Truth or consequences

Hitler speaking at the Reichstag, 1939 (Photo: Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia Commons)

Once, I came across a short newsreel produced in Nazi Germany in the spring of 1939 which warned viewers about the “menace” to their country from neighbouring Poland. According to this “news” show, there were massive numbers of Polish military forces deployed on the Polish-German border waiting for the order to invade Germany. The host of the show warned that only through a pre-emptive military strike on Poland by Germany’s own army could disaster be averted, implying that such an attack would be justified since Poland was poised to attack Germany.

Of course, this was utterly and absurdly untrue. Anyone who took a passenger train from Berlin to Warsaw at the time this newsreel was being shown in German movie theaters could look out the window and see that these Polish forces supposedly poised to invade Germany simply didn’t exist, even if the government of Poland had had any hostile intentions towards Germany, which they very obviously did not. All of this was empirically observable to anyone who cared to take a look.

There were a few brave people who tried to bring these observable facts to the attention of the German public in the hopes of derailing the war fever that the Nazis were trying to whip them into, but those voices were suppressed and de-legitimized by the regime.

All this helps to answer a question often asked by historians; how could the German people, who were highly educated and sophisticated, been fooled by the Nazi regime into bringing such a terrible disaster upon themselves, and the whole world, by launching a war which they had no need to launch and which they had no hope of winning? How could they have been fooled by the Nazis into carrying out the Holocaust? How could the utterly absurd nonsense Hitler and his henchmen spouted have been believed by so many people who absolutely should have known better?

My theory is that it was a combination of circumstances, among them the fact that Adolf Hitler fulfilled a tremendous longing millions of people in Germany had for a father figure after the twin demographic catastrophes of WWI and the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which killed off so many young German men from 1914-1920. By 1933, the children these men left behind were coming of age and ripe to be “adopted” by a political/military strongman who could ruthlessly exploit their emotional hunger for his own purposes.

He did this by telling them things which, on some level, many of them probably knew were untrue, but which they desperately wanted to believe, things which everyone wants to hear from their father. He told them they were special (or as he said, a “superior” Aryan race) and he told them that the bad things and difficult times they were going through weren’t their fault, but rather the fault of groups (chiefly Jews) who had unfairly taken advantage of them. He told them many other ridiculous and idiotic things which they shouldn’t have believed, or even taken seriously. But they did believe it, so much so that they followed him into a nightmare that the world has never completely recovered from.

But this isn’t just a history lesson. It’s VERY timely and relevant for the world we’re currently living in.

There are tens of millions of young people in the world today who never knew, or had a toxic relationship with, their father. A large number never had a good relationship with their mother either, and they’re desperately searching for love, guidance, affirmation and family structure in all kinds of unhealthy alternatives. Popular culture is one area where they seek to fill that void, and populist political leaders is another (there is actually quite a bit of overlap there).

These cultural and/or political figures usually don’t have a Biblical worldview based in truth, and that has led us to a truly terrifying reality in in 2019 whereby it has become socially unacceptable, and in a growing number of cases illegal, to openly declare one’s belief in certain things despite their being observably true. At the same time it’s become socially unacceptable to express doubt in certain things despite their being observably untrue, even bizarre.

It’s gotten far beyond the point of mere “political correctness” or “fake news”. We’re at a point where many people, whether they realize it or not, live their lives (and demand that everyone else do the same) according to a principle that what matters isn’t truth, but a narrative that one is emotionally invested in. Anything that confirms that narrative, no matter how untrue, is “good” and must be supported while anything which contradicts that narrative, no matter how true, is “bad” and must be delegitimized.

This has recently been manifested in the US by certain figures who claim that it is not important if an assertion they make is “factually correct” but only that it be “morally correct” (by their obviously subjective standards.)

This is extremely dangerous, because if decisions are made based on a belief in something which is untrue, the best outcome one can hope for is a great deal of wasted effort with little positive output to show for it. The worst that can happen when such decisions are made is utter catastrophe for everyone involved. Much of the chaos and dysfunction that exists in the world today can be explained by this.

Bad decisions are being made by governments, corporations, organizations, media outlets, churches and last but not least individuals, because of this. This in turn leads to damaged people, who make more bad decisions, and the whole toxic feedback loop just keeps repeating and getting worse and bringing us all, whether we’re actively participating in the process or not, into a bigger and bigger mess.

The implications for Israel, the Jewish People and the Church of Jesus Christ of all this are so obvious they barely need to be mentioned.

There have been many books written about the historical events in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, when a nation of well educated, sophisticated people chose to abandon the truth and embrace a false narrative because they found it emotionally satisfying to do so. It led to horrific consequences for them and for millions of other people around the world, especially the Jews of Europe. Some of the circumstances that made a very substantial contribution to this process are now playing out on a global scale, and if the consequences of these things happening in one country were bad, how much worse can we expect the consequences to be of them happening again all over the world?

We, as individuals and as the Body of Christ, need to stand on truth no matter how unpopular, unpleasant or inconvenient it might be. This will make us stand out in a “post truth” world, and it will draw those who desperately seeking a better path than what this dying world has to offer.

As a footnote, wherever you’re reading this, there are almost certainly children and young people who desperately need and want a positive role model in their lives because one or both parents aren’t in the picture for them. Reach out to these young people and try to help them any way you can. It won’t be easy, but the Bible has a lot to say about widows and orphans being close to God’s heart. Also, it’s worth considering how history might have turned out differently if the Christians in Germany had done more to care for the massive number of widows and orphans in that country in the years following the First World War and the Spanish Influenza pandemic.