shooting spree in our own country.

There are many differences in the type of antisemitic views Luther held vs. what white nationalists say today, but both hatreds are grounded in conspiratorial fears of a culture that thinks it is under attack.

Early on in his career, Luther had some sympathetic things to say about the Jewish people with regard to their resistance to the Roman Catholic church. But Luther grew ever more passionate over the years about the success of the Reformation, and when few Jewish people converted to Protestant faith as he had expected, he began viewing them as enemies of Christ and the gospel.

Luther’s views grew out of his eschatology. Luther was convinced that the Last Days were upon the world. Luther thought that the Jewish people would have a great change of heart about Christ in the chaos of those days. However, when they didn’t, he grouped them with the Pope, the Turks, and the Anabaptists as those who were stubbornly fighting against God’s ultimate intervention in history. In this stark light, the reformer was alarmed because he believed the true faith was under seige. This was war and no time for forbearance. So, to guard the gospel, Luther wrote about the Jews along with God’s other “enemies” using as much hostile, scatological venom as he could muster.

At the root, what I think Luther should be criticized for was his apocalyptic mania.

In a reflection about the “apocalyptic” Luther, I quoted from Heiko A. Oberman’s Luther: Man Between God and the Devil:

Luther’s measure of time was calibrated with yardsticks other than those of modernity and enlightenment, progress and tolerance. Knowing that the renewal of the Church could be expected to come only from God and only at the end of time, he would have had no trouble enduring curbs on the Evangelical movement. According to Luther’s prediction, the Devil would not “tolerate” the rediscovery of the Gospel; he would rebel with all his might, and muster all his forces against it. God’s Reformation would be preceded by a counterreformation, and the Devil’s progress would mark the Last Days. For where God is at work — in man and in human history — the Devil, the spirit of negation, is never far away.

To understand Luther, we must read the history of his life from an unconventional perspective. It is history “sub specie aeternitatis,” in the light of eternity; not in the mild glow of constant progress toward Heaven, but in the shadow of the chaos of the Last Days and the imminence of eternity.” [emphasis mine]

So, you can see that Luther and today’s American white nationalists do have something in common: an apocalyptic worldview that heightens the intensity of every aspect of life by placing it unequivocally in terms of God vs. the Devil, truth vs. lies, absolute purity vs. absolute evil, total darkness vs. eternal light, heaven vs. hell.

You might want to think about that the next time you sing “And tho’ this world with devils fill’d should threaten to undo us/We will not fear for God has will’d his truth to triumph thro’ us…” The “devils” in Luther’s great hymn were not abstractions, but real people he considered deadly enemies of the gospel in the Last Day.

Standing between God and the Devil, Luther would take no prisoners in protecting the true faith. Apparently, neither will some white nationalists.

This is the zero sum game writ large.

And it is deadly as hell.

We weep with our Jewish brothers and sisters this week.

• • •

Photo by Christopher Martin at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    Was particularly saddened this evening when I learned more details about two victims of the Pittsburgh massacre:

    “Brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, were both killed in the attack.

    The brothers never missed a service and were always at the synagogue because it was a place they felt the most safe, fellow congregant Scott Levin told ABC News.

    The brothers were always together, congregant Katy Levin told ABC News, so she said it brings her some comfort that they died together because she doesn’t know how one could live without the other.

    Both brothers were developmentally disabled.”

    https://abcnews.go.com/US/pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting-portraits-11-victims/story?id=58823835

    I’m glad Imonk can openly discuss the tragedies that have unfolded . . . . . another evangelical blog I comment on has not directly commented, no, but the current post is about ‘hope’ in the midst of darkness, so I think at heart the author WAS trying to respond to current events (at least I ‘hope’ so).

    There is an uptick in anti-Semitism in the world today, and we have seen Charlotteville and we have experienced the Pittsburgh massacre, and I think we have not seen the end of the violence. After Charlottesville, we all knew there would be more to come and there was. So those two innocent brothers who were developmentally disabled were slaughtered horribly and we stand and weep at the shame of it and at the same time, we will vote in one week in a referendum that takes much into account. I will think of these two brothers on that day. I will be their voice for an America where you CAN feel ‘safe’ at Church or synogogue or mosque.

    I will remember them.

    • When I think about the two brothers, it seems to me that in killing them Bowers was killing Simeon or Anna as they waited in the Temple for the fulfillment of their hope for themselves and their people.

      I will remember them.

  2. Bowers targeted Tree of Life Congregation specifically because it has been so involved in HIAS Syrian refugee resettlement to the U.S. He also latched onto the groundless accusations widely disseminated by the Oval Office and other people in high places that the Central American caravan was formed and is being bankrolled by rich Jewish liberals, specifically George Soros, the wealthy Democratic donor. In our current conspiracy rich political environment, the terms Deep State and Globalist are ways of talking about the the belief that Jews are behind an international conspiracy to dominate the world without using the word Jew itself.

