Reading Romans 13 Under Fascism

Eberhard Arnold

In August 1934, the Bruderhof informed the German government that it would refuse to participate in a mandatory national plebiscite to affirm Hitler’s regime. The group was already under constant police ­surveillance and had been raided twice by the SS. In the community’s worship meeting the Sunday before the vote, its pastor Eberhard Arnold gave the following address on the relation of church and state.

In no absolute monarchy has there been such centralization as there is in today’s fascist and Bolshevist states. It calls to mind imperial Rome.

But no Roman emperor claimed such idolatry, such a deification of his own person, as do present-day dictators. For Nero and other emperors, little incense altars were erected here and there, where little balls of incense had to be offered to testify to the religious significance of the unified imperial power, to the genius of the emperor: not to the emperor in person, but to the genius of the emperor. But never did Nero or any other Roman emperor bring matters to such a point that at every street corner people called out “Hail, Nero!” The dictator of today is so utterly without all religious or supernatural impulses that he does not even believe in the genius of the dictator, only in the little person of the dictator.

Thus idolatry is today coarsened in the most vulgar way. It is the loud voice, the hair, and the nose of the dictator that is worshiped. As a result, authority is also robbed of all genius. What the dictator says is done. He who thinks is hanged.

Modern fascism is such that one could weep about it day and night. Freedom of thought is forbidden. Objective justice is abolished. Goebbels says, “If we are right, it follows that no one else is right. For us there is no other justice than that which serves our interests.” Stupidity reigns. In the twentieth century, that is appalling. Who still believes in progress?

I do not believe that such an unspiritual conception ever prevailed among the primitive Germanic races of Europe. There the chieftain or duke was bound to observe the decisions of the Ting, the legislative assembly; he was bound to the place of gathering and to the legal conception of the order of the body politic. Today, however, national egotism and the self-assertion of the present dictator-group control law and justice and all thought.

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