Daily Riches: A Theology of Love and of Resistance (Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence, and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, long-suffering and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. The theology of love must seek to deal drastically with evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them. …Theology does not exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the powerful and the established. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal desperation.” Thomas Merton

“In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. … A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war. … And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic deprivation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A person who seeks to honor the one who sent him
speaks truth, not lies.”
Jesus in John 7:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your theology of love a “theology of resistance?”
  • Is your church “aligned with the privileged classes and the status quo?”
  • Where in our day, might the church be guilty of appeasing “the already too untroubled?”
  • Do you think these are valuable questions for Christians? . . . for pastors? If not, why not?

Abba, keep us from conforming to this world, or allowing others to do so in peace.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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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.”

Daily Riches: The Problem with National Exceptionalism (Charles Marsh)

“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 

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I hope you’ll follow my blog and share it with others.  I really appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Sabbath as “Sacred Stasis” (Michael Fishbane and Walter Brueggemann)

“The Sabbath, along with the other practices [Michael Fishbane] exposits, concerns the maintenance of a distinct faith identity in the midst of a culture that is inhospitable to all distinct identities in its impatient reduction of all human life to the requirements of the market. . . . [He argues that] Sabbath is a sphere of inaction.” Walter Brueggemann

”One enters the sphere of inaction through divestment, and this release affects all the elements of the workaday sphere. Business activity and exchange of money are forbidden, and one is urged not just to desist from commerce but to develop more interior spheres of settling the mind from this type of agitation. . . . Slowly, under these multiple conditions, a sense of inaction takes over, and the day does not merely mark the stoppage of work or celebrate the completion of creation, but enforces the value that the earth as a gift of divine creativity, given to humankind in sacred trust. On the Sabbath, the practical benefits of technology are laid aside, and one tries to stand in the cycle of natural time, without manipulation or interference. To the degree possible, one must attempt to bring the qualities of inaction and rest into the heart and mind. . . . The Sabbath is thus a period of sacred stasis, a duration of sanctity through the cultivation of inaction in body and spirit. . . . The heartbeat of repose may thus suffuse the mind and limbs of one’s being, and generate an inner balance poised on quietude and a settled spirit.” Michael Fishbane

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.”
Exodus 20:8-10b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Imagine joining your Jewish friends for several months as they practice “the heartbeat of repose” the way Fishbane describes it. How would that feel?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could experience more “quietude and a settled spirit” in our lives? . . . our homes? . . . our churches?
  • Brueggemann points out the profound external, societal implications for God’s people. Sabbath is a major way we resist our inhospitable culture. Are you resisting a culture that wants to shape you?

Abba, may we regularly enter into inaction of body and soul–into quietude and a settled spirit.

For more: Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

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Sources:

Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014.

Fishbane, Michael. Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2008.

 

Daily Riches: The Church In Politically Troublesome Times (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“A state that threatens the proclamation of the Christian message negates itself. There are thus three possibilities for action that the church can take vis-à-vis the state: first, . . . questioning the state as to the legitimate state character of its actions, that is, making the state responsible for what it does. Second, is service to the victims of the state’s actions. The church has an unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. ‘Let us work for the good of all.’ (Gal 6:10) These are both ways in which the church, in its freedom, conducts itself in the interest of a free state. In times when the laws are changing, the church may under no circumstances neglect either of these duties. The third possibility is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to fall [ourselves] within the spokes of the wheel itself. Such an action would be direct political action on the part of the church. This is only possible and called for if the church sees the state be failing in its function of creating law and order, that is, if the church perceives that the state, without any scruples, has created either too much or too little law and order. It must see in either eventuality a threat to the existence of the state and thus to its own existence as well.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“So [Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle;
he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”
John 2:15 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think about that first sentence. Does government have a genuine self-interest in protecting Christian proclamation?
  • Bonhoeffer says the church must bind up the victims’ wounds in an unjust state. When a government is really out of control, such victims could include large parts of the population–even its majority. In such a case, wide-spread neighbor love (likely in some form of “direct political action”) is required. (Matthew  22:39) Is your church even thinking about these responsibilities? Are you?
  • Does the church where you live focus on other things rather than these things? If so, on what?

