“I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Adolf Hitler
“The weight of German exceptionalism and the spiritual veneration of military valor were not easy inheritances to disown. In nineteenth-century Protestant Prussia, no less a philosopher-patriot than Hegel resolved that his beloved Machtstaat (the ‘power state’ that was the German imperium) had been chosen by God to rule the nations by example, fiat, or force. It was God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations, which demonstrated their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors, as the ancient Hebrews had done. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of Germany as such a ‘world-historical nation’ had become as hallowed as the historicity of the biblical narratives. . . . Seeberg believed he was fulfilling his spiritual vocation by helping the German people discern the powerful hand of God in the new forces gathering to propel Germany to greatness. Among the professoriate there were precious few willing dissenters from this conviction. German Protestant theology from Schleiermacher to Harnack and Seeberg presumed the providential blessings of the warrior God. . . . In Protestant faculties and congregations, churchmen of fixed and iron-hard purpose who called themselves the Deutsche Christen, the ‘German Christians,’ were pedaling their loyalty to the fatherland. They claimed that God had chosen a new Israel, the German Volk; that the Christian doctrine of revelation had brought about the disinheritance of the Jews and that Jesus Christ had abrogated Israel’s ancient covenant. They wanted a strong church of muscular virtues–a manly church, eine mannliche Kirche–unified by German ideals. They even convinced themselves that Jesus was not a Jew. They boasted of their mission in the most inspiring terms imaginable: as the completion of Martin Luther’s work.” Charles Marsh
“What are nations without justice but large bands of thieves?” Pope John XXIII
“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and give to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus in Mark 12:17
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- National “exceptionalism”, God’s “new Israel”, “muscular values”–even “the providential blessings of the warrior God”–we’re hearing these kinds of themes again. What is your response?
- Do you believe it’s “God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations which [demonstrate] their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors?” What’s the danger is such a view?
- Hitler claimed to serve God, and most of the church supported him. What can we learn from this sad story?
Abba, help us discern your hand in power and in weakness. Ground us in reality, truth and courage.
For More: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh
I hope you’ll follow my blog and share it with others. I really appreciate your interest! – Bill
Besides the Holocaust, our world has experienced many other genocides – “a million or more Armenians under the Turks … two million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot; Kurds under Saddam Hussein; Muslims, Croats, and ethnic Albanians under the Serbs; thirty million Chinese under Mao; tens of millions under Soviet atheism; nearly a million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutus in Rwanda; and in Darfur the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit peoples by Sudan’s government. The deadliest war of our generation has also been the most under-reported conflict – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the start of conflicts there in 1996, five million people have perished out of a population of fifty million – a staggering 10% of the population. Over half of those deaths occurred since the war ended in July 2003. …In his book Worse Than War; Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity (2009), Daniel Goldhagen describes how 127–175 million people have been ‘eliminated’ in the last century. These people came from all regions of the world, and from all social, economic and political groups. The vast majority of them were killed in their own countries, by their fellow citizens, by willing and non-coerced murderers, and almost never with any substantial dissent. By Goldhagen’s count, ‘mass murder has deeply scarred countries home to 4.4 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population.’ Civilian deaths and injuries outnumber military ones by a factor of nine to one. …[In Acts 3] Peter says that God is the ‘author’ of all life. He concludes his sermon by proclaiming that in Jesus ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed’ by God. This echoes the global promise first made to Abraham four thousand years ago in Genesis 12:3. This story of Jesus, says Peter, anticipates the ‘restoration of all things.’ We can say with unqualified confidence that God knows and loves every name of every person in every nation. Christians are thus geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians; for us there’s no geo-political center of the world, only a constellation of peoples equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel doesn’t privilege any nation as exceptional. No one should think they are forgotten, and no one can claim special favor. …from a specifically Christian point of view, America is no more ‘exceptional’ in God’s eyes than any other country. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country (‘there’s no place like home’), this geo-political egalitarianism subverts the claim of absolute allegiance to any one nation. The claims of the gospel are absolute and unconditional; the claims of the nation and state are relative and conditional. This Christian global vision requires me to care as much about every country and its people as I do my own. Christians grieve the deaths of Iraqis and Congolese as much as Americans. That implies that our politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons.” Daniel Clendenin
“[God] said to Abraham,
‘Through your offspring
all peoples on earth
will be blessed.'”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you think of your nation as being especially “favored” by God? If so, what would that imply? What wouldn’t that imply?
- Has nationalism prevented you from seeing all other people as “equidistant from the heart of God?”
- Has you faith caused your politics be “reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons?”
Abba, lead us out of illusion and into reality.
For More: Worse Than War by Daniel Goldhagen
Thanks for following and sharing “Daily Riches.” – Bill (Psalm 90:14
“What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification…. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. …Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and an individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of scripture. Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. This bias stifles the theological dialogue between the various cultures. …We end up with a Western, white captivity of theology. Western theology becomes the form that is closest to God.” Soong-Chan Rah
“Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied.
‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”
Moving From Head to Heart
- Christianity began in the East and was entirely Jewish. Much of today’s church is Western and Gentile. Imagine the difference in perspective. Has your theology ever been challenged like Peter’s was?
- Many churches in the U.S. are mostly white, suburban, middle-class and led by men. Imagine how unreflected the concerns and problems of people of color, urban and/or poor people might be in such churches. Have you tried listening in your church with the ears of a poor person, a minority or a woman?
- Considering “non-Western theology” as theology “on the fringes” only feeds our tendency towards ego-centricity as individuals and a culture. Do you try to learn from those parts of the world, or from cultures, that are different from yours?
Abba, make me aware of my biases and prejudices, and help me transcend them. Help me know you better as my horizons expand and I think in new ways.
For More: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”