Any person who has simply read the Parable of the Great Banquet would know eugenics was wrong!
When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be paid at the resurrection of the just. — Luke 14:12-14.
Pastor Von Bodelschwing, head of the charitable community at Bethel-Bielefeld was an evangelical who must have read these words of Jesus because he “barred with his body the efforts of the Nazis to remove deformed children from his institution in order to exterminate them.” (1) Karl Stern, a Jewish convert to Christianity, writing in his memoir, The Pillar of Fire, described the situation:
There was a famous Lutheran pastor, Bodelschwingh, who built up a huge colony of feeble-minded, idiots and epileptics in Bethel in Western Germany. During the war, when the Nazis carried out the slaughter of all mental patients, Pastor Bodelschwingh insisted that he would be killed together with his inmates. It was only on the basis of his international fame that the politicians let him get away with it and let him and the inmates of his colony live. This was a kind of last ditch stand of Christianity. (2)
Bodelschwingh and a friend had begun to talk about mysterious disappearances of feebleminded girls and became suspicious of the Nazis. After seeing the girls’ obituaries appear in the press, Bodelschwingh decided he wouldn’t let the Nazis take any of his patients. They were unsuccessful at getting past the pastor, but soon after he refused, the “Britains” bombed his hospital. (3)
G.K. Chesterton, a prolific British author of books such as the classic, The Everlasting Man, may not have put his life on the line, but he warned the world the eugenics was evil far before the horrors of the Holocaust were ever revealed. In his 1922 book, Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized Society, Chesterton said that eugenics “ought to be destroyed” and although it seemed to be idealistically motivated, and was promoted by “disciples whose intentions are entirely innocent and humane,” this was deceptive because, he explained . . .
. . . evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin. Of these who are deceived I shall speak of course as we all do of such instruments; judging them by the good they think they are doing, and not by the evil which they really do. (4)
Another person who spoke out against eugenics was Edgar Young Mullins, the fourth president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the sixteenth president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In his last book, Christianity at the Crossroads (1924), he took on many issues that were challenging the church on his watch. He specifically called out a prominent Princeton evolutionist named Professor E.G. Conklin for claiming the evolution and Christian ethics were compatible. Mullins believed that faith was primarily concerned with an eternal relationship with God, not just living a good life on earth. He argued:
The future life of immorality beyond death has no recognition in Professor Conklin’s system. The only future he foresees is a better society on earth. The key words of human destiny [to Conklin] are eugenics, euthenics, hereditary, sanitation, social improvement. (5)
Mullins continually argued for a God who was active in the lives of men and women and cared about their needs, contrasting it with Conklin’s dead system which had no afterlife. And even though Conklin had a set of ethical rules to live by, these rules offered no spiritual LIFE, no connection to the love of God–something that was only achieved, said Mullins, when a person is born again. Because Mullins held a proper view of God, and was being nourished by the True Vine, he was able to see the sin promoted by eugenics, while the “ethical” Conklin who focused primarily on bettering this world was unable to see it. This just goes to show that the Holy Spirit of Truth is the ultimate source of true justice.
- Stewart Winfield Herman, Report from Christian Europe (New York: Friendship Press, 1953), 54.
- Karl Stern, Pillar of Fire (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951), 119.
- William Shirer, Berlin Diary (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1941, 512.
- G.K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized Society (London: Cassell and Co., Ltd., 1922), 4. (It may be important to note that some have accused Chesterton of being an anti-Semite. A discussion about this accusation can be found here: “Was G.K. Chesterton Anti-Semitic?” May 11, 2012, The Apostalate of Common Sense. https://www.chesterton.org/was-chesterton-antisemitic/.
- E. Y. Mullins, Christianity at the Crossroads (New York: George H. Doran, 1924), 94.