    • johnbarry says:

      Robert F. It is reported in USA Today that Bowers was not a Trump supporter as he thought Trump was too soft on the migrant and immigration issue. Maybe Bowers read Jews and Their Lies and thought he was following Martin Luther.

      It does seem like our national press would at least look into the details of how the “caravan” was created, was it grassroots with no organized coordination and just happened? Is there a pooling of money and where does that come from, who pays the money to the cartels to navigated their territory, who pays for the food , transportation and cost incurred or the people just moving on a wing and prayer. I think this would be a major newsworthy investigative story but as usual the press is ignoring leave the crazy conspiracy stories to develop. Where are the facts?

      If only Luther had remained in the Catholic Church he would not have spread his anti – Jewish hatred as the Catholic Church was a strong defender of the Jews at that time and even in some countries wanted them to return to where they belonged. Luther like all of us , Luther was a product of his time and all that entails.

      • The Catholic Church was a strong supporter of the Jews in those days?

        These were the days of the Spanish Inquisition, John. The only group that showed any tolerance for the Jewish people in those days were some Reformed groups, especially in cities like Amsterdam.

        However, I don’t buy it that Luther was merely a “product of his times.” He was a product of bad theology.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          I don’t want to be tedious, but this may be something like a distinction without a difference. Theology is very much also a product of its times; medieval and reformation theology cannot be sundered from the politics of the times.

          The reformation occurred concomitantly, and possibly [at least in part] because of the rise of the Mercantile class, and many of the old noble houses bieng desperately over-extended financially. To persecute populations legitimately associated with money lending and debt keeping – of which the noble households were EAGER participants but BAD at it – was just darn useful to both the old and the new PTBs. Those who were in many cases their servants or at least their patrons within the church, and then the churches, were readily at hand to use Theology to justify those ends.

          The results of Bad Theology often feels like a Chicken-Egg thing to me; often Bad Theology seems to have been invented for pragmatic reasons.

          • I agree with you Adam, but I think Oberman’s point stands. Luther had a heightened sense of apocalypticism. He truly believed the end of the world was at hand and that the Reformation he was leading was God’s vanguard of truth against the lies of the Devil to bring in the consummation of history.

            As I added in the post, this sheds a whole new light on “A Mighty Fortress.”

            And tho’ this world with devils fill’d
            Should threaten to undo us
            We will not fear, for God hath will’d
            His truth to triumph thro’ us

            Upon reflection, that is an awfully heady and treacherous way to view oneself vis a vis the world.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              >that is an awfully heady and treacherous way to view oneself

              Agree.

              It is impossible in the end to completely unwind these things. Like, where does the Apocalyptic Fever comes from? That is something which seems to come and go.

              In the case of both Augustine and Luther/Reformation, as with many others, it seems to be track with economic anxiety and systemic upheaval. Other times it is as if it materializes out of nowhere; and it can take so many different flavors [like the 1970s & 1980s of our own age – which contained a lot of bonkers stuff – some of it obviously related to Nuclear Anxiety – and other stuff just “huh?”]

              Do you believe Luther was especially apocalyptic within his cohort? Or was he typicalish of 16th century Germany in that regard?

              Aside: It is interesting in contrast to Calvin’s near amillennialism.

              • He was not unique in his apocalyptic fervor, but he saw himself as leader of the Reformation, so his sense of calling to sound the alarms was intense and influential.

                And you’re right — the Reformed churches and their leaders were much less subject to end times mania. It’s one reason Jewish people found more refuge among them. However, the case of Servetus, whose mother’s family may have been conversos (converted Jews persecuted in the Spanish Inquisition), and who was charged with being too favorable toward Jews and Muslims, was the object of Calvin’s wrath and burned at the stake in Geneva.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              But one that is the New Normal nowadays.
              All Conspiracy, All the Time.
              And the darker and more EEEEEVIL The Conspiracy, the more “Any Means Necessary — ANY AND ALL MEANS” to fight against it. No quarter, no prisoners, Kill Them All.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Kings and Nobles would bum money from the Jews like Big-Name Mooches, then when the payment came due, they’d call a Pogrom. No more Jews, no more need to pay up.

      • “…Bowers was not a Trump supporter…”

        Sorry but the Prez does not get off so easily. While I have no idea of Trump’s real thoughts, assuming he has any, he has been pandering to the racist right ever since the beginning of the campaign. Sure he didn’t pull the trigger but his wink and nod to these people created an environment that feeds the sickness of people like Bowers who obviously didn’t get the joke.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think that’s more Trump being the type of “jerk boss” who’s a sucker for flattery.

