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It is long past time to end the use of Nazi and holocaust analogies regarding legal abortion and contraception in the United States. The practice substitutes a weak, inflammatory analogy for substantive disagreement. It elevates the most cynical kind of demagoguery over respect for constitutional democracy. It is abusive towards the the religious views of those for whom abortion can be a moral choice, which includes most of organized Judaism. What's more, the Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly denounced such uses as a further abuse of the victims of the Nazi holocaust itself.

What is remarkable to me is that some of those who engage in this also claim to embrace civility in public life, and do not seem to see any inconsistency in their approach.    

The most dramatic example was when Rick Warren hosted a 2008 presidential candidate forum in the sanctuary of his church featuring Barack Obama and John McCain.  Warren opened and closed the nationally televised event by appealing for people who politically disagree to treat each other civilly. But Warren managed to squeeze into his conversation with McCain the idea that many evangelicals consider abortion to be a holocaust. ("I'm prolife," smiled John McCain. No holocaust enabler he!)  But lest anyone hold out the idea that Warren meant a generic holocaust and was not making a Nazi analogy, consider that the next day, Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report asked him about the point.

If they (Evangelicals, among whom Warren counts himself) think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust, and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier....
This brings us to a rising star on the Religious Right who also recently made an unfair and unsupported Nazi analogy. But he really, really ought to know better, as journalist (and Talk to Action contributor) Greg Metzger makes clear.

The perp this time is Eric Metaxas, a biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian known for his stand against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Metzger reports that Metaxas compares the federal requirement that contraception be covered in employer provided health insurance packages "to unnamed laws passed in the early stages of Hitler’s rise to power, that it is putting the United States on a similar course to the horrors of Nazi Germany and that it is therefore incumbent upon Christians in America to view the struggle against the HHS Mandate as Bonhoeffer viewed the struggle against Nazism at its earliest stages."

Metaxas has been saying such things on national television and in other prominent venues.  

So let's summarize. A biographer of anti-Nazi hero Bonhoeffer claims, providing no evidence, that a minor albeit controversial provision of a government insurance regulation, is like laws promulgated in the early years of the Nazi era, and the struggle against it carries the implied moral equivalence to Bonhoeffer's Christian struggle against the Nazis.  

Oh yeah, and Metzger also reports that "Among Eric Metaxas’ many virtues is his professed commitment to Christian civility."  Metzger avers, however:

It seems to me that if citizens are going to accuse their duly elected leaders of complicity in horrors comparable to those that launched the Nazi regime then civility would demand that they explain their charges with the care and scholarship that they warrant. Certainly this was Bonhoeffer’s method of operation. He put teeth to his charges against the Nazi regime and did not rely on hyperbole and media sloganeering alone in his resistance to their laws.
It is remarkable to me how public figures like Warren and Metaxas whose careers are based on the idea that values matter; that the words we use and how we use them reflect those values; and that words and how we use them are the crucible for the values of civil discourse -- can so openly and flagrantly betray those values.  Even more remarkable to me is that they pretty much get away with it.

But let's (briefly) go with the idea that requiring employers to include contraception coverage in insurance packages is an evil in the same league as the Nazi holocaust, and that President Obama in this scenario is Hitler and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is, say Adolph Eichmann.  That would make those of us who elect Democratic pols and support the contraception regulation, Nazi collaborators.

It would be tempting to think that this is taking the analogy a bridge too far. I wish I could say that it is, but I think that bridge has long been crossed. Whether there is any going back, I really don't know.  

There is a point where analogy can become or merge with the underlying belief, and these can be difficult to untangle, even if someone wants to:  Particularly when a political analogy morphs into a metaphor for the very definition of one's purpose in life and the lives of all other people of good will.  (Suffice to say that there can be grave dangers when people come to believe their own propaganda.)

Indeed, Warren and Mataxas's views are far from exceptional in the increasingly unhinged view of many on the Religious Right generally, and the anti-abortion movement in particular.  In their view, we are all indeed collaborators in heinous evil (and the agenda of evil is not limited to contraception regs). If the trend holds, it may be just a matter of time before we learn how Metaxas and his rabble of Bonhoeffer wannabes intend to address the Nazi regime and the collaborators among us.

Metaxas recently said:  

“This [the HHS Mandate debate] is so oddly similar to where Bonhoeffer found himself” in the early stages of Nazi Germany. “If we don’t fight now, if we don’t really use our bullets now, we will have no fight five years from now…it’s the millimeter that is that line which we cross. I’m sorry to say that I see these parallels, I really wish I didn’t…We are getting a second chance…so we don’t make the same mistakes and go down the same road.”
Things might be different if the likes of Metaxas and Warren ever realize what they have done and step-up to undo the damage, and to lead their people in fresh and more constructive directions. But whether they do or not, new leaders pop up all the time in all sectors of society. Let's hope that sufficient people of conscience soon rise to the occasion.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion, Pro Choice, and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  There Must Be 1,000 Times As Many "People" (6+ / 0-)

    taken before birth from natural causes as deliberate abortion. Rates I've seen quoted run from 50% and up.

