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Christian nationalist rhetoric and 1930s Germany

Christian, Messianic leaders sound the alarm about political movement charged with anti-Semitism

Screenshot of a post on the social media site Gab

The ideas espoused and promoted by a self-proclaimed American Christian nationalist that specifically target Jews are eerily reminiscent of the political and religious mood that characterized 1930s Germany, prompting some Christians now to raise an alarm.

Gab CEO Andrew Torba drew negative press this summer for promoting his brand of Christian nationalism which excludes non-Christians from any role in governing the United States. He said that Jews and other non-Christians are unwelcome in the movement because it is “Christian.” He lumped conservative Jewish commentator Ben Shapiro into that category. 

Doubling down, Torba also referred to Jewish Americans as the “2%,” adding “we’re not bending the knee” to them anymore. 

“This kind of rhetoric fueled the Holocaust,” said Tommy Waller, founder and president of HaYovel, a Christian ministry in Israel.

After ALL ISRAEL NEWS posted this story on Aug. 9 –“Jerusalem Post article about Christian nationalist went viral, outpaced war coverage” – we reached out to several Christians and Messianic Jews about Torba’s comments. Waller was one of a few who responded.

“This is very dangerous. It is not the way I believe Christians should present themselves and be a testimony of our faith,” he said. “Christians need to take a position now.”

“I’m conservative. I have very conservative values and I’m a staunch, staunch Republican. But this kind of rhetoric really scares me,” Waller continued. “I realized he was using 'they' or 'them,' in referring to the Jewish people,” Waller noted. “It’s not ‘liberals’ or ‘liberal ideology’ – he’s focusing on Jews. It’s almost like the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’”

Waller spoke with ALL ISRAEL NEWS after listening to several videos that Torba posted on his company’s website. He said the Gab CEO’s apparent replacement theology and Christian nationalism remind him of the state of Christianity in Germany in the 1920s and 30s.

“He’s playing on the ignorance of Christians, just like (Adolf) Hitler did,” Waller said. “We are going to make Israel or the Jews the bad guys…he’s blaming the Jews for the economy. It was the same thing in 1929 – the Jews were the target. He’s already setting it up.”

Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish author and radio host, challenged Torba’s statements and the merging of Christian nationalism with anti-Semitism in a Facebook live video last week.

“This idea of ‘2% running the nation’ – this is typical anti-Semitic fear mongering,” Brown said. “We’ve been around this mountain before, we know where this type of thinking goes.”

Michael Brown in a video speaking about Christian nationalism and anti-Semitism (Photo: Screenshot)

In an email exchange with ALL ISRAEL NEWS, Brown calls Torba mixing Christian nationalism with anti-Semitism “a very toxic mix” and says Torba’s “comments are deeply disturbing on several levels.”

“First, he buys into standard anti-Semitic tropes; second, he refuses to work together with Jews who share his conservative moral outlook; third, he endorses a dangerous kind of Christian nationalism. In doing so, he makes the gospel look bad in the eyes of the Jewish world and adds fuel to the fire of Gentile anti-Semites.”

Brown addresses what he calls “a growing problem in conservative Christian circles in the U.S.” in his recent book, “The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Have Confused Politics with the Gospel.”

This “extreme version of ‘America first’” could also lead to the U.S. forsaking its historic alliance with Israel, Brown warns.

Arlene Bridges Samuels, a weekly columnist at The Christian Broadcasting Network/Israel, said that Torba’s statements should raise an alarm for conservative Christians and those “who advocate for Israel based on biblical truth and value countless friendships with the Jewish community.”

“Although Torba’s over-emotional rhetoric can damage the great relationships between us, their numbers are insignificant compared to 600 million Evangelicals worldwide who care about Jews and Israel,” she told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “Governed by wisdom, it is our obligation to speak out in ways that our Jewish Savior will say, ‘Well done.’” 

Arlene Bridges Samuels (Photo courtesy)

SO, WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN 1930s GERMANY?

Let’s go back to 1930s Germany. As the Nazi party was on the rise, very few churches opposed the political movement, but a few actually aligned with it.

