WWHD: What Would Hitler Do?

Cheeky.  I know.  Most Christians like to operate on the WWJD premise.  However, a favorite apologist of mine, Greg Koukl, would argue that in order to know what Jesus would do in any given situation, you’d have to know what Jesus did in history.  He’s right.  It seems a lot of the time we prefer to operate on slogans and emotional appeals to make our cases, rather than doing the hard work of being students of theology or history.  I’ve decided since Jesus seems to be something of an enigma to a lot of people, including a lot of Christians, that using the motto WWHD can be a lot easier than WWJD.  It turns out most folks over the age of 20, regardless of political or religious affiliation, have a pretty good grasp of what Hitler was all about (although it seems even this significantly more recent objective history is losing traction these days).  After giving it some thought, I’ve decided Hitler can be used much more easily than Jesus to make some points.  Sometimes rather than trying to convince somebody of who they should be like, it might be easier to convince them of who they shouldn’t be like.  This seems to work best with people who generally subscribe to some sort of relativism.

I often hear people say things like, “I have my truth and you have your truth.”  However, although we may have differing perspectives, there is only one truth to be sought.  For example, Joe may say he thinks Mike is a hard worker, but Mary may say she thinks Mike is not a hard worker.  Can it be true that Mike is both a hard worker and not a hard worker?  I think not.  It may be true that Joe thinks Mike is hard worker, and it may also be true that Mary thinks Mike is not a hard worker.  These are just two opinions though, probably based on different experiences with Mike.  Saying “Joe thinks” a thing, or “Mary thinks” a thing though, is vastly different from saying “Mike is” a thing.  I can say, “Mike is a hard worker,” and there is an objective truth value to that statement that is independent of any observer.  The logical law of non-contradiction makes it an impossibility that a statement can be both true and false at the same time.  Mike is either a hard worker, or he is not a hard worker.  You may need to flesh out context and what is meant by “hard worker”, but it is impossible that, in the same context, Mike both is a hard worker and is not a hard worker.  Given an adequate definition, the objective truth of the statement “Mike is a hard worker” can be known.  Further, in the absence of objective truth values, can we say that Hitler wasn’t justified in his actions?  If multiple truths are possible, you can say it is your opinion that it was unfashionable for him to take such actions, but not that it was objectively wrong.  You may think it was wrong, but that’s just your own version of the truth.  Hitler’s truth was that he was improving the world, and his truth is every bit as valid as your truth.  This is an untennable position if you ask me.

The other day I had another friend explain that we should just say that Monday is now Saturday and go home.  He asserted this is mere social convention.  We’re just nature and nature has no need of such social constructs.  His claim, as I understood it, was that we can re-define any truth we want as we see fit by getting the majority to agree to it.  There’s actually some truth to this as it pertains to labels, but while I can certainly appreciate his disdain for Mondays, it seems to me that the “Monday” being referred to is a certain kind of thing.  Certainly we could take the thing “Monday” and call it “Saturday”, but if what we mean by “Monday” in this case is that it is the first day of the work week, then call it what you will, it is still the first day of the work week.  Calling it something different doesn’t change the truth of the matter.  I can call it “hamburger” if I want, but I still need to punch in at 8:00.  Perception may be able to be overcome by appealing to popularity, but unfortunately truth cannot.  Changing perception does not change the truth.  Just ask any magician.  Hitler changed perception by appealing to the ferocity of German nationalism.  Simply changing popular public opinion though, never did change the true fact that handicapped and Jewish folks are people, and unjustly taking people’s lives is murder.

The next time you encounter someone who argues that something is true or permissible simply because different people have different truths, or because all truth is only defined by what is most popular, just ask them to consider carefully…WWHD?

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5 thoughts on “WWHD: What Would Hitler Do?

  1. I find it interesting that you, in your cheeky fashion, pose Hitler as being the polar opposite of Jesus. I will, of course, take it one step cheekier.

