Category Archives: faith

Stupidity Infects the Church

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

Those words are more profound than many of us would admit, and sadly in the United States they are the last thing thought about by supposedly orthodox Evangelical Christians.

Today I want to follow up on something my friend from my former church denomination, Fr. Kenneth Tanner posted on Facebook. Ken is both orthodox and conservative in his theology. He is a remarkable writer and he puts his faith into action at the local level in his parish in Michigan. Over the past couple of days he has posted comments that I wish I had posted because not only do I want to agree with him but because they call me back to who I am as a Christian and why in spite of everything I still remain one.

Yesterday Fr. Ken posted this gem which reminds me of so many of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Every attempt by the church to tie its mission and destiny to a political leader, or party, or policy involves forgetting the Spirit. Presidents and legislatures and courts and banks and marketplaces are not in the business of resurrection. The church is.

The day before he posted a comment which I think in light of the political scandals, especially those of politicians, Republican and Democrat regarding sexual assault:

“This is for my people, speaking as a leader within our community. It may not apply to you but they need this right now; they need to know where I stand.

No. It is not OK for a man to seduce or pursue or be alone with teenaged girls. And, no, it is not possible for there to be a consensual sexual relationship between a man and a teenaged girl.

Yes. Women and girls who make allegations of sexual harassment or assault are almost always telling the truth and we should assume female veracity even as justice and accountability are pursued in ways that ensure the rights of the accused.

There is a reason that false accusation is for God on a level of moral seriousness reserved for murder, because it “murders” the reputation and life of those falsely accused, but we also have to understand that most victims of sexual harassment and assault are honest with near-mortal wounds of their own that they bear.

No. It is never OK to turn a blind eye to multiple and credible witnesses against a leader running for public office because utilitarian politics are more important than principles and human decency.

It matters not one wit if a presidential agenda or a senate majority or the makeup of the Supreme Court or any other grave moral challenge—like the precious life of the unborn—hangs in the balance.

It also make zero difference if it’s all so unfair or the other “side” doesn’t play by the rules or everyone is against “us.”

There is no justifiable reason for a pastor to support a candidate for public office that is accused by multiple women of sexual assault. It is an offense to the gospel and calls the integrity of the church into question.

In short, Christian faith is rarely about winning. It’s about dying and waiting for God to use our death in his grand promise to make all things well.

When I saw it I read it to one of my Chaplains who is also a theological evangelical conservative who was amazed at Kenneth’s boldness and how well he said what needed to be said.

As I have pondered his comments I meditated on some of the words of the German Pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Honestly, I don’t think I could even hold a candle to Bonhoeffer but in our country at this time I think that Kenneth does. Kenneth, like Bonhoeffer is a theologian of the Cross.

As I continue to read things being said in the defense of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and the defense of the unprincipled and thoroughly un-Christian actions of President Trump and GOP lawmakers I am ashamed to even call myself a Christian. Honestly I cannot believe than anyone claiming to be a Christian would defend them, but these defenders of Moore and Trump are abusing utilitarian ethics while claiming to follow supposedly Biblical absolutes. They would condemn Bill Clinton (as he should be) but let Trump and Moore off the hook for even worse moral acts. Theirs is indeed a dark and dystopian world where Orwellian doublespeak is the norm, and the clear words of Jesus the exception. I do not know whether to hate them or pity them, but because of Christ, as much as I detest them and their actions I cannot hate them, as Jesus said from the Cross, “they know not what they do.”

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

This so totally describes those who defend Trump, Moore, or for that matter anyone from the other side of the political spectrum who have groped, assaulted, raped, or abused young women, or in some cases young men and then defend themselves as good Christians, or liberal humanitarians. As for me I care not a wit whether they are Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, religious or irreligious, the point is, at least for me is that I have to be honest and not sacrifice my integrity for any kind of temporal gain. I cannot hold those who I agree with politically or socially to a different standard than those who I oppose simply because they are more representative of my political or social views.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Despite all of my struggles with faith I am still drawn to the Crucified God, and as such my life, my politics, and my words, as hopelessly flawed as they may be and as I am, have to at least attempt to live up to the Gospel of Christ. Otherwise what use am I?

