According to the OED, a “mythos” is a “traditional or recurrent narrative theme or pattern; a standard plot in literature.” For many, the Holocaust Mythos conjures up the hope of universal redemption from the absolute evils of racism, anti-Semitism, and militant White nationalism. Arising out of the allegedly planned extermination of the Jewish people by “Nazi” Germany and its collaborators, the story has acquired canonical status in officially-constructed “memory cultures” throughout the West. In Canada, where the politically correct Trudeau regime clearly craves recognition as a humanitarian superpower, the government has followed in the footsteps of Germany and several other European states by enshrining the official narrative in the Criminal Code, s. 319. Henceforth
(2.1) Everyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust
- (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
- (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Even before the criminal law was amended to outlaw the “[w]ilful promotion of antisemitism,” schools, universities, churches, and the media in Canada routinely stigmatize anyone who publicly dares to doubt the truth of the Holocaust Mythos. The Canadian parliament, therefore, meekly echoed Jewish historian Alon Confino who describes the Holocaust as “a foundational event that tests the limits of our humanity.” Another Jewish historian, Matthew Feldman, acknowledges that the received interpretation of “the Holocaust” as “history’s greatest crime” emanates a quintessentially religious aura. No Member of Parliament wanted to be seen “profaning” the memory of Jewish victims of “the supreme example of human inhumanity” by voting against the proposed amendments. For its part, the Trudeau government can be confident that enforcement of its postmodern anti-blasphemy law will not be impeded by the much-hyped Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For a long-time Charter sceptic such as myself, this is no surprise.
After the massive violations of a host of fundamental rights and civil liberties supposedly “guaranteed” by the Charter during the recent Covid pandemic, suppression of presumptive rights to form and publicly express controversial opinions on the history of the Third Reich is about par for the course. Is it merely coincidence that this restriction of free speech reflects the power and serves the interests of one particular, highly-visible, economically well-endowed, socially privileged, and politically powerful ethnic group? Curiously enough, at least one prominent Jewish spokesman fears that to make “condoning, denying, or downplaying the Holocaust” a criminal offence will not be good for the Jews. Nevertheless, Carolyn Yeager, an American blogger of German ancestry, has documented the widespread support for such legislation within the organized Jewish community in Canada.
When it was announced, the text of the Trudeau regime’s proposed amendment to the Criminal Code was buried in Annex 3 of the federal budget papers presented to Parliament in the spring of 2022. By the end of June, the government’s amendments had sailed through Parliament as part of a long and complex budget bill, receiving royal assent without debate on their merits (much to the relief of MPs, one suspects). The current legislation adopts the definition of the Holocaust originally proposed in a private member’s bill blatantly mirrored by the government measure; namely:
Holocaust means the planned and deliberate state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators from 1933 to 1945
As it happens, such a definition has been repeatedly “denied” or “downplayed” by the so-called “functionalist” school of mainstream historians who portray the Holocaust as an evolving reaction by bureaucrats, military personnel, and collaborators to events during the war years rather than the product of an “intentional,” “planned” or “deliberate” scheme directed from the top down. It remains to be seen whether s. 319(3)(1)(c) will provide an adequate defence for someone publicly promoting a “functionalist” interpretation of the Holocaust. According to this provision, no-one shall be convicted if “the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds they believed them to be true.” This defence does not, of course, prevent prosecutions in which the process is itself intended to serve as the punishment. Outside the respectable realm of decorous academic debate, however, renegade “revisionists” risk the full measure of legal retribution.
Why, then, is the foundational event of Christianity, the paschal mythos surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, less deserving of protected legal status than an officially prescribed, crypto-theocratic single-sentence story arising out of the Second World War? Is it merely coincidental that the Holocaust Mythos features a narrative arc remarkably similar to the Easter story? Although set in the twentieth-century, the Shoah is a story of undeserved Jewish suffering in the “death camps” of Eastern Europe followed by their triumphant, ethno-religious resurrection in the promised land of Israel.