    Other than Hilter’s time spent as a front line soldier in WWI, where he may or may not have killed opposing soldier(s), there is little proof that he killed anyone with his own hands other than himself during the fall of the SS. Sure, he headed one of the largest genocidal movements of the 20th century which, by my own judgment, was one of the worst crimes against humanity in modern times. As you point out, we know so little about Jesus himself, we have to assume that he never killed anyone and that he, as you might put it, only did things that were “good”. Perhaps he was carpenter by day, a psycho killer by night, and a savior on the weekends. We will never know. But I do think that whatever his role in the creation of Christianity was, it’s important to not forget the perhaps hundreds of millions who perished in the name of Christianity during the Crusades, Inquisitions, etc. Both Jesus and Hitler were at the forefront of movements that dealt out dire consequences to people who found themselves on, what was considered by their beliefs to be, the wrong team. However, for reasons which I cannot fathom, it is far more popular to be on team Jesus, than team Hitler. There’s no way I would ever align myself with either of those teams.

    So, sure, maybe WWHD ranks about the same as WWJD, in terms of raising questions, but I think a more important question would be; why should anyone consider what anybody else does in their life as some sort of guiding light, and use that information to make decisions in their own lives? Doesn’t this discourage critical thinking and careful considerations of facts that are relevant to the issue? I think it does. For instance, say someone in the future runs into your Mind Barfs or some of your old Facebook posts out there in cyberspace and decides that what you have to say is “God like” and worthy of following, so they start distributing WWMD bumper stickers and begin sharing what they know about you. Well, some of those old Facebook posts show that you have a family which has daughters, no sons, that you drive a minivan and are an avid jogger. What if your new follower was someone of power and influence and began requiring that people “be like Mike” by establishing a new list of sins which outlaw sons, vehicles other than minivans, and forcing people to jog daily, or suffer the consequences? Sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why should the actions you took in your life have any influence over other people’s lives? They shouldn’t, which is why I personally think it’s absurd that people still follow, or at least try to follow, what Jesus did 2000+ years ago.

    So, I would argue that the “next time you encounter someone who argues that something is true or permissible simply because different people have different truths, or because all truth is only defined by what is most popular” you should ask yourself, WWID (What Would I Do)?

    • All of the distracting debate that could be had about who Jesus, what can be known about him, and what he would have supported in history aside, it seems to me that WWID was exactly the motto Hilter was living by. If I=H then WWID=WWHD. Hilter was the “I” in his own case, so he was just doing what he thought he should do. Perhaps you’re more aligned with his team than you think? 😉

      Further, if the motto is WWID, on what grounds should someone of power be discouraged from doing anything they want? A “Be like Mike” society or otherwise. WWID…right? You may not like it and rise up (WWID), and then that follower of mine can kill you for it (WWID) because people like you don’t fit in his ideal society. Hmmm…sounds familiar!

      • Indeed Hilter and Jesus were both living by WWID. The problem, as I see it, is that the majority of people in society follow what somebody else does (WW(X)D?) and fail
        to carefully consider all the facts that pertain to the issue, think critically, and then make their decision about it. A good example of this is shown by how the media has morphed into what it is today (“News” shows with no news, only absurdly biased commentary). In general, as we saw in the last election, nearly everybody picks a side (WW(X)D) and supports that side no matter how ridiculous the leaders of that side are.

        “…on what grounds should someone of power be discouraged from doing anything they want?” In the US, we have democratically (actually it’s a polyarchy, not full democracy, but that’s another topic for another day) elected government, which is supposed to give “we the people” a choice over who we put into office. It does, a little, but certainly not to the degree I would like.

        Anyway, I live my life by WWID, and I think you do to, to a certain degree. I think it’s healthy for a society to grow and make changes based on real information and critical thinking, in hopes of creating a society in which all people can prosper. You’ll certainly never see a WW(X)D sticker on my car.

      • As for Jesus, I personally wouldn’t plug him in as any regular (X), because I’d claim he had a different sort of essence than you, me, or Hitler. I might use the formula WW(αΩ)D for him 😉 Obviously we’d disagree on that though. My claim is that without some transcendent ground for moral continuity among mankind, it simply doesn’t matter. It seems to me that hedonistic nihilism is just as valid as any other option for “right” living in that case.

        Further, in the absence of a transcendent grounding, I still fail to see which “real information” or lines of “critical thinking” should be pursued, what it means for all people to “prosper”, and what makes all people prospering the thing to pursue anyway? This sort of cultural relativism is still just WW(X)D, where (X) is the majority rather than some individual. Even by your standards then, it seems that Hitler believed he was making changes based on real information and critical thinking in hopes of creating a society in which all people can ultimately prosper. Who are you to say he was wrong, and on what grounding other than you’re own preference or some other society’s preference can his or the Third Reich’s actions be condemned?

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