Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor(s)

Benjamin Hett

Committee Members

Julia Sneeringer

David Nasaw

Susannah Heschel

Martin Klimke

Subject Categories

Cultural History | European History | History of Religion | Political History | United States History

Keywords

Germany, Protestants, Democracy, United States Foreign Policy, Postwar, Christianity

Abstract

This dissertation examines the relationship between the German and American Protestantism from 1945-1961. I argue that in response to the threat of Nazism and communism, mainline ecumenical American Protestants aimed to create a universalist “Christian World Order” based on liberal democracy and Christian ethics. Only this new order, they argued, could supersede nationalist and materialist agendas and restore world peace. By rhetorically depicting Nazi and Communist "totalitarianism" as anti-Christian, a construction I refer to as the Christian-Totalitarian Dichotomy, these Protestants drove German conservatives away from Nazism and toward Western liberal democracy through association with Christianity. They accomplished this through two primary methods. First, by politicizing Allied occupation policy as "vengeful" and positioning the majority of Germans as "victims" of Nazism, ecumenical Protestants successfully lobbied for political leniency that facilitated the German transition from enemy to ally. Second, American Protestants embarked on a widespread philanthropic aid campaign that brought millions of dollars of goods to Germany. Their aid campaigns continuously emphasized horrific material conditions in postwar Germany, with the necessity of humanitarian aid to stave off both a return of nihilism and an aggressive Soviet-communist advance. By reinforcing the need to spread and defend global democracy, ecumenical Protestants also helped forge a new postwar American nationalism that embraced international responsibility.

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