          When those Neo-Nazis marched with the tiki torches in the Charlottesville riot last year, they made sure to give Trump vocal praise and adoration, and I don’t think he was able to see beyond “They Adore Me!”

        • Not a Trump supporter but talk like that is over the top and not helpful. Remember that his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. The news media is just as over the top as are some politicians on both sides….

          • So Trump was only pandering to the racists against Hispanics and not the anti-Semites. Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              As I said above, I think all Trump could see was them cheering him and that sort of crowded out anything else. Serious Tunnel Vision.

              • I think you underestimate Trump’s acumen for manipulation, and his cynical lack of care for how his conscious and intentional lies may hurt others. He is an old-fashioned bigot, not a racist ideologue; but he is perfectly willing to appeal to racist ideologues to achieve his goal of attaining and keeping power, and he doesn’t care how his lies and his feeding into the paranoid conspiracy theories of the racist ideologues may hurt innocent third parties. He has the same cynical approach to manipulating the religious Christian right.

                He couldn’t care less about those killed by Bowers, or how he may have been a causative factor in the killers actions. He could see proof positive of it, and he would keep doing and saying the same things he has all along, because he doesn’t care if his words motivate others to kill.

        • Christiane says:

          The minute Trump spoke up about ‘good people on BOTH sides’ after the Charlottesville debacle, a message was sent out that there was approval from on-high for all kinds of alt-right hatred . . . . . the only reason Bowers was mad at Trump is because Trump didn’t go far enough to encourage the Nazi-types . . . .

          In Trump, the dog whistles to his ‘base’ are heard loud and clear, and in his most-deranged supporters, the response is gaining in strength and in violence;
          but at what point does the violence then become the ‘norm’ for the whole group???

          I ask this because there was some push-back when at the Southern Baptist Convention, it was suggested that a proclamation be supported denouncing the ‘Alt-Right’ . . . . believe me, those people pushing back DID KNOW what the ‘alt-right’ was about and did not misunderstand the evil they represent. I am so glad the SBC spoke out against the Alt-Right. It was a great moral victory for them in my opinion.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In Trump, the dog whistles to his ‘base’ are heard loud and clear, and in his most-deranged supporters, the response is gaining in strength and in violence…

            And a lot of those “most-deranged supporters” are Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians.

      • I didn’t say Bowers was a Trump supporter; but Trump put plenty of poison into the current of hatred toward refugees and immigrants that Bowers was imbibing, and Trump spread conspiracy theories about rich White liberals plotting to undermine America — in Bowers’ world, liberal/globalist is synonymous with Jew. Trump is feeding the antisemitic fish in the fishbowl of America, and he’s doing it intentionally, as his adoption of the title nationalist more than exhibits..

    • Patriciamc says:

      The caravan appeared at a most convenient time, didn’t it, so close to the mid-terms. Which candidate/person has the most to gain by talking tough about the caravan? That’s where the money trail likely starts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        All Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy, All The Time…

        • Christiane says:

          what fascinates me, Headless, is how the Russians play both sides of the divide, seeking to stir the pot and keep people divided strongly from one another, thus weakening our sense of national moral purpose . . . it’s actually a very evil plan, and it looks like they really are having a negative effect . . . wow

          can’t wait for the report from Mueller to come out

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            What fascinates Eagle & me is how Born-Again Christians are in the forefront of Trump Fanatics. He has a regular troll on his blog who is a Bible-Verse quoting Trump Fanatic, and I mean FANATIC. I’ve got the OK to counter-troll the guy when he goes off.

            can’t wait for the report from Mueller to come out

            You mean the “LIES! FAKE NEWS! THE DEMOCRATS!”?

            The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

          • Patriciamc says:

            Thank goodness the plan to accuse Mueller of sexual assault fell apart.

            • Indeed. His own are out to get him because he’s trying to do the right thing, regardless of his party affiliation. This is the thanks he gets for a lifetime of dedicated service to his country. But he’s one smart cookie, and he seems to be several steps ahead of everybody else. I love that he says nothing himself, just does his work and has members of his team make public announcements when necessary. He’s the real deal: an honest patriot.

              • Patriciamc says:

                I didn’t realize that he’s the official who took down the Gambino crime family! So, he’s got some experience here. The dean of a local law school used to work with Mueller, and he said in an intereview that you don’t want Mueller after you.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                This is the thanks he gets for a lifetime of dedicated service to his country.

                Traitor to The Party(TM) or Rebellion Against GAWD(TM)?
                (Or are the two now One and the Same since Trump is now the Second Coming of Christ?)

