“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
“The church has a checkered history in its relationship to the state. Some have followed Amaziah [see Amos 7] and traded religious legitimation for security, power and privilege – the German Christian movement that supported Nazi ideology, the Dutch Reformed church that supported apartheid in South Africa, and Russian Orthodox priests who collaborated with the Soviet KGB. But there are also many inspirational examples. The Archbishop and martyr of San Salvador, Óscar Romero (d. 1980), wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter that he could have sent to any number of our military or political leaders: ‘You say that you are Christian. If you are really Christian, please stop sending military aid to the military here, because they use it only to kill my people.’ Romero is only one of many brave saints who chose Amos over Amaziah. Consider the Confessing Church in Germany that opposed Hitler, nationalism, and anti-Semitism; the black pentecostal pastor Frank Chikane who in 1985 gathered more than 150 clergy from 20 denominations to draft the Kairos Document that protested South African apartheid; father Gleb Yakunin who insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church publicly repent of its ties to the Soviet regime; the culturally marginal and politically powerless Quakers who helped to abolish the British slave trade in the 19th century; and Morgan Tsvangirai who sought ‘divine intervention’ to end Robert Mugabe’s three decades of thugocracy in Zimbabwe. There’s the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921), who did time in prison for his civil disobedience against American policies on racism, nuclear proliferation, and Vietnam…. When asked by Nora Gallagher how many times he had been jailed for subverting caesar because of Jesus, Berrigan responded, ‘Not enough.'” Dan Clendenin
“Righteousness and justice
are the foundation of your throne.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- In the moment, it can be hard to know who is “on the right side of history.” God often uses outsiders–unexpected and despised voices–and we often embrace the biases and accept the rationalizations of our culture. Are you striving to know who speaks for God today? . . . and who is being sinfully silent?
- The Biblical pattern is for God to be against Empire since the absolute power of empires predictably leads to profound corruption. Do we need prophetic voices to speak against Empire today? If so, against what “Empire” and for what reasons?
- Who is speaking out for God today? From where would you expect to find such voices–conservatives/liberals? . . . insiders/outsiders? . . . admired/despised? . . . . . . . marginalized/prominent?
Abba, give us your eyes to see our world, and your loving heart to care for it.
For More: “Journey With Jesus” by Dan Clendenin
I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it I appreciate your interest! – Bill
“By 1543, Luther was … utterly frustrated by the Jews’ refusal to convert to Christianity: ‘A Jewish heart is as hard as a stick, a stone, as iron, as a devil.’ Luther did not, however, hold Jews responsible for the death of Christ. As he wrote in a hymn, ‘We dare not blame … the band of Jews; ours is the shame.’ And he felt that at least a few Jews might be won for Christ. Yet rabbinic teaching was madness and blindness that blasphemed Christ, Mary, and the Holy Trinity. Luther could not ‘have any fellowship or patience with obstinate [Jewish] blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.’ Blasphemy was a civil crime. To allow it to continue, Luther feared, meant Christians would share in the guilt for it. Thus, Luther now proposed seven measures of ‘sharp mercy’ that German princes could take against Jews: (1) burn their schools and synagogues; (2) transfer Jews to community settlements; (3) confiscate all Jewish literature, which was blasphemous; (4) prohibit rabbis to teach, on pain of death; (5) deny Jews safe-conduct, so as to prevent the spread of Judaism; (6) appropriate their wealth and use it to support converts and to prevent the lewd practice of usury; (7) assign Jews to manual labor as a form of penance. Luther advised clergy, their congregations, and all government officials to help carry out these measures. Since most Jews had been expelled from Germany before 1536, Luther’s counsel was implemented by few officials. Yet a harsh anti-Jewish measure in 1543 mentioned Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies. Both Luther’s friends and his foes criticized him for proposing these measures. His best friends begged him to stop his anti-Jewish raving, but Luther continued his attacks in other treatises. He repeated as true the worst anti-Semitic charges from medieval literature. Jews killed Christian babies; they murdered Christ over and over again by stabbing Eucharistic hosts; they poisoned wells. Luther now thought what he had accused Catholics of thinking in 1523: Jews were dogs. ‘We are at fault for not slaying them,’ he fumed shortly before his death. … Luther was not an anti-Semite in the racist sense. His arguments against Jews were theological, not biological. Not until a French cultural anthropologist in the nineteenth century held that humankind consisted of ‘Semites’ and ‘Aryans,’ were Semites considered inferior. Alfonse de Gobineau’s views were quickly adopted by European intellectuals and politicians, and Jews became the scapegoats of a snobbish colonialist society in England, France, and Germany. The rest is history—including the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his regime. National Socialists used Luther to support their racist anti-Semitism, calling him a genuine German who had hated non-Nordic races.” Eric Gritsch
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Can you imagine something like this happening today, as it did then? Here is the U.S., as it did in Germany?
- Would people in your church or religious tradition know how to correct these racist views from a Biblical point of view? Would you?
- Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and many others stood up against the Nazi’s in their day–risking their citizenship, income, career, family and lives. Will you have the courage to do that if a similar test occurs in your day?
Abba, strengthen me, not only as I clasp my hands in prayer against the disorder of the world, but as I speak unpopular truth and stand with hated victims.
Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. I appreciate it! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“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.’”
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)
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)