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, ethics, faith, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

Pastors go into Mooregasms to Defend Roy Moore

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was a fascinating day to catch up on events, particularly from the panty and pussy obsessed scion of the American Christian Right former Judge Roy Moore.

I have to tell you. At one time in my life and ministry I would have been both surprised and shocked to see so many allegedly Bible believing Christian pastors mount a defense of a man who by his own admission as an adult in his 30s sought out teenage girls. When one complained about his sexual advance he told her: “no one will believe you” because he was a prosecutor and she was just a girl. But then, that was the 1970s, no-one believed women who were assaulted, molested, or even raped. In a sense he was right, and even now, some 40 years later Moore has found that his most strident allies, apart from Fox News, are supposedly Conservative Christian clergy, including some fifty plus from his home state of Alabama who signed a letter defending him today.

Their reasoning was that he had stood up to liberals by illegally placing a massive monument with the Ten Commandments on it outside the Alabama Supreme Court when he was Chief Justice, and for which he was later removed from office, as well as his decision not to enforce, but even resist the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergfell v. Hodges regarding the right to same sex couples to marry. That act also brought his removal from office.

But undeterred, Moore calculated that under the conditions created by Donald Trump that he could win a Senate seat in Alabama during a special election. With the backing of Alabama Evangelicals and alt-Right scion Stephen Bannon defeated the man appointed to take the place of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange during the GOP primary, and now faces Democrat Doug Jones in the special election. Since the the Washington Post, in its tradition of solid investigative journalism tracked down women who had been the victims of Roy Moore’s unwanted advances. Their stories are so compelling that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other Senators have said that they believe the victims and that Moore should withdraw from the race. George Will, who is factually one of the conservative columnists and commentators with any sense of decency and integrity said today that “Roy Moore is a disgrace and Doug Jones deserves to win.”

Needless to say, that did not deter these pastors from going into Mooregasms to defend Moore. In a letter issued by them which is also found on Moore’s website these men and women announced:

Pastor’s Letter

Dear friends and fellow Alabamians,

For decades, Roy Moore has been an immovable rock in the culture wars – a bold defender of the “little guy,” a just judge to those who came before his court, a warrior for the unborn child, defender of the sanctity of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty. Judge Moore has stood in the gap for us, taken the brunt of the attack, and has done so with a rare, unconquerable resolve.

As a consequence of his unwavering faith in God and his immovable convictions for Biblical principles, he was ousted as Chief Justice in 2003. As a result, he continued his life pursuit by starting the Foundation for Moral Law, which litigates religious liberty cases around our Nation. After being re-elected again to Chief Justice in 2012, by an overwhelming majority, he took another round of persecution for our faith as he stood up for the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

You can know a man by his enemies, and he’s made plenty – from the radical organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU to the liberal media and a handful of establishment politicians from Washington. He has friends too, a lot of them. They live all across this great State, work hard all week, and fill our pews on Sunday. They know him as a father, a grandfather, a man who loves God’s Word and knows much of it by heart, a man who cares for the people, a man who understands our Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers, and a man who deeply loves America. It’s no wonder the Washington establishment has declared all-out war on his campaign.

We are ready to join the fight and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, fear of man, and immorality are an affront to our convictions and our Savior and we won’t put up with it any longer. We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.

In your service,

Dr. Tom Ford, III, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

Pastor Stan Cooke, Kimberly Church of God, Kimberly, Alabama

Pastor Jonathan Rodgers, Dothan, Alabama

Pastor Joseph Smith, Pine Air Baptist Church, Grand Bay Alabama

Dr. David E. Gonnella, Pastor, Theodore, Alabama

Pastor Mike Allison, Madison, Alabama

Dr. Terry Batton, Christian Renewal and Development Ministries, Eufaula, Alabama

Pastors Tim and Elizabeth Hanson, Smiths Station, Alabama

Pastor Mark Liddle, Dominion Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Pastor Steve Sanders, Victory Baptist Church, Millbrook, Alabama