    • I live literally three minutes away from where Bowers was currently living before the tragedy occurred and don’t understand why he targeted the Jewish community. Robert, you mentioned it had something to do with the Syrian Refugee resettlements… quite honestly there just isn’t any of that around here. We do have some huge issues with Nepali refugee resettlements as Pittsburgh, and especially this area, seems to be ground zero because of the actions of Catholic Charities (We have a number of large apartment complexes that have been housing them as a jumping off point since the early 2000’s). I would assume if he was sensitive to refugee immigration he would have focused here since it is right in his backyard….

      As for the Catholic view in the middle ages? Some tolerated (Jewish merchants could loan money at interest which was a no-no in catholic circles until the rise of the Italian city-states and Flanders influence), Spain did not because of the King and Queen’s ultra-catholic view and kicked out both Jews and Muslims to their detriment (they lost all their intellectual capital)…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Kings of Spain were not only More Catholic than the Pope, but played Can-You-Top-This with the whole concept.

        And who needs intellectual capital (sounds like Heresy) when you have that never-ending river of free gold and silver from the Americas?

      • HIAS, which the Tree of Life Congregation was deeply involved in, has settled many Syrian refugees. And in Bowers’ mind, a Syrian refugee is a Central American asylum seeker is a default terrorist out to destroy the White race, and he blames the Jews for it all.

      • Radagast, Bowers was reacting to what he read on social media and saw in the news, not to the specific things happening in your neighborhood and city. Remember that he was extremely socially isolated, a loner that nobody in his neighborhood knew. He must have spent hours and hours every day tuning into on-line hate sites and getting riled up by like-minded internet commenters. You are attributing too much logic and too much detailed awareness of activities in his neighborhood and city to him; he learned all he needed to know on the internet: that Jews were importing immigrants to America from all over the world, and that there was a synagogue nearby in his city that was very active in such efforts (which he would’ve known because of their membership in HIAS, learned online).

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          SOcial MediA all too easily plugs you into a 24/7 echo chamber that can whip you into a frenzy. Where Everyone Agrees With You and Can You Top This. ISIS has used SOcial MediA for recruiting and radicalization; is it any different when it “just happens” by itself instead of by deliberate manipulation?

          Before SOcial MediA, loners like me had to make do with libraries, books, magazines, written correspondence, and periodic face-to-face get-togethers. And some of those sources back then were just as questionable and some of that correspondence and get-togethers were just as much an echo chamber as today. Just now it’s been electronically Supercharged and Intensified, like radio and TV could do in their day.

          P.S. A lot of how you come out has to do with what you plug into. With me, it was various Fannish pursuits — SF Lit, Role-playing Games, Comics, proto-Anime, Furry, and Brony. With Bowers, it was Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory straight out of The Protocols and Der Sturmer.

      • Radagast, There’s no question that Bowers attack was motivated by ant-iimmigrant animus in combination with antisemitism. There are news reports to that effect all over the news; his social media comments on the platform Gab up until the weeks and days before, and indeed the day of the attack provide ample evidence of it. You can easily find all that yourself if you do a search.Here’s one article on the subject.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Anti-immigrant animus” is an old, old American tradition, a form of Xenophobia.

          In the 19th, “Native Americans” (i.e. WHITE Anglo-Saxon Protestants) had quite an animus against those Romish Papist Irish Immigrants. And when the Irish had assimilated, they became “Native Americans” opposing those Italians and Slavs. (The battle lines drawn in the movie Gangs of New York is based on period reality.) Each group if immigrants was Vermin Contaminating America (and The White Race) and got stomped on until they became Real Americans and started stomping on the next Untermenschen coming off the boats.

          And there was Scientific Racism, where Darwin replaced the Curse of Ham in the definition of who was Really White. The Great White Race(TM) was defined much more narrowly than today; usually it was the ethnic-national group of the Scientist making the definition (“The Anglo-Saxon Race” in the English-speaking world) and no one else. (The Nazis just took this Respectable mainstream Science(TM) to its logical end state and we all know the results. Especially the Jews..) Steven Jay Gould wrote extensively about this (including one full book, The Mismeasure of Man) and a lot of collections of his essays (mixed in with essays on other subjects) are still available through libraries and used bookstores. Gives you a historic perspective on the subject.

  3. I was reading a report yesterday that catalogued the link between belief in conspiracy theories and terrorism. The gist of it was “not all conspiracy theory believers are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are conspiracy theory believers”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      And “This is the zero sum game writ large.”

      Much evil comes from Zero Sum thinking/belief. And accompanying Zero Sum seems to always be the belief that everything is Fragile.

      There is lots of room for everyone to have wins, and systems and cultures are notably durable. <– That is a mantra our age needs to repeat ad-nausea. Because its true.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Zero-Sum Game:

        Since there is only so much to go around, the only way to get more for ME is to Take It Away from YOU.

        The only way to climb up is to push you down.
        The only way to Win is to Make You Lose.