Abba, give me a heart for any of my neighbors who are victims.

For more: Works (Vol. 12) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Daily Riches: How Things Get Better (Helmut Gollwitzer and Dean Stroud)

“Surely we today are familiar with the disgust we feel where evil is not simply evil but rather dresses itself up in a repulsive manner as morality, where base instincts, where hate and revenge, parade about as great and good things.” Helmut Gollwitzer (Nazi Germany, 1938)

“There are enough indications alerting us to the fact that the current fronts do not fall simply into categories of guilt and innocence, black and white. We have been trapped in the same great guilt and our faces also turn red with shame and we are afflicted by a common disgrace. It is inside us all; this truth that upright men and women can turn into horrible beasts is an indication of what lies hidden within each of us to a greater or lesser degree. All of us have done our part in this: one by being a coward, another by comfortably stepping out of everyone’s way, by passing by, by being silent, by closing our eyes, by laziness of heart that only notices another’s need when it is openly apparent, by the damnable caution that lets itself be prevented from every good deed, by every disapproving glance and every threatening consequence, by the stupid hope that everything will get better on its own without our having to become courageously involved ourselves. In all these ways we are exposed as the guilty people we are, as men and women who have just enough love left over for God and our neighbor to give away when there is no effort or annoyance involved.” Gollwitzer

“In everything do to others
as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets.”
Jesus in Matthew 7:12

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can upright men and women turn into “horrible beasts?” Can you hear this as an unwanted but necessary warning to you? …to your nation, tribe, political party, religion?
  • As a Christian, is there a time not to “render authority to those who rule over you”–to dissent, to practice peaceful civil disobedience? If so, can you think of some examples of such a time? If not, how will you keep from being complicit in great wrongdoing?
  • Are you hoping “everything will get better on its own” without anyone needing to act courageously?

Abba, may I never offer you or my neighbors leftovers when the need is love.

For More: Preaching in the Third Reich by Dean Stroud (ed.)

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you.  I goal is to regularly give you something of unique value in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog.  Thanks for your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

Daily Riches: Nonviolence, Courage and the Beloved Community (Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis)

“It must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. …[It] is ultimately the way of the strong man. It is not a method of stagnant passivity… For while the nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, his mind and his emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong. The method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil. …Nonviolence … does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness. …Nonviolent resistance [requires] a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back… The nonviolent resister is willing to accept violence if necessary, but never to inflict it. He does not seek to dodge jail. If going to jail is necessary, he enters it ‘as a bridegroom enters the bride’s chamber.’ …Nonviolent resistance … avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“But Peter and the apostles replied,
‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.’”
Acts 5:29

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Will you resist evil–and pay a price if necessary?
  • Is Jesus’ ethic of love the “center” of your life? (returning good for evil)
  • Are you working to reject even an “internal violence of spirit?” (bitterness and hate)

“[May we] …move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill.” (John Lewis)

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Reflections On Keeping a Solid Center (Maria Popova)

Three great insights from Maria Popova:

  • “Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken. Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
  • “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time. …it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that—a myth—as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
  • “Don’t just resist cynicism—fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis—in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.” Maria Popova

“Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square.”
Proverbs 1:20

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Where is God nudging you in what you just read?
  • Where have you forgotten the obvious?
  • Where do you need to practice “courage and resistance?”
  • Can you receive this “wisdom from the street” even though it doesn’t come with chapter and verse?

Abba, lead me into a largehearted, constructive life, continually bending toward growth and betterment.

For More: “Brain Pickings” by Maria Popova

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Thanks for reading/sharing my (atypically long) blog! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill

 

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