Some years ago I was standing at a pedestrian crossing in the town of Echterdingen, near Stuttgart in Germany. It was a Sunday morning. The crossing light was at red. I looked quickly left and right, there was no car in sight and so I crossed. An elderly couple, probably coming from the same Lutheran service that I had been attending, audibly tut-tutted their disapproval at my anarchic initiative and remained stolidly where they were until the green light gave them permission to cross the deserted street. Was I unfair to see in this suspension of private judgement a vestige of what may, for better or worse, be called ‘Erastianism’; the belief widely held in pre-war Germany that to disobey the State was to disobey God?  I think not. In that moment I gained an insight into how a monster such as Adolph Hitler might hold sway over such a decent and civilized people as the Germans, and how something so inherently evil as the Final Solution might be possible in a state with so great a Christian heritage, given that that state had acquired such extensive powers over religious and cultural life. And for that Martin Luther carries a share of the blame.

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