        The rules of Power Struggle.
        “You Win or You Die.” — Cersei Lannister

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelicals(TM) are in the forefront of Conspiracy Theory BE-LEEEEE-VERs.
      http://www.acts17-11.com/conspire.html

      • Patriciamc says:

        I think that tendency goes back to believing Revelation will be a real event/events.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Tell me about it.
          Survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and Christians for Nuclear War, back when Henry Kissinger and/or the King of Spain were PROVEN from SCRIPTURE to be The Antichrist and “All End Time Prophecies up to The Rapture itself HAVE ALL BEEN FULFILLED!”

          • Patriciamn says:

            Wasn’t it Jerry Falwell who once pointed to a member of the Rothschiled family and said that person was the Anti-Christ? SMH

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              If so, Mr Rothscheild can take a number and stand in line.
              And it’s a LONG line.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      That makes a lot of sense.

    • The link to the report, if anyone is interested…

      https://www.demos.co.uk/project/the-power-of-unreason/

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “not all conspiracy theory believers are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are conspiracy theory believers”.

      Probably terrorism is just the final flowering stage of ever-increasing Conspiracy Theory Believers.

      Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies (good read; scare up a copy sometimes) recounts how Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy can really do a number on your sanity. Like Michael Moore describing the rabbit hole he went down doing the movie “JFK” — the quote ended with “Did World War Two actually happen? Do I even exist? Or is that what THEY want me to think?” As does Bob Dylan with “Talking John Birch Society Blues” where after PROVING that everyone in the world except him is part of The Conspiracy, “I ran out of people to investigate, so I started investigating myself (pause) OMG!!!!!”.

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    Also worth noting that modern Lutherans are fully capable of looking at Luther’s writings on the Jews and responding that he really screwed the pooch on that one. We do not regard everything he wrote as Holy Writ.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > modern Lutherans are fully capable of looking at Luther’s writings

      I hope so. I’ve heard, first-hand, Lutherites trying to play down or dismiss that part of Luther, which isn’t quite the same as approaching it honestly.

      That likely tracts along the same demographic lines as everything else. 🙁

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        > Lutherites trying to play down or dismiss that part of Luther

        We get that, too. It is a fine line between trying to understand what brought him to that point and rationalizing the place he arrived at, or dismissing it with a handwave. The first is a worthy occupation, but it can easily lead to the second or third.

    • “We do not regard everything he wrote as Holy Writ….”

      Do you regard ANYTHING he wrote as Holy Writ?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Some LCMS types treat the Book of Concord as a de facto third testament. Luther wrote some of that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “De facto Third Testaments” I’ve run across include Atlas Shrugged, Late Great Planet Earth, and Calvin’s Institutes, and I’m sure Trump Tweets (pre-cut up into 140-character Verses) are on their way there. Stupidity is like hydrogen, the basic building block of the universe.

  5. I think it’s important to know that Derek Black, who is quoted in this post, and other former White nationalists say that what converted them from their racist beliefs was experiencing compassion from members of the groups that they hated, and who they expected to hate them. Principled compassion that recognizes the humanity of even those who hate us is the opposite of paranoid, frightened apocalypticism, and can work wonders; Christians of all people should remember this when we move to counter hate, though we often don’t.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Note that “what converted them from their racist beliefs was experiencing compassion” was experience [aka proxmity] – which what I think we need to remember.

      How can White Christianity or “The [white] Church” be there? That’s the hard question. Be there without being entangled – given very very so very bad track record of White Christianity?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And the “Come Out from Among the Heathen” definition of Holiness sure doesn’t help.

        That way you have Kirk Cameron barricaded in his trailer on the set of Left Behind, hiding from Heathen Contamination so he can stay squeeky-clean for the Rapture and Great White Throne Litmus Tests. (Remember Jack Chick’s “This Was Your Life”? I sure do from my time in-country.)

      • First White Christianity has to get on the right side of the issue, which it is doing a piss poor job of. Many White Christians are headed in exactly the wrong direction at this time, making proximity less rather than more likely; that’s tragic. Many, no most of the good stories of racial reconciliation and conversion away from White nationalism come from completely outside the White Church.

  6. Adam T.W. , Who or what exactly is the white church? What is the requirement to being a member of the white church? Are George Hamilton , deeply tanned, type people allowed in the white church? Are people from the MIddle East considered white or are they in a different church. Of course, the white church probably has the traditional painting of Jesus as accurately represented by Jeffery Hunter , who nailed the part to , need I say, perfection.

    However, I see your point as there was not many people of color in the early Protestant Church. Even the Mormons have Mia Love. I wonder if Michael King would chose the same name again in today’s environment? I would guess not. I was going to join the white church but they wanted me to shave my head, but I wanted the Friar Tuck look.