Dr. Richard Fox, retired Baptist pastor

Dr. Randy Cooper, Pastor, Warrior, Alabama

William Green, Minister, Fresh Anointing House of Worship, Montgomery, Alabama

Maurice McCaney, Victory Christian Fellowship Church, Florence, Alabama

Pastor Jamie Holcomb, Young’s Chapel, Piedmont, Alabama

Pastor Paul Elliott, Young’s Chapel, Piedmont, Alabama

Pastor Rodney Gilmore, Covenant Christian, Gadsden, Alabama

Pastor Mark Gidley, Faith Worship Center, Gadsden, Alabama

Pastor Bill Snow, Edgewood Church, Anniston, Alabama

Pastor Michael Yates, Webster’s Chapel, Gadsden, Alabama

Pastor Mark Holden, Webster’s Chapel, Gadsden, Alabama

Pastor Joshua Copeland, Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Anniston, Alabama

Pastor Bruce Jenkins, Young’s Chapel, Piedmont, Alabama

Pastor Keith Bond, Young’s Chapel, Piedmont, Alabama

Pastor Jim Lester, Fannin Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

Pastor Thad Endicott, Heritage Baptist Church, Opelika, Alabama

Bishop Fred and Tijuanna Adetunji, Fresh Anointing House of Worship, Montgomery, Alabama

Pastor David Floyd, Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church, Opelika, Alabama

Pastor Bruce Word, Freedom Church, Gadsden, Alabama

Pastor Paul Hubbard, Lakeview Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

Rev. Carl Head, Lakeview Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

Pastor Duwayne Bridges, Jr., Fairfax First Christian Church, Valley, Alabama

Rev. Edwin Roberts, Adams Street Church of Christ, Enterprise, Alabama

Pastor John McCrummen, Open Door Baptist Church, Enterprise, Alabama

Rev. Mickey Counts, Open Door Baptist Church, Enterprise, Alabama

Rev. Alex Pagen, Open Door Baptist Church, Enterprise, Alabama

Pastor Glenn Brock, Eufaula, Alabama

Rev. Tim Head, Montgomery, Alabama

Pastor/Elder Ted Phillips, Christ Church, Odenville, Alabama

Tim Yarbrough, Elder, Trinity Free Presbyterian, Trinity, Alabama

Pastor Myron Mooney, Trinity Free Presbyterian, Trinity, Alabama

Jerry Frank, Elder, Trinity Free Presbyterian, Trinity, Alabama

Pastor Jim Nelson, Church of the Living God, Moulton, Alabama

Pastor Earl Wise, Millbrook, Alabama

Rick and Beverly Simpson, Summit Holiness Church, Alabama

Pastor Lane Simmons and Margie Dale Simmons, First Assembly of God, Greenville Alabama

Rev. Charles Morris, Pastor Grace Way Fellowship, Evergreen Alabama

Dr. George Grant, Pastor, Parish Presbyterian Church

Pastor David Whitney, Cornerstone Church

Dr. Peter and Roseann Waldron, St. Francis Anglican Church

Pastor Franklin and Mrs. Pamela Raddish, Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries

Dr. Michael Peroutka, Institute on the Constitution

Reverend Bill Owens, Coalition of African American Pastors

**Church names are listed for identification purposes only

Honestly I hope that he and they continue fight it out so that they are discredited as representatives of Jesus Christ and I hope that Christians, especially Evangelicals finally get off this political train that is going to kill the church in the United States. I spent much of this afternoon reading the polling of George Barna (the leading Evangelical pollster) and the Pew Religion and Culture polls. The fact is that young people are fleeing the church and unbelievers are rejecting our message for a number of reasons, but most can be directly attributable to men like Roy Moore and his clergy enablers:

Hypocritical: Christians live lives that don’t match their stated beliefs;

Antihomosexual: Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians – “hating the sin and the sinner” as one respondent put it

Insincere: Christians are concerned only with collecting converts

Sheltered: Christians are anti-intellectual, boring, and out of touch with reality.

Too political: Christians are primarily motivated by a right-wing political agenda.

