Faith for This World: Protestantism and the Reconstruction of Constitutional Democracy in Germany, 1933-1968
Bloch, Brandon Jack
MetadataShow full item record
CitationBloch, Brandon Jack. 2018. Faith for This World: Protestantism and the Reconstruction of Constitutional Democracy in Germany, 1933-1968. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation analyzes the transformation of Protestant political thought and practice in Germany between the 1930s and 1960s. It follows a generation of theologians and lay intellectuals who coalesced around oppositional networks under National Socialist rule and then participated in West German politics after 1945 as jurists, parliamentarians, and church leaders. I examine an ideological shift that facilitated the consolidation of postwar democracy on the ruins of Nazi dictatorship. Whereas Germany's Protestant churches served as bastions of anti-republican nationalism during the interwar Weimar Republic, postwar Protestant thinkers emerged as leading defenders of the West German constitution.
Bridging intellectual, political, and legal history, the dissertation argues that the rapprochement of Protestant intellectuals with West German democracy reflected their own role in shaping the postwar political and constitutional order. The catalyst for this transformation was a series of exchanges between theologians and lay Protestant jurists, which commenced under the Nazi regime and continued in a public sphere organized by the postwar Protestant churches. Protestant jurists drew on contemporary theological innovations to challenge both legal positivist doctrines that reduced law to the will of the state, as well as natural law theories that aimed to derive law from a set of permanent moral norms evident to human reason.
The first part of the dissertation examines the origins of a Protestant defense of constitutional democracy during the turbulent years spanning the consolidation of Nazi dictatorship, the Second World War, and the postwar Allied occupation of Germany. Protestant intellectuals affiliated with the Nazi-era Confessing Church called into question a disjuncture between spiritual and worldly authority, while also eschewing contemporary appeals by the Catholic Church for an international legal order grounded in natural law principles.
The dissertation's second part describes how Protestant jurists and church leaders marshaled theological innovations of the Nazi and early postwar years to intervene in debates about West German constitutional law during the 1950s and 1960s. Confessing Church veterans criticized the deployment of natural law discourse by the ruling Christian Democratic Union in the service of conservative social legislation and Cold War politics. Instead, they suggested that ideals of religious tolerance, freedom of conscience, reconciliation, and the right of resistance, rooted in Protestant traditions, provided a basis for common political life in a constitutional democracy. By constructing a narrative of the Protestant origins of democracy, postwar Protestant politicians and intellectuals obscured the limitations of Protestant opposition against National Socialism, while developing an ideological and legal framework for linking religious pluralism to Christian culture that has continued to inform German politics.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41128499
- FAS Theses and Dissertations