How some evangelical Christians are complicit in the cruelty of politics

The other day when I twote: Those carrying water for #GeneralissimoStrongman warn “don’t leak!” #FascistDemonology #ALittleBonhoefferInYourHeilsgeschichte Mark had already published the following. I only add the requisite Ezekiel 34 to the list of prophets he recounts.

Written by Mark W. Hamilton, Contributor, The Dallas Morning News

Late in 1945, amid ruin-choked, refugee-filled cities, church leaders of Germany issued the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. This short, yet controversial confession acknowledged the church’s partial responsibility for National Socialism. By their acquiescence in the gradual degradation of civil society, the persecution of all who did not “fit,” and their embrace of the national mission of domination, many Christians had failed to stand for the Gospel. Some had pulled the trigger while most had sat by consoling themselves with patriotism and personal morality.

As the “Declaration” put it, however, “Founded on Holy Scripture, with entire seriousness before the Church’s only Lord, we are undertaking to purify ourselves from influences alien to the faith and bring ourselves into order.” The church had to do better.

I have been thinking lately about all those Europeans who had to reckon with their own complicity with fascism and hyper-nationalism in its various forms. Were they different from us, less enlightened, more blind to what was slowly unfolding around them? Maybe not, for the monstrosities of the 1940s grew slowly, as the powerful gradually stigmatized the “other” until their humanity vanished beneath the reckless appeals to renewed greatness and venting of age-old fears. Truths and lies became entangled in the ceaseless propaganda. The European church has still not recovered.

I think of that era because I wonder what faces the church in America after this one. Many evangelical Christians have embraced “influences alien to the faith:” nationalism without self-restraint, fear of immigrants, a readiness to make social warfare upon the young, stern opposition to science and knowledge in all its forms. The list goes on.

Certainly there are noble exceptions such as the objections from ethicists in the Southern Baptist Convention, and of course the call to moral clarity from Catholic bishops. But much of the church pretends to be focused on the gospel while supporting political leaders who promise to make us great again. No meek inheriting the earth for us.

Above all others, however, the most pernicious “alien idea” is the cult of the strong leader. Some evangelical Christians tell us, with all seriousness, that we must turn a blind eye to the character of the leader or the consequences of the policies under consideration and simply fall into line. “Support” means “obey.” Such a person might be a fulfillment of prophecy, after all.

Yet for Christians, such an unquestioning attitude, which reeks of the 1930s, flies in the face of the Bible’s understanding of leadership. While Christians must pray for leaders — all of them, not just those of one party or viewpoint — we also point out abuses of power. How funding for the humanities helps public college students become better Texans

Ever read Amos or Isaiah or any of the prophets? It would be hard to imagine them taking such a supine view of political authority. Think of 1 Samuel 8’s critique of power, which lays out an immediate ancestor of the idea of checks and balances so central to the American system.

Or take Jesus, who insisted not only that his kingdom was not of this world, but that his followers must pursue its commitments with their whole lives, not just on Sunday mornings. Or St. Paul, whose suspicions of authority as a source of violence have been turned around into praise for the state. We badly misread the Bible if we see in it support for the cruelty now celebrated in the public sphere.

Someday soon, then, much of the church will be writing its own declaration of repentance for our complicity in the hate-filled, dishonest, vulgar, rhetoric filling our land. Perhaps we should begin now while there is still time.

Mark W. Hamilton is a professor of Old Testament at Abilene Christian University. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
Email: mwh00c@acu.edu

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart_Declaration_of_Guilt

The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt by the Council of the Protestant Church of Germany October 19, 1945

Today’s Meditation from Gary Holloway’s Daily Disciple

One of the treasures I have providenced across these last few years is Gary Holloway’s book Daily Disciple. It has the format Date, Theme, Psalm, Meditation, Scripture, Prayer. The Meditation comes from various writings of earlier leaders (read: guys with newspapers) in what has commonly become called the Restoration Movement by some, the Stone-Campbell or Campbell-Stone movement by others. It was launched by Reformers intending unity of Christians in the new-ish United States of America (they had the European religious wars pretty freshly in mind), not the unity-thru-division and Undenominational Denominations which often resulted later.