My friends, that survey was done over five years ago and there are many more from Barna and other pollsters that support it. Christians need to wake up and before it is too late discover what men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller did in the 1930s, sacrificing the Gospel for political power is always a losing proposition. As Niemoller wrote: “I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” 

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

Will we ever learn? Honestly I don’t think so. Most pastors will continue to defend the indefensible as Moore’s supporters are, and they will only more strident if he loses, or if the Senate refuses to seat him. Sadly, they will continue to rake in money and find avenues to gain political power even as the church and Christ that they supposedly represent are rejected, not because of Jesus, or even the Bible, but because of them. If God is just, they will be held accountable for their actions. If he’s not, it doesn’t matter.

Honestly, I believe the the Crucified God is just and I will leave it at that.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Live Big and Keep Writing

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

My literary agent is working with a number of publishers regarding my first book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Race, Religion, Ideology, and Politics in the Civil War Era, and I am doing some work on the manuscript after I asked him if he thought it was okay. So I am doing that.

Honestly when I started the manuscript which began as one of my introductory chapters of my Gettysburg Staff Ride text I could never have imagined that the subjects that I had addressed in it would have become such a prominent part of our political landscape. Really, in 2014I could not imagine that the Republican Party would have become the vehicle for a White Supremacist ideologue like Steve Bannon and a slave to a man like Donald Trump. While I thought that the so called Christian Right and the Seven Mountains or Dominionist Christians were a travesty to both Evangelical Christianity and the Constitution I could have never imagined that they would align themselves with a movement that no responsible Christian, or for that matter Republican (which I was for 32 years) would have ever supported.

So I am working my way back through my text, updating and editing it. That is not a bad thing. Since it has been about six months since I last touched the text I find that while I want to make edits, additions, and changes, that it is a pretty good product. Hopefully one of those publishers that my agent is working with will agree and it will be on the road to publication. Because of the subject I hope that it might even get a mention on things like Oprah’s Book Club. Honestly if that happened

I wouldn’t mind being on the New York Times Bestseller list. As Denny Crane said: “Live big.”

What really strikes me is that as I read through the text is that I haven’t finished learning and as I scrub it I find myself drawn to other books, articles, and original documents that I have read or studied at one time or another which add to what I had previously written. That is humbling to me because I realize just how much is still out there that could be including or could help improve what I had already written. Since I can neither stop reading or writing this is my conundrum, knowing when to stop. That being said I realized when I sent my initial draft of this to my agent that it was probably at best a 70% solution. Now that I am working on it again it pleases me that what I have already written is not a waste and in fact is still relevant to modern life and politics.

SomI am going to continue to both live big and write with the intention of being big. Who knows, a couple of best seller books might help me if I ever need to escape Trump and the Christian Right’s America.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Here I Stand: The Reformation at 500 Years

Me at the site where Martin Luther made his stand in 1996

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was Reformation Sunday, the Sunday where many Protestants celebrate Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Schlosskirche on October 31st 1517.

For me it is one of those weird times. I am not Protestant, though Martin Luther is one of my heroes, nor am I Roman Catholic. I am a priest in a small communion that is most like the Dutch Old Catholics and the Utrecht Union. I live in the uncomfortable middle between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Thus I have to make my way between a variety of types of Protestants and Roman Catholics in order to survive have a good deal of appreciation for the historic faith of the undivided Catholic Church before the Great Schism of 1054, and Martin Luther’s expression of Protestantism which culminated in his break with Rome and excommunication when he defended himself before the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papal legates at the Diet of Worms where when demanded to recant his views he said:

“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.

When I read Luther’s defense of his views before the princes and prelates at Worms in 1521 I still get a chill up my spine. It is hard to imagine anyone today daring to stand up to ruling powers unless they have the support of worldly powers greater than oppose.

What Luther did when he nailed his theses to the door of the Schlosskirche was to set into motion events that he could not dare to imagine. By kicking in the doors of the church to real dissent he opened the way to the secular and progressive views of the Enlightenment, without which there would have been no philosophical or political underpinning for the United States of America and the hallmark of our national ideal found in our Declaration of Independence which says “we hold these truth s to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Luther recovered the key to the Christian faith, that is faith in the Crucified God. As Lutheran theologian Juergen Moltmann wrote:

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”

Because of that we owe the flawed and often troubled monk and theologian from Wittenberg a debt of gratitude. As for me, I know that I do. I may not always be right, nor to I claim to be, but as a matter of faith and politics I have to say “here I stand.”

