The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941

The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941

The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941

The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941

Excerpt

As World War II continues to fade from living memory, it has taken on the quality of a static backdrop to the troubles of the present, its figures posed in a kind of frieze of timeless heroics. For years movie houses followed bands of courageous infantrymen at Guadalcanal and among the hedgerows of Normandy. Television series--"Why We Fought"--presented fleets of heavy bombers battering enemy cities, battleships hunting down the Bismarck, artillery practically hub-to-hub, and ecumenically, the grim embrace at Stalingrad succeeded by tank armies swarming over horizons: an Iliad for all time. As the fascination with the battles of World War II has dwindled, the basic shape of the war has remained intact: the Last Good War, fought against the Last Perfect Enemy. Indeed, if anything, the iniquity of Hitler and the Nazis has come to seem far more profound than at the time of the war itself. Images of the Kaiser and the Hun faded almost immediately after Armistice in 1918. Hitler and the Holocaust have taken on added meaning. Prolonged historical investigation of the psychological, social, religious, economic, political, and cultural roots of the Nazis has not confirmed the logic of tout comprendre, tout pardonner. Forgiveness and pardon through understanding have seemed irrelevant. Instead, World War II has challenged a basic notion of history: things do not necessarily get better. Modern life does not automatically mean the decline of evil. If old evils disappear, new, more awful ones may follow. But at least . . .

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