Despite how often Christian apologists try to argue that Adolf Hitler is an example of the evil caused by atheism and secularism, the truth is that Hitler often proclaimed his own Christianity, how much he valued Christianity, how important Christianity was to his life, and even how much he was personally inspired by Jesus - his "Lord and Savior." Like many German Christians of the time, however, Hitler saw Jesus Christ in a very different light from what is normally the case.
In a speech from April 12, 1922 and published in his book My New Order, Adolf Hitler explains his perspective on Jesus Christ:
My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.
In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.
There are two features here which deviate from what many might expect to find in a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The first, of course, is the anti-Semitism. While Christians in America today might find this bizarre, it really wasn't out of place in early 20th century Germany among conservative, moderate, and even liberal Christians. Nazi Christians didn’t abandon basic Christian doctrines, like the divinity of Jesus. Their oddest religious belief was a denial of the Jewishness of Jesus, but even today there are Christians in Germany who object when Jesus’ Jewishness is focused upon.
The second unusual feature is the emphasis on traditionally "masculine" qualities like the use of force, being a "fighter," and taking direct action against enemies. Traditional masculine qualities played a very important role in Nazi rhetoric, so of course Nazi Christians preferred a masculine Christianity over a feminine one. True Christianity, they claimed, was manly and hard, not feminine and weak. When Adolf Hitler describes Jesus, “my Lord and Savior,” as “a fighter,” he is simply expressing a popular belief among other followers of right-wing political and religious ideologies.
Hitler's Jesus, and the Jesus of German Christians generally, was a militant warrior fighting for God, not a suffering servant accepting punishment for the sins of the world. What's very important to realize, though, is that this image of Jesus is not limited to Nazi Germany. The idea of a manly, masculine, fighting Jesus developed elsewhere as well and became known as "Muscular Christianity." Because churches had become so associated with women and feminization, in the late 19th century Christian men began seeking changes in the nature of Christianity and Christian churches which reflected “masculine” values.
In America, this early form of Muscular Christianity used sport as a conveyor or moral values, like manliness and discipline. Today sport is used mostly as a vehicle for evangelization, but the basic principle that Christianity must be “manly” survives in other contexts. Many Christians today rail against the "feminization" of Christianity and argue for a more masculine, muscular Christianity that can help America maintain it's place of dominance in the world. Conservative Christians in America are no Nazis, but neither were most conservative Christians in 1920s and 1930s Germany. They did, however, come out to support the Nazis because this political party promoted a religious, political, and national vision which people found appealing.
As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. ...And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.
And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exposed.
- quoted in Freethought Today, April 1990
Christians today find it implausible that their religion could have anything in common with Nazism, but they need to recognize that Christianity - including their own - is always conditioned by the culture around it. For Germans at the beginning of the 20th century, Christianity was often profoundly anti-Semitic and nationalistic. This was the same ground which the Nazis found so fertile for their own ideology. It would have been amazing had the two systems not found much in common and been unable to work together.
Nazi Christians didn’t follow an idiosyncratic version of Christianity nor was it “infected” with hate and nationalism. Everything about Nazi Christianity already existed in German Christianity before the Nazis came on the scene.