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Sociopath and His “Christian” Enablers

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have longed believed that the President of the United States is a sociopath. The man has no sense of care, empathy, respect for the law or the Constitution. In the past 36 hours he has threatened the Freedom of the Press which is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution and made rulings that exempt Christian organizations following laws on health care, he has ended subsidies for poor people that help them to purchase health insurance, and he has threatened to abandon the American citizens in Puerto Rico who were devastated by Hurricane Maria; neither has he said a word about the horrendous wildfires in California which have killed 29 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and in which some 400 people are missing and quite likely dead. Of course I have not even mentioned his continuing threats of war with North Korea. He is so ineffective that he has to rule by Executive Order since he cannot get legislation passed in a Republican controlled Congress.

Sadly, his strongest base of supporters remains the Evangelical Christians who elected him to office and no matter how egregious the President’s actions are in light of the basic teachings of Jesus, most don’t seem to care. Last night while I was asleep, one of them, a lady we knew from our time in Jacksonville Florida in 2002-2003 and have not seen and seldom heard from since went full MAGA on my Facebook page not seeing the contradictions between her words, actions, faith, the Constitution, and reality. When I looked at her posts on my timeline they were full of the the rude and ignorant bluster that has become the norm for many Evangelicals. Instead of arguing with her I simply dropped her and blocked her. I have no need to deal with people like her anymore. Since I don’t go to other people’s social media sites and attack them for things that I don’t agree with I would hope that my supposed Christian friends would exercise the same measure of discretion, but many don’t. Evidently, like the President they feel that they have the God given right to rage on Facebook and Twitter at anyone who dares to criticize the President.

In light of this I am reminded of President Theodore Roosevelt who penned these words when his patriotism was questioned during the First World War:

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

Truth matters, as does the law and the Constitution; and if Evangelical friends, like the one who came to my Facebook page are too hate filled and ignorant to get that then the hell with them.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Faith and Politics

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The American patriot Samuel Adams once remarked: “If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

My friends, that time has arrived. As I wrote a few days ago, Patriotism is distinctly different than nationalism and the President, the Vice President, and many of their most strident followers, especially so-called “conservative Christians” are not patriots but nationalists who in their stridency would co-opt God into their battle with their political opponents. The German Catholic theologian of the Second Vatican Council, and student of Martin Luther, Hans Kung wrote words that are quite applicable today: “Religion often is misused for purely power-political goals, including war.”

Really, what else could motivate Trump’s followers on the Christian Right to not only defend him but in doing so toss their belief in the Crucified God to the curb for the crass cause of gaining political power?

Somehow the old motto of the Wehrmacht and the Imperial German Army before seems to suit them Gott mit Uns or God is with us. Sadly, while a Christian who believes in the incarnation of Christ as a man, born of a woman may take comfort in the belief that God shares our humanity, the concept of Gott mit Uns is the understanding of nationalism and imperialism bent on the domination of other people and other countries is foreign to the ministry of Jesus and the early leaders of the church. Sadly, in our day, the Imperial Church has found a new savior, President Donald Trump and unless one is taking a knee for the National Anthem, one better be ready to bow their knee to this President or face the wrath of both the State and God, at least say the self-anointed prophets and priests like Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr., and Franklin Graham, who demand that people, even non-Christians follow their lead and obey the President.

Despite the best attempts of the Imperial Church beginning with the Emperor Constantine who cemented the alliance of the Church and Empire to secure his kingdom, and for that matter every empire that followed, has been resisted by people of conscience. The fact is that this Imperial Church concept is not only foreign to the Gospel but also to the founders of our country who resisted every attempt to to impose a state sponsored religion on the people. But neither do the most strident supporters of the President on the Christian seem to think that is important. Likewise these “disciples” neither think of the future of generations to come and their responsibility for perpetuating the Christian faith. Instead they sell their birthright for an illusion of political power that will fade as quickly as the grass in winter.