I was blessed to spend 4.5 years at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society (when it was located in Nashville before the on-going relocation to Bethany College, Bethany, West Virginia [former homestead of Alexander Campbell]) as gopher, quasi-office manager, IT guy, etc. I didn’t realize until latter (of course) how blessed. I had the opportunity to meet several folks who kindled a love of sacred history, religious sociology, ekklesia economics, ecumenism, and the importance of archiving and indexing well; and when possible, digitally. I came with a faint grasp of the occult, comparative world religions, and a drive to “do something” with this world wide web. That drive has not left. But I digress…

I had the privilege for a time of assembling articles, ads, and various content, and then formatting Discipliana, the Society’s journal, as managing editor. I had not then grasped the long tail one’s writing could have; and especially now, the immediate and global “circulation” (see Bev Evans‘ special education resources as case study, amend stats to, by now, 12 million downloads in 258 countries). I was only beginning to grasp the future role of digital audio and video.

One of the “earlies” I have grown fond of thru Gary’s Mediation quotes (and some other writings discovered by way of DCHS board member and Discipliana editorial board suggestions) is Barton Warren Stone.

We are getting to be very fond of co-operating meetings. Can we not appoint one for the express purpose of praying to the Lord to give us his Holy Spirit? Do you not believe that he will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him? I know you profess it. Such a meeting as this I should rejoice to attend before I die. – Barton W. Stone, Christian Messenger (1843), 272

I think the World Convention Global Gathering slated for India, January, 2017 would have encouraged them both to no end. I suspect both Stone and Campbell would have been amazed at the immediate, global reach that their journals might have had given today’s infostructure. I think also that the ability to convene cyberly, or virtually (Facebook groups, Google Hangouts, Skype, WebRTC, IRC, Slack, Yammer, and in intolerant nations, Tor tools) — and the ability to have “comment discussions” on web-hosted news portals would have captivated their imaginations.

The God Stone worshiped would have providenced the church with these tools to edify one another and to build one another up in the unity of the Spirit. I wonder what that God is doing today?

Some Religious Sociology

Reading Emergence of the “Church of Christ” Denomination by David Edwin Harrell, Jr., Ph.D. about sociology’s view of the “sect to denomination” process as it applies to this American Reformation | Restorationist group and today’s Congregational Consulting Group’s PERSPECTIVES article by Sarai Rice on Denominational Dematurity.

Progression of “sect”, “institutional sect”, “denomination”; and life cycle of churches.

See also Generationally Rethinking Church with Dick Hamm.

Dr. Peter Steinke, Church – Making the Future Work, Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and CitySquare

Dr. Peter Steinke, internationally respected author and church consultant, applies systems theory to developing and maintaining healthy congregations. “Church – Making the Future Work” was a one-day seminar presented by the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and CitySquare as a part of the “Equipping for Ministry” Series. Published on Jun 16, 2014

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Dr. Carroll D. Osburn on the Future of Restorationism (circa 1992)

The following address was presented by Dr. Carroll D. Osburn, Carmichael Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Abilene Christian University, January 12, 1992 at the ACU faculty pre-session conference.

Dr. Carroll Osburn – part 1 (Philosophical Orientation)
video link

Dr. Carroll Osburn – part 2 (Biblical Orientation)
video link

Dr Carroll Osburn – part 3 (Theological Orientation)
video link

Dr Carroll Osburn – part 4 (Experiential Orientation)
video link

Dr Carroll Osburn – Part 5 (Principles for the Future)
video link

Dr Carroll Osburn – Part 6 (Principles for the Future cont.)
video link

Dr. Carroll Osburn – Part 7 (Principles for the Future cont.)
video link

Millennial Blogger

By Greg Taylor, Managing Editor of www.wineskins.org

Alexander Campbell used publishing to advance the restoration of the church. Had he lived today, how would he use media to move the restoration? What can we learn from Campbell’s use of media that can be applied to our use of media today as we advance our own understanding of restoration?

<ed.note>[Update: originally posted in 2006.] The remainder here… If you haven’t ever appreciated Campbell’s wonderous “The Third Epistle of Peter” I commend it — and assume he might have thought that Greg would have been safe to add a fifth observation in his article — running along the lines of Glyn Moody’s Presentation on the “Opens“</ed.note>