I spent yesterday afternoon reading Schoeman’s book, Salvation is from the Jews. Chapter 6, “Ideological Foundations of Nazism,” shows the horrible, step-by-step progression through which Hitler led Germany (the most civilized nation in Europe) into the depths of Satanism. All in the name of Jesus.
Step 1: The Subversion of Christianity from Within
Central to Hitler’s movement was his ability to convince the Christians of Germany that Nazism was God’s chosen vessel for the salvation of the people of Europe. The Nazis borrowed the concept of the Jews as a “chosen race” and replaced them with the Aryan race. Jesus was still worshiped, but increasingly Hitler was seen as Christ incarnate. When a Nazi journal asked readers what Hitler meant to them, these were some typical responses:
“The Fuhrer is the visible personal expression of what in our youth was represented as God.”
“I have never felt the Divine Power as near as in the greatness of our Fuhrer.”
“[The Fuhrer] is the bread of which the soul stands in need. I would like to say openly that the high teaching of the Fuhrer is to me a religion, the German religion!”
What I find significant here is that while at the highest levels the leadership of Nazi Germany was deliberately reintroducing ancient pagan ceremonies, the people on the streets by and large were unaware of the changes taking place in their midst. There was no distinction between their Nazi ideology and the Christian faith. Being a good Christian, for them, meant being a good Nazi.
In our group, Tyler was seen as the ultimate manifestation of God’s voice. Allen Hood, the president of IHOP University, says that when he went over to one of the houses after Betania’s death (but before the leadership realized that they were a cult), eighteen people all told him separately, one after the other, “Tyler just hears God better than the rest of us.” To challenge Tyler’s authority was to challenge God. We all thought we were worshiping Jesus. And at first, I think we were. But over time, subtly, gradually, our allegiances began shifting. When we gathered in the living room, when we went to the prayer room, it wasn’t Jesus we were singing about; it wasn’t Jesus we were celebrating. It was Tyler.
Step 2: Magic
It’s no secret that the heart and soul of the Nazi religion was magic. Schoener writes, “Throughout it was imbued with a fanatical sense of national / racial superiority, and permeated with a revival of romanticized Teutonic paganism, replete with the revival of ‘ancient’ gods, rites, rituals, and symbols, including the swastika, and imbued with an active occultism coming from Eastern religions via Theosophy.”
I don’t think most of the folks in our group would have described what we were doing as magic. But that’s not so much an indication of the innocence of our doings as it is in Tyler’s ability (conscious or not) to veil occultic practices beneath the mask of prayer and worship. When the prayer group started he confessed to us that he had willfully practiced magic in junior high, and that there were still moments when he found himself using some mysterious power to control others in ways that were unexplainable. In the years I was with him, things were constantly happening that I had to shrug away as being “the work of the Holy Spirit” for the sake of my own sanity. He would raise his voice and say, “Jesus!” and the neighbor’s music would immediately stop playing. He would tell the birds to fly away and they would fly away. He knew things about us that no one had told him. He knew our secrets. Sometimes I felt like he could see inside my mind. He would place curses on my appliances so they wouldn’t work.
And over time it became clear that what we were doing when we gathered to pray together wasn’t really prayer. It was magic. That was probably my biggest realization on the night when I overheard them praying against me, calling on God to punish me because of the demons I was supposedly sending against them. It happened so gradually, but so inexorably it’s hard to believe it wasn’t intended from the beginning.
Step 3: Sexual Degeneracy
This is so horrible I don’t want to get into it much, but a huge aspect of Satan’s degradation of Germany was its calculated descent into sexual deviancy—specifically, older men initiating younger men into coercive homosexual relationships. The leader of the Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach, “was arrested by the police for perverse sexual practices and liberated on the intervention of Hitler, who soon afterward made him leader of the Hitler Youth” (Samuel Igra, Germany’s National Vice, 1945). Schoener notes, “In 1934, the Gestapo reported over forty cases of pederasty in a single troop of the Hitler Youth . . . the Storm Troopers fared no better.”
I suspected that Tyler was pursuing intimate relationships with guys in the house, but none of us knew the full extent of it until the Group was broken up. He was in a sexual relationship with everyone in the house with the exception of his own wife [and one visitor, whom he had been subtly grooming]; and the other guys—only one of whom was actually gay—were in sexual relationships with each other. It was a skillfully orchestrated system of debauchery that shattered the wills of the boys under his care and completely crushed their spirits.
So much for heaven on earth.
* * *
One more memory:
It’s the summer of 2011. I’ve just returned to the Group after being shunned for eight months. (During those eight months I was still living in the house, but had no contact with anyone in it). In the four days since my return, we’ve had one “end-times training” meeting and Tyler has mandated that I can no longer read or write.
I’m standing in Tim’s bathroom on the morning after that eventful meeting, brushing my teeth, when the thought finally occurs to me: We’re actually becoming a cult.
It’s the first time I’ve ever allowed myself to voice that thought. In the past, Tyler (who knew I had read books about cults and the dynamics that shape them) had placed such a stigma on the word cult that I was afraid even to think it. But now, after eight months of shunning, I can no longer bring myself to care too much what Tyler thinks.
I hesitated, wondering at the line I had just crossed. Is it true? Is that really what we’ve come to?
I thought about the prayer meetings and the worship meetings and the way Tyler had attacked Hannah* when she dissented from what the Group heard during prayer on the previous night. I thought about the evacuation drills. I thought about the weird spirit of communal self-love that I saw seeping over my friends during dinner and in the room where we gathered to hang out afterwards.
By definition, I reasoned, it’s hard to deny that we’re acting very cultish. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Why do cults have such a bad name? It could be a lot worse. At least we’re a Christian cult.
What worries me is that I know I’m not the only person who’s ever said this to himself in a moment of clarity. It can be so easy to rationalize the reality with which we’re presented; and the temptation to justify the deeds of those close to us, or those over us—especially in a high-pressure religious environment—can be irresistible.
Jean-Marie Lustiger was born and raised Jewish under the Nazi occupation, and later become Archbishop of Paris. Commenting on the depravities of Nazism, he has said:
I mention in passing that Nazism perverted the notion of a chosen people in order to create a diabolical messianism of their own. It was not subjected to God, but on the contrary looked to the coming of the Superman and thus to the annihilation of the rest of humanity. Nazism identified “election” with domination and unconscionable privilege.
This is dense, Catholic language, but essentially what Lustiger is doing is identifying Nazism with three characteristics:
(1) The concept of a chosen people, an elite group of apostles living at the end of history
(2) The coming of a savior who will vindicate the elite group in its own specialness while annihilating the rest of the human race
(3) The chosen ones are not called to suffering and the laying down of their own lives but to the violent subjugation and domination of all other peoples. The message of the cross is inverted, weakness is insulted, and Might is Right.
Towards the end of my time in the house, while I was looking for a new place to live, I watched both versions of the classic sci-fi film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In these movies, the main character and his girlfriend discover that giant seed pods from outer space are falling all over their town. Folks are behaving strangely; they’re all thinking and acting alike. Turns out, the pods are replacing their old personalities with a hive mind, and the horrible revelation near the end of the movie is that these pods are now being exported all over the country.
What happened in Tyler’s group for five years was disturbing, and it should never have happened, and one of the reasons my friend is gone is because the rest of us were unable to see how drastically our own faith was being subverted in the name of Jesus. But Tyler’s group is not the only group in which this is happening, and the kind of religion he practiced is growing, and will continue to grow as long as good, Christian people can’t tell the difference between the true Christian faith and its satanic perversions.