“The ‘German Christians’ embraced many of the nationalistic and racial aspects of Nazi ideology. Once the Nazis came to power, this group sought the creation of a national ‘Reich Church’ and supported a ‘nazified’ version of Christianity,” the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the German Christian movementDeutsche Christen in German – was comprised of “Protestants who attempted to subordinate church policy to the political initiatives of the Nazi Party.”

The elitist ideology of Nazism elevated the Aryan race above all others, which subjugated Jews among others. This thinking seeped into the Church as “Christian values,” ultimately obfuscating the inherent racism in Hitler’s ideology.

Britannica describes the German Christian movement as “nationalistic and so anti-Semitic that extremists wished to repudiate the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the Pauline Letters because of their Jewish authorship. With anti-Semitism as its theological center, Christianity was reframed as an Aryan religion at war with Judaism.”

Nazi storm troopers guarding a Jewish-owned business in Vienna shortly after the Anschluss. The graffiti on the store window reads, “You Jewish pig, may your hands rot off!” (Photo: Marschalek/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Though there was some criticism of Nazi ideology and a few Christians did speak out – and were subsequently imprisoned or killed, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer – “there was virtually no public opposition to anti-Semitism or any readiness by church leaders to publicly oppose the regime on the issues of anti-Semitism and state-sanctioned violence against the Jews.”

By fostering and promoting prejudice against Jews and their beliefs, Hitler fomented a slippery slope which enabled him to blame the Jews for the country’s woes and then dehumanize them.

The Nazi platform was explicitly hostile toward Jews:

“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.” Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform

Is Christian nationalist rhetoric – banning cooperation with others with the same ideologies albeit different religions – on that slippery slope? 

These are some of Torba's own comments regarding Jews:

“Their holy book is the Talmud – not the Old Testament, it’s not the Torah. We do not have a shared value system…. Abortion and baby murder is a Jewish value. Well, this this not a Christian value. This is why we can’t have a Judeo-Christian movement.”

“Those two world views, those two theological moral frameworks are in direct conflict.”

“The only groups of people that are chosen are those that believe in Jesus Christ and call Him king. They are the chosen seed of Israel.”

In an apparent post on his Gab page, Torba also told his followers: “Reminder that we are going to deprogram 150 years of Zionist theological and cultural indoctrination and do our own indoctrinating of the next generation at the same time. What has been started cannot be stopped.” 

While the June 4-post was captured as a photo on the Anti-Defamation League webpage, it could not be independently confirmed by ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

MIXING CHURCH & STATE – OR POLITICS & THE BIBLE

Brown – an American – notes that pledging allegiance to the U.S. and to Jesus are separate issues.

“The type of Christian nationalism that Torba espouses is not simply a love of God and a love of country. It is the marriage of the gospel with patriotism – as if America was uniquely chosen by God to be Christian and, therefore, our calling as American Christians was to take over the nation and enforce Christian principles as the law of the land,” Brown said. 

Jesus did not come to establish a nationalistic kingdom, Brown explains saying that, “To the extent we wrap the gospel in our American flag, we have defamed the gospel.”

Shawn Hyland, who made a brief run for Congress in New Jersey, made similar observations about what he called “white nationalism” and “Christian nationalism” among conservatives. 

“I reject the new wave of Christian nationalism and have no affinity or empathy for far-right groups,” he said to supporters in a recent letter he shared with ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “I strongly and repeatedly denounced the far left and the far right in campaign videos, rallies, and communications. Both sides are guilty of hypocrisy, inconsistency, conspiracies, lies and uncontrolled anger to support their preferred narratives and preconceived assumptions.”

Shawn Hyland (Photo: Screenshot)

Hyland headed the Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, but before that he served as the New Jersey State Coordinator for Christians United for Israel. While he didn’t comment specifically on Torba’s statements, he said in his letter that “there was at least some truth to the critiques from far-left journalists who accuse the white Evangelical Church of xenophobia and racism by their acceptance of the ‘Great Replacement Theory.’”

Hyland blames the “infatuation” many Christians have with former U.S. President Donald Trump and the fact that many Christian voters have simply “moved on from these once non-negotiable social issues for more culturally conservative ones.”

