Eighty years ago was a very significant time for the faithful Christians of Germany. At this very time, on May 29-31, 1934, members of the Confessing Church were meeting in Barmen, a part of the city of Wuppertal, Germany. There they approved The Theological Declaration of Barmen.
Theologian Karl Barth was the principal author of the Barmen Declaration. In addition to Barth, the best known signers include Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller.
The Barmen Declaration was primarily drafted in opposition to the fascism of Hitler, who came to power in 1933 and who was supported by the Nazis (those who belonged to the National Socialist German Workers Party).
Hitler became the totalitarian leader (Führer) of all segments of German society—including the Church as he co-opted the support of the “German Christians.” But Pastor Niemöller declared, “Not you, Herr Hitler, but God is my Führer.”
That was the sentiment of all who signed the Barmen Declaration.
Our situation in the United States today is much different than that of Germany in the 1930s. There are those who, ludicrously, try to link the policies of the President with Hitler.
However, in this country now the movement toward fascism is not political but primarily economic.
Interestingly, in an April 29, 1938, message to Congress, President Roosevelt warned that the growth of private power could lead to fascism. He declared that
the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
It seems evident today in the U.S. that large corporations raise and spend huge amounts of money on the political campaigns of the Presidents and congresspeople. They also spend huge amounts of money hiring former government officials to lobby Congress to pass laws that mainly benefit their interests.
These corporations are not an organized group plotting to control the country. Nevertheless, even though acting independently, the wealthiest corporations seem to have considerable control over what takes place in the halls of Congress and even the White House.
The power of the corporations has been abetted by the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling in 2010 saying that corporations are people, having the right to funnel unlimited amounts of cash into political elections anonymously.
Back in December 2010, outgoing Congressman John Hall (D-N.Y.) warned that the massive changes to campaign finance law prompted by the “Citizens United” decision could lead to fascism. (Check it out here.)
Others are suggesting that the country is becoming a “fascist corporate state.” One such person is Ray Pensador, who until earlier this year regularly wrote for Daily Kos. On April 18 of last year he wrote,
The fascist corporate state, like the one rapidly ascending in the United States today, focuses on extracting the maximum amount of profit from the citizenry, and from the environment (natural resources) for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite.
In June of last year Ralph Nader was interviewed on Democracy Now! He is quoted as saying,
It is not too extreme to call our system of government now “American fascism.” It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism.
Faithful Christians, and others, today need to declare much more definitely their staunch opposition to this kind of fascism: government unduly influenced by a “tiny ruling elite.”