    • Nah not Jeffrey Hunter, but Robert Powell who starred in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” . Powell is the archetypal White Jesus. (I’ve even seen his image cut and pasted into church literature.) Someone once asked Powell what the secret was to playing Jesus and he responded, “Never blink”. And I swear he never does!

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    We know the motive was antisemitic because Robert Bowers, the accused shooter, left a trail of white nationalist, anti-Jewish vitriol on social media.

    Just like the Santa Barbara Shooter left a social media trail of hundreds of Selfies, so this shooter left a social media trail worthy of Der Sturmer.

    One of those phrases is “white genocide,” by which they promote a conspiracy theory that immigrants are fomenting a “race war” designed to make the white race subservient and ultimately destroy it.

    The actual term is “RaHoWa” — “Race Holy War”. The “Holy” refers to the Holy Cause of the White Race.

    And they think “the Jews” are playing a prominent role in encouraging this.

    Remember “The Deep State”?
    That’s just the latest Code Words for “Das Jude”.

    Luther’s views grew out of his eschatology. Luther was convinced that the Last Days were upon the world.

    Luther was the Hal Lindsay of 500 years ago?

    Luther thought that the Jewish people would have a great change of heart about Christ in the chaos of those days.

    Obviously this was before they returned to The Land as God’s Tripwire to kick off Armageddon…

    There are many differences in the type of antisemitic views Luther held vs. what white nationalists say today, but both hatreds are grounded in conspiratorial fears of a culture that thinks it is under attack.

    At which point, “When you KNOW someone’s out to get you, wouldn’t you try to get them first? Do unto others BEFORE they can do unto you?”

    In this stark light, the reformer was alarmed because he believed the true faith was under seige. This was war and no time for forbearance. So, to guard the gospel, Luther wrote about the Jews along with God’s other “enemies” using as much hostile, scatological venom as he could muster.

    Then, The Jew.
    Now, The Fags, the Trannies, The Femmies, the Libtards, the Deep State.

    “Oh, the more it changes
    The more it stays the same;
    And the Hand just rearranges
    The players in the Game…”

    So, you can see that Luther and today’s American white nationalists do have something in common: an apocalyptic worldview that heightens the intensity of every aspect of life by placing it unequivocally in terms of God vs. the Devil, truth vs. lies, absolute purity vs. absolute evil, total darkness vs. eternal light, heaven vs. hell.

    Cosmic-level Importance, with MEEEEEE as the Player-Character Hero of The Cause so Righteous it justifies anything to bring it about.
    Sounds like a LOT of today’s Evangelicals to me.
    Sounds like today in general.

  8. Burro (Mule) says:

    There is no argument that what occurred in Pittsburgh this past week was a horror and a blot upon our national reputation (already quite tattered). There is no argument that our current President, while not openly given to anti-Semitism himself, is almost certainly a beneficiary of the social climate that produced that event.

    What I would like to see discussed is the contrast between Luther’s ‘apocalyptic’ thinking over against the common-sense ‘uniformitarianism’ pleaded for by CM in the post. Is there any time at which apocalyptic thinking is justified? The family of a Jewish boyhood friend of mine lived in Poland in the early 1930s. One brother read the cards correctly and emigrated to the United States with his wife and small children (my friend’s father and uncles and aunts). Another brother and a sister elected to remain in Poland, and they used almost the same language in describing the brother who left; alarmist, apocalyptic. Nothing remains of them now. They all perished in the Holocaust.

    I have been reading about climate change/peak oil recently, from a wide variety of sources, It looks grim, and I don’t think anything will change it. Any reduction in carbon emissions means less comfort and more pain, and I am not as sanguine as Finn about the possibility of equitably distributing that apart from allowing Finn and a few other clear-thinking folk like John Michael Greer to govern by ukase.

    Do I, in speaking about the world my children and grandchildren are likely to live in, abandon common-sense belief “in the mild glow of constant progress toward Heaven”, and adopt a more apocalyptic stance. I am a Polish Jew. Is it 1908, or 1935?

    • Apocalyptic is, properly, the domain of the truly oppressed. The book of Revelation and many of the Hebrew prophets spoke in this kind of code to comfort and give hope to communities under serious and real oppression.

      Mr. Bowers and his kind are living in a conspiratorial fantasy world in which whites are being systematically disenfranchised and potentially destroyed because brown people are seeking equal opportunity.

      Luther, on the other hand, appears to have had an inflated sense of his role in history, interpreting it in apocalyptic terms. In so doing, he became subject to one of the great dangers of apocalyptic thinking. He ignored the New Testament warning that our battle is not against flesh and blood. And therefore, he joined forces with the political powers of his day, encouraging them to exile or destroy the Jewish people.

