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

Profits vs Prophets

In case you missed it: the point of the election was the recognition that we, as a nation, are failing at the equitable distribution of compensation for work (“profit”). The obsessive (demonic) need of C-Suites to aggregate (purposeless) money is called “greed”. The worker’s unwillingness to put personal capital at risk for the corporate good (“skin in the game”, investing) is also called “greed”.

“Prophets” call for the just distribution of compensation for work; this is known as “righteousness”. (They also call for the protection of the vulnerable).

In the beginnings of the early churches, greed, one of the opposites of righteousness, was a challenge:

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. James 5:1-6 NIVUK

Jesus taught and warned that we cannot serve two masters; we can either serve God (which he said we express by loving one another) or we can serve Mammon (the obsessive accumulation of power and stuff to a degree harmful to humanity, our “sisters” and “brothers”).

James noted that our Mammon worship, unchecked, eventually leads to war (collective use of violence to gather booty).

James knew we do not like to admit the shame and guilt we feel when collect wealth at the expense of others — and so we do not pray to God for our needs. We know if we pray, his Holy Spirit will convict our hearts that our ways need to change in the direction of generosity toward one another.

From time to time we need to reflect on how our actions (and our inactions) harm one another. This is called “mourning our sins”. It is often accomplished by a setting a special time to reflect (often collectively as a group or in groups). This is referred to as a “fast” or “a day of mourning”.

During such a time, we review the compassionate actions of God toward us in the past, we admit if we have failed to be grateful, and we purpose to do better in the future. This is called “repentance”.

Harsh reality #1: not everyone wants to repent.

Harsh reality #2: worshiping Mammon isn’t just a mental decision to be indifferent toward humanity; it is the first step toward the destruction of humanity (more on that later; see also, yes, Virginia, there is an Adversary). There are those who choose to be filled with the Unholy Spirit, the “perfectly possessed”. The perfectly possessed often rise into positions of power. They are not out for humanity’s good. To check this danger, Paul of Tarsus wrote:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Paul’s advise is neither capricious nor superfluous. Leaders and followers of every type need spiritual assistance. This includes global corporate c-suites, the leadership councils of worker collectives, the heads of family businesses, those in government positions of responsibility and bureaucracy, etc.

When we pray for one another, we fulfill a role called “priest” (intercessor [standing in the gap]). When we encourage one another toward acting authentically and compassionately, we fulfill a role called “prophet”.

Harsh reality #3: Not every nation appreciates priests and prophets.

Harsh reality #4: No nation lasts forever.

Question: For whom are you praying today?

Suggested prayer: Heavenly Father, please reveal to us knowledge and insights into generosity. May we see it in your daily actions toward us (your steadfast lovingkindness), those of your King (Yeshua of Nazareth) during his days of earthly ministry, and those of the Holy Spirit working among those who seek to obediently trust you, both individually and in congregations and their alliances. May we discern that many we meet learned their behaviors during childhoods filled with trauma and hatred and that those scars run very deep and our society refuses to acknowledge them. Help us to grant each other mercy and the benefit of the doubt – remembering that we are all “playing hurt” – and that if we are still alive – you are not finished conforming us to the image of your Beloved Son, Yeshua. In whose name we pray.

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I appreciate when #realtheologick and #realeconomick occur. I saw this presentation after writing the above post.

A Moral Challenge to Economists, New Economic Thinking, Streamed live on Nov 11, 2016

In his keynote address to our economics of race conference in Detroit last week, Rev. Dr. William Barber II issued a blistering critique of structural inequality in the United States, and urged economists to recognize their responsibility to the poor.

@RevDrBarber @BRepairers