    If abortion is a holocaust then pregnancy exposes people to plague. If the religious authoritarians really believed what they claim, they should be taking a very different approach toward medicine, scientific research, public health, and regulatory policies.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 11:36:06 AM PDT

  •  As a teenager (4+ / 0-)

    in the Sixties, only drugstores generally sold condoms & they were typically kept behind  the counter, so you had to ask the clerk or druggist for them. Who knows how many unwanted pregnancies because  young people were too embarrassed to ask? We seem to be headed back to that era. Gonna ban the word "vagina" too.

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 11:56:52 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for pointing out the misuse (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson

    of what is considered by many the worst crime in human history: the Holocaust. Anyone who misuses the word open him/herself to the charge of being a demagogue

  •  This so-called "biographer" is an idiot (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, FG, radical simplicity, spacecadet1

    National health insurance began in Germany when Bismarck was Chancellor.  

    the stupid, it burns us precioussss, it burnss.....

  •  People like Warren and Metaxas have no interest (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity, Parthenia

    in avoiding hyperbole. It's the number one tool in their toolkit because it is a conversation-stopper. The intention is to subvert any actual discussion of abortion by labeling anyone who wishes to defend abortion under any circumstance as akin to a mass-murderer.

  •  These people are simply (0+ / 0-)

    "Godwin-ing" the conversation and in my experience, when people try to do that on blogs or comment sections they get laughed at and are given the big brush off/cold shoulder treatment.  I don't really think that most people take this Nazi/Halocaust type analogy stuff seriously enough to be that concerned about it. The only people that pick up on it and nod their heads are people who already have off the wall views. It's been overused so much as to have become meaningless.  I highly doubt that this kind of rhetoric brings in new converts to the points being made, so I don't see getting too excited about it.

    •  actually (3+ / 0-)

      It is fact that this analogy is profoundly a part of the thinking of much of the antiabortion movement and has been for decades. And Metaxas is an important figure whose public profile is rising.

      As someone who has watched this over time, I invite you to consider that it is not something of which to be casually dismissive. Long before the heavy fighting starts, would be a good time.  

    •  Stochastic Terrorism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Frederick Clarkson, spacecadet1

      They are intentionally creating the conditions that will push crazy people to murder anyone who provides, aids, has, or is otherwise involved with abortion.

      This is a clear and open call to kill:

      “If we don’t fight now, if we don’t really use our bullets now..."
      The purpose of the false analogy is to create a sense of "Christian duty," and to trigger certain people to follow through on their sense of duty. It's how stochastic terrorism works.
      •  Scott Roeder (0+ / 0-)

        quoted the bible to justify his murder of Dr. Tiller. Should there be a condemnation of the bible as a source of "stochastic terrorism"? (Now that would be an interesting topic for a column!)   Crazy people are just that. They can pull out anything they want to do what they intend to do anyway. What I am saying is that most people in the general public see through the Nazi/Halocaust/"Christian duty" nonsense. Except the already crazy people. And back to square one.

        Hitler used the writings of Martin Luther ("Jews and Their Lies")  to justify the Halocaust.  Can we then charge Martin Luther with "stochastic terrorism?  Maybe I am just musing here, and I am just as much against the religious right's influence on our country as the next guy, but what IS the solution here?

        •  Crazy is crazy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Frederick Clarkson

          But intentionally feeding the crazy, knowing that it's likely to result in murder, is far different from someone passively having access to a book.

          This guy is actively calling people to use violence on the radio, on TV, and in person.

          •  There are laws against (0+ / 0-)

            using speech to incite murder or terrorism, but the language has to be very specific and cross some legal lines.  If Warren and this Metaxes guy had done this, they would have faced some questioning by authorities at the least. That has not happened.  They are just blowing hot air and it is the type of rhetoric, as I said, that is used ad nauseum in reference to Obama, the democrats and sometimes is thrown right back at conservatives.  Using Hitler etc. has been done so much, most people have become immune to it and see it for the meaningless nonsense it has become.  Again, you would have to prove that the words of these people have directly caused murderous or terroristic acts. That's really hard to do.

            I suppose writing about it gives people a heads up, but America is just swamped with this rhetoric and I see it coming to little effect to address it.   Watch Obama invite Warren again to the inaugural despite information like this being put out. Perhaps he would listen to a Jewish group if they came to the White House and objected to Warren because of this rhetoric, but I don't see how you would be able to do anything about Metaxes.

            •  You might try listening more (0+ / 0-)

              and arguing less.  You are new to this site, try to get a better grip on where you are and who you are speaking with.

              The notion of stochastic terrorism creates situations  in which powerful suggestions can be made to the susceptible. It is a well established idea,  and it does not have to be prosecutable to be real. It is certainly a significant factor in our national life.

              Just because you don't know what can be done does not mean that people are not doing things and considering what else to do.

              But certainly one thing is to become informed about how this works and how it is a rising problem in the country. If you think the handwringing about hyperpartisanship is bad, wait until the violence widens.

              We have had three decades of bombings, arsons and assassinations aimed at abortion providers, and a number of related domestic terror crime sprees that were thwarted before they could be carried out. Gay bars have also been a target and there have been plans to attack churches that don't meet the standards of the terrorist and those who influence him.

              Holding people like Metaxas accountable is not all that hard. People just need to decide it is necessary.

      •  It's murder by proxy (0+ / 0-)

        ...use inflammatory rhetoric to push troubled people over the edge; deny responsibility when people act on their words.

  •  If we literally want them (0+ / 0-)

    to stop doing it, then we'll have to stop doing it too, or they'll never take us seriously.

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