      • As for what to tell our children and grandchildren, there are numerous studies out there that make a strong case that the world is better than it has ever been before. I simply do not understand the alarmist case that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Of course there are monumental challenges that we face just as every generation does. But I do not believe that they are the challenges that the white nationalist conspiracy theorists or our current president and his ilk seem to think we are facing.

        • There have always been people frightened by change and people ready and willing to exploit that fear. I feel such sadness for my family back in Georgia who have let themselves be conned by Trump. When Trump goes down what will they have left then?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In 1992, my parents were Perotistas. Ross Perot (Billionare running for President just because he wanted To) was their Personal LORD and Savior, couldn’t change their minds and wouldn’t change the subject.

            (Perot’s style was just the opposite of Trump’s; more like a smiling grandfatherly type whose mantra was “Just Trust Me”. I observed my parents projecting their hopes and dreams upon that blank slate until they saw them reflected right back at them.)

            When Perot went down, they just shrank back into themselves with some increased bitterness.

          • They will do just what those who follow liberal cult-of-personalities, they will find another. I am a conservative though not an evangelical. Many of us view Trump as a failed experiment, just like we would view someone like Oprah if she was elected. Those who follow Trump because he may support part of the conservative ideology will move on to the next one to pick up the torch without that much remorse. I believe people on both sides of the aisle are more resilient…. but I do believe there won’t be the wailing and crying there was when Hillary Clinton lost… my thoughts….

            • johnbarry says:

              Radagast, So why do you view Trump as a failed experiment? Do you consider the Bush family, Kasich, Bill Kristol, Erik Ericson, Max Boot or Romney the conservatives that would not fail like Bush.I think Trump won because of the issues and the forceful, no holds barred style of politics. I think he was the only Republican that could have beat HRC. just wondering why you think Trump failed? Thanks

        • johnbarry says:

          Chaplin Mike, Good observation that I share about the situation of the world now both from a general population viewpoint and personal. However my concern about the future is based on my appreciation of the past and I am only speaking of the USA. Public education quality has declined in quality as well as focus and also the appreciation of education has also been eroded. Respect for teachers has eroded as they are measured by the community by their pay in many cases. The “internet ” schools and “everyone has the right,” almost the obligation to go to college has diminished the worth of a high school and college degree. The demise of the nuclear family with no defined replacement does not bode well for the future. Civil and moral behavior is now very subjective and open to endless debate. Children born and raised in the traditional marriage situation are becoming the minority. Religious , government and civic minded institutions have been under severe strain and lost of confidence and respect. The PTA is not the focal point it use to be, for example. The entitlement mentality and lack of personal effort to achieve success is a problem that is under the radar, I see it creeping into my family. Civic based organizations and organized religions are losing their influence again with no replacement for personal maturity and responsibility. The past that brought the country to the dance of course was not perfect but it was the best in history, so far. I hope we are not at the apex.

          So I agree with you that right now the world for the majority is better than any other time in history. I will try to summarize it this way ” Do not forget who brought you to the dance.” I know that only in the USA would at be where I am at now. I know I owe a lot to public education, the faith communities who shaped the world I grew up in even though I was not involved in them, the government programs such as GI Bill, community colleges, interstate highways, food safety , well everything we all take for granted got me personally where I am. I know the people who came before I owe a lot to. Many good, kind and generous people have touched my life. I know this country based on what it did gave me the opportunity. I have seen the positive changes and the speed at which they happened.

          So my concern is will this success be continued as society leaves many of the “partners” that brought them to the dance of success .
          My wife and I worked to instill in our children, the values of traditional America as far as work ethic, fairness, obligation to give back, duty to country and not let our good fortune “spoil” or deprive them of personal independence and achievement. Now my real concern are some of my grandchildren. I am sure that is a historic generational thing but I do see the difference and pray.

          However , I must add, humbly I know I have been greatly blessed by God in so many ways and I really try to stay focused on Who really is in control. Many of the commenters here are among those who make America great and certainly the moderator.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Civic based organizations and organized religions are losing their influence again with no replacement for personal maturity and responsibility. The past that brought the country to the dance of course was not perfect but it was the best in history, so far. I hope we are not at the apex.

            When “What is Right” has been thoroughly deconstructed, “What I Want” will still remain.
            — attr to C.S.Lewis

            • johnbarry says:

              Headless U Guy ” I almost get annoyed at the fact that I’m not to use all I got”

              Attr to Jerry Lewis who was nutty but not a Professor..

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Mr. Bowers and his kind are living in a conspiratorial fantasy world in which whites are being systematically disenfranchised and potentially destroyed because brown people are seeking equal opportunity.

        Isn’t that analogous to the “Persecution Porn” obsession you see in a lot of Evangelicals? Especially the Culture War Activist types?