“I believe there is now a new need not being addressed by the Church across this nation – how to faithfully represent Christ in politics,” he said.

WHERE IS THE ‘CHRISTIAN’ IN CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM?

Waller says that, contrary to making a case for Christianity, Torba’s beliefs instead undermine the truth of the Bible and the credibility of the prophets because they fail to recognize Israel and the Jewish people. 

“Our Bible is fully Jewish, our Messiah is fully Jewish,” Waller stated.

Christians need a foundational understanding of the Old Testament, he said.

“We won’t have that without the Jewish people to help us study to get a reality of that,” Waller said. “The restoration of Israel, these vineyards and trees, are actual proof that the Word of God is true.”

Waller believes that Christianity has a geographic base – and that is Israel, where he has lived for 18 years.

“What I see is that the gospel without the Israel narrative morphs into this really dangerous place,” Waller said. “He is speaking against the narrative that we have. So if you are believing in a physical reality, and the epicenter is Jerusalem – that’s not even a consideration for this guy." 

Rev. Anthony Abma, the founder of Return O’ Israel, said that in his assessment, the Church largely has not embraced the roots of Christianity as stemming from the Jewish people and the Hebrew scriptures.

“There’s an element of replacement theology which doesn’t recognize the faith aspect of the Jewish people. Jews believe in the same God and our Christian faith comes out of Judaism – and we need to give it a lot more respect,” he said in an interview with ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

Abma feels that more needs to be done to awaken Christians to their part, which is embodied in the biblical heroine and gentile, Ruth, who dedicated her life to her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi.

“She came to a place of faith and wanting to support Naomi. So she went out to support the Jewish people,” he said.

Screenshot of a post on the social media site Gab

DAMAGING TRUST BETWEEN JEWS, CHRISTIANS

The recent Gab scandal began when Torba criticized Josh Shapiro, a candidate for Pennsylvania governor. Shapiro’s Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, purchased advertising on Gab and was quickly sullied for his association with the site, known as a free-speech haven for anyone, including neo-Nazis. 

The story was first reported by The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language newspaper. It was quickly picked up by the Jewish press and sparked international backlash.

Mastriano condemned anti-Semitism and distanced himself from Gab. He had also posted a Messianic Jewish worship video on his Facebook page prior to any of this becoming public.

But after decades of Christian outreach to Israel and the Jewish people to build bridges and make amends for centuries of anti-Semitism, Torba’s ideologies threaten to set back relations.

“There are those who are starting to warm up to things, but the overall suspicion is embedded in millennia,” Abma noted.

Torba and the Gab community are building a “parallel Christian society” because, according to one post, they are “fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been tracking Torba and Gab for some time now, calling out anti-Semitic statements he has made. He turned the tables on them saying, “You reveal your anti-Christian hatred when you refer to Biblical Truth as ‘antisemitism.’”

“This is a Christian nation. Christians outnumber you by a lot. A lot,” Torba said in a response to a statement about him being “toxic” by ADL CEO Jason Greenblatt. “And we’re not going to listen to 2%. You represent 2% of the country, okay? We’re not bending the knee to the 2% anymore. The 98% of the rest of us — you know, 70, 75% of which are Christians, self-identifying Christians – we’re not taking it anymore, bud. We are taking back our culture. We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government. So deal with it.”

Torba also jumped on the liberal ADL’s stance supporting abortion as representing all Jews – hence his claim that “baby murder is a Jewish value.”

Andrew Torba (Photo: Screenshot)

Waller noted that the liberal ADL does not set the religious platform for the Jewish people. 

And, Waller makes another point.

“Go to the pulpits and see how many Christians are supporting abortion and homosexuality. All the things Torba is saying the ADL and the Jews are supporting, the church is guilty too,” he said.

“We don’t say ‘all Jews’ just like we wouldn’t say ‘all Christians.’ There are many Christians and there are many Jews who are opposed to these issues and are dealing with them in their own communities.” 

The Christian and Messianic leaders who spoke with ALL ISRAEL NEWS fear that this message of exclusion, coupled with anti-Semitic tropes, will at minimum drive a wedge between these relations and, worse, spark another wave of anti-Semitism.

Read more: ANTI SEMITISM

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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