In Canada from now on, anyone publicly “condoning,” “denying,” or even “downplaying” the Jewish Holocaust narrative faces the threat of two years imprisonment. This repressive measure was announced shortly after Christian pastors were charged merely for holding Easter Sunday church services in contravention of public health orders during the contrived Covid “emergency.” When contrasted with the obsequious reverence accorded to contemporary Jewish sensibilities, such blatant disrespect for age-old Christian rituals represents a remarkable challenge to the political theology of every Anglo-Protestant church.
Are the truth claims of the official Holocaust Mythos any more or less contestable than the biblical and ecclesiastical narratives concerning the historical Jesus? One often hears the claim that “the Holocaust” is the best documented “event” in human history. But when, where, and by whom have the relevant and reliable documents been subjected to free, fair, and public forensic cross-examination and opened to continuing debate between all interested parties?
How did we reach the present sorry state of affairs? The answer to that question requires a fundamental critique of contemporary Anglo-Protestant political theology and, in particular, that of the Anglican church. After all, given a literal definition of “political” as meaning “affairs of state,” any aspect of the theology professed by the Church of England is political in the sense that it is an established, state church. True, in the first half of the twentieth century, the Anglican churches in the old White dominions were not state churches, but their overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon membership by and large trusted their governments and, following their lead, accepted the declarations of war against Germany in 1914 and 1939 without significant demur.
Moreover, in Great Britain, the bishops of the Church of England were members of the House of Lords. De facto, the government of the day decided who were to be identified as enemies of the British people and punished as such. Assigning guilt for the state of war between Germany and the British Empire was a matter of state policy. In both the Versailles treaty (aka, the Diktat) imposed on Germany in 1919 and the Nuremburg trials following Germany’s defeat in WWII, the imperial and dominion governments upheld the charge that Germany alone was guilty of waging a war of aggression.
But political theology denotes more than the everyday activities of an established church complying with state policies. According to the German jurist Carl Schmitt, politics, in the deepest sense, has to do with the existential distinction between friend and enemy. Because the Church was not an autonomous ecclesiastical polity of, by, and for the English people, friends and enemies of the British state were, ipso facto, friends or enemies of the Church.
Unfortunately, neither the WASP laity nor the ecclesiastical leadership of the Church of England, either “at home” or in the dominions, have done much to defend and preserve the ethno-religious dimensions of Anglican identity. This stands in stark contrast to the well-known ethnocentrism of the Jewish people. By enshrining the Holocaust Mythos in the Criminal Code, the Canadian government has embraced a quintessentially Jewish political theology.
Dirk Moses, the Frank Porter Graham Distinguished Professor of Global Human Rights History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, in his well-received book on The Problems of Genocide, identifies the narrative structure of the Holocaust Mythos as “the archetypical genocide” in international law. He observes that both law and popular culture present “the image of the largely agentless and innocent—that is unpolitical—Jewish victim [as] the ‘ideal’ or ‘exemplary’ victim.” Orthodox Jews typically “emphasize…the traditional religiosity of Jewish victims” and “[t]his theological interpretation has permeated general commemoration, which thereby constitutes a political theology.” The officially-prescribed, global “memory culture” adopts that particularistic political theology whenever it associates Jews with “the archetypical and universal form of victimhood”.
There is no denying the particularistic, ethno-religious significance of the Holocaust Mythos. This was evident, for example, when a cross-party trio of Jewish MPs rose in the House of Commons to offer their fulsome support during the second-reading of Tory M.P. Kevin Waugh’s now redundant private member’s bill to criminalize “Holocaust denial” in Canada. The Trudeau regime, of course, has a broader agenda, aiming to burnish its self-proclaimed credentials as the first post-national state. The government, therefore, will probably “deny” or “downplay” the ethno-religious favouritism inherent in its decision to sanctify Jewish political theology by force of law.
Whatever the consequences of that decision in Canada however, Anglo-Protestants throughout the Anglosphere now have a rare opportunity to consider how their ethno-religious interests might be adversely affected by the criminalization of public dissent from the officially-prescribed Holocaust narrative. We should pray that the opportunity to reflect upon who “we” are, where “we” came from, and perhaps even where “we” are going will not be missed. Sadly, however, Anglo-Protestants, especially Anglicans, have embraced a liberal humanitarianism that now makes it all but impossible to distinguish between “us” and “them.”