By UWE SIEMON-NETTO
Who is to blame for Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ frustration with NATO? In one word: Homobonides.
You don’t know what Homobonides are? Not to worry. I have just made up this term, translating the sardonic German expression, Gutmenschen, into English with a little help from Latin.
So what are Gutmenschen? Not really “good people,” as you might falsely assume after splitting this composite word into its two component parts. There are and always have been truly good people in Germany, of course, for example Helmut James von Moltke, whose farewell letters from a Nazi prison to his wife, Freya, have just been released. Moltke explained why he was facing the gallows: “Not as a Protestant, not as a landowner, not as a nobleman I stood before the [People’s] court, but as a Christian, and none other.“ That was a good man writing, not a Gutmensch.
Or take that retired West German army captain I met in a Jaffna restaurant during the civil war in Sri Lanka. He had come at his own expense to clear landmines, a benevolent activity that had already cost him the use of one eye in Angola. You find plenty of this kind of good Germans, particularly overseas – good men and women, not Homobonides.
Homobonides are the European incarnation of political correctness, originally an American affliction. Homobonides make pronouncements that sound good until you start to think. They talk a lot about peace, for example, not in a theological, historical or pragmatic sense but solely because of the word’s heartwarming properties. It’s this constant kitschy reference to peace that has caused defense budgets in Europe to decline thus rendering NATO military irrelevant, according to Gates, who predicted in his valedictory speech in Brussels a dismal future for the alliance.
Homobonides don’t believe in the Latin adage, “sic vis pacem, para bellum” (if you want peace, prepare for war), if in their appalling lack of historical knowledge they have ever heard of it. If Homobonides ever thought responsibly about the future, they would by definition cease to exist; therefore they don’t dare to. Let’s enjoy our prosperity here and now and let our children fend for themselves; that’s their motto.
The poster girl of German Gutmenschentum is the Rev. Margot Kässmann, 53, Lutheran bishop of Hanover and chairwoman of the state-related Protestant Church in Germany until she resigned last year, having been caught careening around town at the wheel of her Volkswagen Phaeton office car with a blood alcohol level of 0.154.
This resignation, seen as an act of valor rather than the necessary consequence of misconduct, has since made her Germany’s idol by giving speeches and churning out books filled with moralistic clichés, which literary critic Denis Scheck wickedly rated as “Eiapopeia-Prosa,” or lullaby baby prose. Misogynists have noted that women above the age of 50 make up the majority of her acolytes; if true this would be a troubling observation, given the successes of past German populists especially among this segment of the population.
Before giving up her bishopric last year she stepped into the splendid pulpit of Dresden’s baroque “Frauenkirche” (Church of Our Lady) and proclaimed, “Nothing is good in Afghanistan,” which was not a sensitive thing to say given that German soldiers are fighting and dying valiantly in that country. It was also a thoroughly un-Lutheran statement. Lutherans are not pacifists, and they especially object to “cooking and brewing” secular and spiritual matters together, which according to Luther is the devil’s work. Luther called preachers doing this “false clerics and schismatic spirits.”
But Dr. Kässmann knows what she is doing. She is catering to Europe’s Homobonide Zeitgeist, which is pacifist, thus gradually elevating herself to a position of the opposition Social Democrats’ foremost intellectual, according to the newsmagazine, Focus.
And so at the recent “Kirchentag” in Dresden, a meeting of 120,000 Protestants, she piled on some more gobbledygook. Instead of bombing the Taliban, she told a cheering crowd, we should pray with them. Now that’s rich coming from a pastor whose own career displayed an infatuation with the idea of female empowerment.
Let’s not belabor the fact that in the eyes of churches representing 70 percent of world Christendom, including this writer’s branch of Lutheranism, a female bishop is an ontological absurdity, kind of like the pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1994 movie, Junior.
But imagine NATO followed Kässmann’s advice. Imagine the Taliban, spared allied bombing, returned to Power in Kabul. Imagine they picked up from where they had left off a decade ago. Imagine an “Afghan Margot Kässmann,” perhaps named Maha, elevated herself to the rank of a Muslim Mufti, left her husband and were caught driving drunk through Kabul with an unidentified man an her side, and then suggested praying with infidels. From what we know about the Taliban’s past behavior, what would happen to poor Maha on Friday after church?
I pondered this question with a specialist on Islamic law computing the number of lashes she might first receive at Kabul’s sports stadium: 80 for having learned how to read and write? 99 for driving a car? 150 for drunkenness? As for her presumption of being cleric-in-chief, praying with infidels, and allowing an unknown guy so close to her, there’s no question of what would happen after that: They would stick her into a hole in the ground and lob rocks at her head until she is dead.
The good news is that in Germany even the liberal media are souring of Homobonide hypocrisy, to wit Der Spiegel’s admonition to Margot Kässmann to remember the Decalogue. Here is how this normally left-of-center newsmagazine paraphrased the Eighth Commandment to fit ex-bishop Kässmann and fellow Homobonides: “Du sollst keinen scheinheiligen Stuss reden.”
In English: “Thou shalt not talk sanctimonious twaddle.”
Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United Press International, is conducting a lecture tour related to the 50th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall, which he covered as a young reporter of The Associated Press. For information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org . He has been an international journalist for 54 years, covering North America, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto currently directs Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Irvine, California.