The Baptist Center for Ethics is sponsoring middle Tennessee’s first public screening of a new documentary describing Christian complicity in the Holocaust.
“Theologians Under Hitler,” produced and directed by Methodist minister Steven Martin, will be shown at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Immanuel Baptist Church, 222 Belle Meade Boulevard, in Nashville.
Religious leaders from the community’s various faith traditions have been invited to the screening, which is open to the public and will be followed by a panel discussion scheduled to end at 3:00.
Panelists include Ken Swanson, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral; K. C. Ptomey, senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church; and Lee Camp, assistant professor at the College of Bible and Ministry at Church of Christ-related Lipscomb University.
Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications, is moderator. Robert Parham, executive director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics, will preside.
“We think this film is a valuable resource for local church discussions about what went wrong within the Christian community in Germany,” Parham said. “We also think the film offers a platform from which to ask the question: Could it happen again?”
Martin, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., produced the film to make an academic book on the church’s support for Adolf Hitler more accessible to the general public.
“If you looked around the university community, you almost could not find real resistance to the Nazi state,” Pacific Lutheran University professor Robert Ericksen and author of the groundbreaking 1985 book of the same title, says in the documentary. “If you looked in the church, you didn’t find much resistance.”
The 64-minute film and an accompanying study guide profile three of the German church’s greatest teachers–Paul Althaus, Gerhard Kittel and Emmanuel Hirsch–who gave their full support to Hitler. Kittel was founding editor of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, a seminal work on biblical languages still used in seminaries today.
The film also describes the “German Christian” movement that rose to prominence in the 1920s, championing a radically nationalist agenda that merged church and state to the point of draping the swastika on the church altar.
“For people who thought Dietrich Bonhoeffer represented the mainstream of German Christianity in the Third Reich, this film is a rude awakening,” Jean Flanigan of East Tennessee State University said in an endorsement on the movie’s Web site.
Martin, whose production company is called Vital Visuals, hopes to build interest in the film by showing it in churches.
In an interview this summer with EthicsDaily.com, Martin said the film provides a way for congregations to discuss issues of what it means to be a Christian in a divided society without becoming polarized over current politics.
“Theologians Under Hitler,” Martin said, “opens up the discussion to talk about what it means to be uniquely Christian in the world today. And I think that is the most crucial discussion we can have today in the church.
“Martin’s brief epilogue mainly works to establish the relevance and application of Third Reich theologians to today’s religious and political quagmire,” EthicsDaily.com Culture Editor Cliff Vaughn said in his review. “The power of the pulpit shines through.”
The movie’s official Web site includes a video clip.