  9. Headless U Guy, To paraphrase President Obama to Willard Romney ” the 1980’s called and they want Hal Lindsley back”. There is a new convenience store popping up in Florida named WaWa, is that also some white racist nationalist code like white aryan or white anglo. I will not go until I find out. I noticed an elderly white lady in the supermarket flashing the white power sign , confronted her but she insisted she was just trying to tell her husband it was okay to buy grapes. Luckily for me, I am up to date on my code due to watch CNN and they exposed the alleged Jewish Mexican woman flashing the code, she never denied it.

    The only German language I know for sure is Das Boot which in German is The Boat, it was a great film even though I knew who won the war in the end.

    The Santa Barbara guy was really weird, could not get any woman action so went nuts. Perhaps nuts are crazy and it that simple. Crazy is crazy. We all know the only terrorist that we need to be concerned with in the USA are white men. This many be a sour pill to swallow but we must make lemonade out of Lemon pronouncements At least they did not classify it as breaking news, as of yet.

    Actually I would say that Luther and Louis Farrakhan have more in common than 1980’s guy Hal Lindsley.

    Is the world a better place because of Luther, I would say yes. Is the world a better place because of the Catholic Church I would say yes.

    I am into prophecy and predict the end of the world in coming for John Barry in the next 20 years or so unless he can buy some extra time, somehow.. My wife tells me not to worry about it but she does not see the future as I do and she is two years younger so she does not my experience or gift.

  10. “Is the world a better place because of the Catholic Church I would say yes.”

    The Attorneys General of Pennsylvania and about eight to ten other states (so far) might not agree with you.

  11. johnbarry says:

    The law and society that allows the AG of those states to exist was made possible to a large extent by the faith, traditions and teachings of the historical Catholic Church, who preserved and laid much of the cornerstone of Western Civilization. The scum who violated their vows and trust of their people have done great harm to the RCC and to the world. The erosion of a major religion is not a good thing.

  12. Just stumbled upon this verse in Isaiah 32 the other day:

    “For fools speak folly,
    their hearts are bent on evil:
    They practice ungodliness
    and spread error concerning the Lord;
    the hungry they leave empty
    and from the thirsty they withhold water.”

    It was the “and spread error concerning the Lord” that caught my eye. Whatever doctrine and theology we believe in might be okay if we keep it to ourselves, but when we spread it and it tarnishes the image of God, Look out.

  13. Christiane says:

    I still am CONFUSED about the ‘born-again’ Christians serving Trump . . . . . . all I can think of is that when I turn on telly and see some of the crazies who are asking for contributions for their ‘ministries’ and how they are so obviously phony; then I wonder about how great the need must be for people to have SOME ONE, ANY ONE to believe in to whom they can also relate . . . . people are gullible when they are uneducated, fearful, and sold a bunch of lies inside of a ‘bubble’ of information that constantly re-inforces fearfulness . . . .

    but Headless, the growing AGGRESSION . . . . that is most troubling

    what happens next?

    I’m still not used to the NRA’s Purge Massacre of the Week Club that we as a nation have nurtured in our bosom . . . . a strange by-product of a nation so fearful that it has armed itself to the teeth. . . . . and no wonder the far-right advocates of NRA dominance keep their kids home from our nation’s public schools which are now target ranges for the de-ranged . . .

    the healthiest people in our country are those survivors from Stoneman-Douglass School, God Bless them who stood up and spoke out against the craziness
    . . . . they may be ‘kids’ but in them, the force is strong

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    but Headless, the growing AGGRESSION . . . . that is most troubling

    Well, when GAWD is On Your Side and you’re now on top on a Winning Streak, all restraints are gone leaving only Righteous Fury. “DEUS VULT!”

  15. Heather Angus says:

    Way too late to join the discussion, but I was intrigued by a comment about the national news ignoring the origin of the caravan, “It does seem like our national press would at least look into the details of how the “caravan” was created, was it grassroots with no organized coordination and just happened?…. I think this would be a major newsworthy investigative story but as usual the press is ignoring leave the crazy conspiracy stories to develop.’

    So I did some googling: if anyone’s interested:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/26/world/americas/what-is-migrant-caravan-facts-history.html

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/how-the-migrant-caravan-became-so-big-and-why-its-continuing-to-grow/2018/10/23/88abf1a6-d631-11e8-8384-bcc5492fef49_story.html?utm_term=.acfa4e3cc827

    https://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2018/10/started-migrant-caravan-now-181027101755927.html

    and “What began as a domestic political dispute in Honduras — an effort to undermine newly re-elected President Juan Orlando Hernández and to call attention to the plight of migrants — quickly became an international row, a source of embarrassment in Honduras, consternation across the region, and political opportunism in the United States.”