What If Hitler Invaded Your House? Brian Zahnd
Meah Shearim by Eric Lubiyov
Lately I’ve been giving a lot of interviews on my new book A Farewell To Mars. It’s a semi-autobiographical confession of how I moved from being an enthusiastic supporter of war American style to proclaiming the peaceable kingdom of Christ. Since I’ve marched among the ranks of sincere war-endorsers for most of my life, I’m sympathetic with well-meaning Christians who believe in the way of Mars. I try to tell the story of my conversion honestly and gracefully. I level criticism, not at soldiers, but at myself. My aim is to take the reader on a journey where Jesus and war are examined in the light of an unencumbered reading of Scripture.
But in a twelve minute radio interview there is little time for narrative and nuance. Instead, the interviewer usually leaps to what they consider “the heart of the matter.” In every interview I’ve been asked this question: “What would you do if Hitler invaded your house?” Well, it’s not exactly that question, but in every interview these two questions have come up: What about Hitler? What would you do if someone invaded your home? Hitler and home invasion. These are the two arguments that allegedly make the Jesus way of peace impossible. So let me address them. I’ll begin with Hitler.
When I claim that waging war is incompatible with following Jesus, the knee-jerk objection is always this: “What about Hitler?” The problem with the “Hitler objection” is that we have stepped into the middle of the story. It’s 1940 and we’re asking, “what are we going to do about Hitler?” As legitimate as that question is, we need to back up and ask this question first: How is it that Christians could wage war at Hitler’s behest? How did the land of Luther and the Reformation become the land of Nazis and the Holocaust? Hitler is as much a problem for Christian Just War theorists as for Christians who oppose war altogether. After all, Hitler waged his blitzkriegs with baptized soldiers sporting Gott mit uns on their belt buckles. How did this happen? How was Hitler able to convince Christian soldiers to kill other Christians in Poland, France, and Russia? Hasn’t something gone tragically wrong with the church when Christians can be persuaded to kill other Christians in the name of ideology and nationalism? The enduring catastrophe of Constantine subverting the kingdom of God was that the politics of Jesus were set aside for the interests of empire. This eventually led to the shame of the crusades where Christians killed under the banner of the cross, and then to the horror of the two world wars where European Christians slaughtered one another by the millions.