Adolf Hitler

Portrait of a lady: Concerning missing art treasures and a contested cathedral

Portrait of a lady: Concerning missing art treasures and a contested cathedral

“Cognitive dissonance” is a mellifluous phrase I’ve heard bandied about in the media during these first days of the Donald Trump administration.

The new president’s supporters are in the grips of this psychological malady, the Daily Kos tells us. In an interview broadcast by MSNBC “Bill Nye” the “science guy” postulated the president also suffered from “cognitive dissonance,” and as he had a “worldview that disagrees with what you observe.”

Writing in 1962 in Scientific American about this new psychological theory, (cognitive dissonance, not Donald Trump), Leon Festinger offered this explanation:

This theory centers around the idea that if a person knows various things that are not psychologically consistent with one another, he will, in a variety of ways, try to make them more consistent. Two items of information that psychologically do not fit together are said to be in a dissonant relation to each other. The items of information may be about behavior, feelings, opinions, things in the environment and so on. The word "cognitive" simply emphasizes that the theory deals with relations among items of information.

Such ideas are not new. Scripture tells us: A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Once upon a time, a double minded man was one with a character flaw. Now he has a pathological condition.

If the president and his supporters are not sick, they must be evil, the pundits tell us -- witness the contretemps over “alternative facts” and Kellyanne Conway.  Moral opprobrium like burning coals has been heaped onto the head of the presidential counselor in disputes over alternative narratives of reality.

Stepping back into the GetReligion harness has resulted in a bout or two of cognitive dissonance for me -- the neural pathways used in my work as a country priest are not those of a journalism critic.

Nor did I keep all my bookmarks on the web. Looking for interesting items has led me to some odd corners, and the odd corners have unearthed odd stories.

I learned just the other day of a gallery opening in Minsk. The Belarusian Telegraphic Agency reports:

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AP turns anti-Catholic superstar Jack Chick into an all-purpose fundamentalist hero

AP turns anti-Catholic superstar Jack Chick into an all-purpose fundamentalist hero

This will be risky, but I'd like to talk about Adolf Hitler and religion for a moment.

The problem with creating a metaphor involving Hitler is that, as journalist Ron Rosenbaum told me long ago (this is a paraphrase): What people say about Hitler usually reveals more about their biases and beliefs than about those of Hitler. (Rosenbaum is the author of an amazing book, "Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.")

So here goes. Readers, especially Jewish readers, what would you think if you read a news feature covering the life and legacy of Hitler and, right at the beginning, it stressed that he was known for his oppression of Marxists, Catholics, faithful Lutherans, gays, Jews and gypsies?

On one level, all of that is true. That is an accurate list of groups in Germany, Poland, France and elsewhere that Hitler attacked. But isn't it rather strange to see his war on the Jews turned into a mere bullet item in a list of what appear to be similar offenses?

Now, please hear me say this: I am not about to compare the work of Jack T. Chick with that of Hitler. So what am I attempting here?

I am saying that, when I read the Associated Press obituary for the famous -- many would say "infamous" -- cartoonist the lede struck me as strange. Click here for the version that ran in The Los Angeles Times -- which is symbolic since Chick was based east of LA.

Now, Chick was famous for using his pen to attack lots of different targets. But there is no question that he attacked one body of religious believers more than any other and in ways that were uniquely scandalous. But read the AP lede and try to figure out which body got stabbed the most:

Jack T. Chick, whose cartoon tracts preached fundamentalist Christianity while vilifying secular society, evolution, homosexuality and the beliefs of Catholics and Muslims, has died. He was 92.

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Were there any ghosts in the Rosenberg diary? You think?

First things first: Anyone who is interested in history, especially the history of the ideas behind Adolph Hitler, is going to amazed by the twists and turns that unfold in the new Los Angeles Times “Column One” feature about the search for the lost diary of Nazi intellectual Alfred Rosenberg. This is one amazing ride, with the son of a Holocaust survivor acting as a kind of quiet, peaceful, but highly motivated Indiana Jones on the quest to find the Great White Whale of Holocaust studies. Here is how reporter Richard Simon begins this riveting tale, which has a Washington, D.C., dateline:

Mayer helped maintain the vast collection of artifacts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and knew the diary had been kept by Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Party’s chief ideologue and a confidant of Adolf Hitler.

The diary was found in the final days of World War II, hidden behind a false wall in a Bavarian castle. Excerpts were introduced into evidence at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

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