Future Christians as well as non-Christians who care about this world will look at them and wonder how they could support a man so opposed in almost every conceivable way to the faith of Jesus the Christ. The same Jesus who became incarnate, was born of a woman, who hung out and ministered to the very people who the current “faithful” despise. This is the Jesus who suffered under the scourging of Roman soldiers, was abandoned by his own people, died on a cross as a criminal, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. According to scripture he rose again from the dead bearing all the marks of his humanity, including his scars.

This is what Martin Luther called “the theology of the Cross” and one cannot understand the Christian faith, and I do say faith, without at least trying to comprehend, for it flies in the face of those who desire an earthly kingdom where alleged Christians dominate the government in the perpetually vain attempt to establish the kingdom of Christ on the earth. The best modern exponent of the theology of the Cross, German Lutheran theologian Juergen Moltmann wrote:

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”

Why do I say this today? Well actually I began this article a couple of days ago with a different concept in mind, but I basically had writers block. But meditating on it as I walked today I was reminded of just why I stand so strongly against what the President has been doing and how the allegedly Christian Right has sold its soul to him. I cannot look at scripture, profess my belief in Jesus and reconcile that belief with a sham Gospel that despises the poor and values earthly power and prosperity.

Sadly today I had a Facebook follower, a man who I do not know, but who is a Byzantine Catholic Priest tell me that he would no longer follow me because of my “constant anti-Trump rants.” That didn’t bother me at all. I don’t know the man and everything I see that he posts, including his pictures shows me that his faith is more concerned with power, both ecclesiastical and political than the theology of the Cross.

So when you read my criticisms of the President, please know that much of my political beliefs are formed by my faith, a faith that I struggle with on a daily basis since my deployment to Iraq in 2007-2008. For me this is important, because though I believe I still doubt. But there is something that I don’t doubt and that are the words of the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment and that means that I cannot abide a President who flaunts all of these things and supposed Christians who sell their souls to defend him. I just can’t go there. I heartily agree with John Leland, the Virginia Baptist pastor who fought to ensure religious liberty for all when his fellow Virginian Anglicans tried to establish a state church after the colonies has secured their independence from England. Leland worked with James Madison to craft the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment which both President Trump and his Christian supporters seem to want to destroy.

We are in a terrible time of testing. The German pastor, theologian, and martyr during the Nazi Era, Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” 

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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On the Trail of the White Rose: Resistance in the Face of Real Terror

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a few short thought for today following up on my article yesterday about my visit to Dachau. Today I had the chance to visit one of the memorials and a museum dedicated to the remembrance of Sophie Scholl and the members of the White Rose resistance group. The group was built around Scholl and a number of other students from the University in Munich during 1942 and 1943. I have written about them before but this was the first time that I was able to visit the location where much of their work was centered.


Theirs is a remarkable story because stories like this are often buried by the propaganda machines of totalitarian regimes, but the shock of what these young people did was so great that the Nazi propaganda machine had to publicly confront it with the goal of instilling such fear that no one else’s would dare repeat it. There are a number of monuments scattered around Munich to the White Rose movement, but the most remarkable is the monument in front of the university where they studied and where they distributed their leaflets, facsimiles of their publications and letters are part of the pavement, as if they have been dropped on the ground for someone to pick up.

Scholl, as well as her friends were students, some who in the course of their time of study who had been drafted into the Wehrmacht as medics, serving on the Russian front before returning to the University. There were five of them, Scholl, Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorrel, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst, plus one of their professors, Professor Dr. Kurt Huber who began a resistance cell that focused on telling the truth about the crimes of the Nazi regime, and the lies of Hitler. Telling the truth in a dictatorship is dangerous and although Scholl and her companions could have remained silent they had consciences that were guided by reason and human rights, as well as by their Christian faith, a faith which remained despite their aversion to the institutional church for its complicity with the Nazis.

They published a series of six leaflets which they printed themselves and distributed around the university, the city, and to like minded people in a number of other cities. They asked those who got them to make as many copies as they could and distribute them. They were in the process of drafting a seventh when Scholl was spotted distributing them at the university by a maintenance man who was a member of the Nazi Party. She and her friends were arrested on February 21st 1943 by the notorious Nazi People’s Court under the direction of Roland Freisler on the 22nd, and executed by beheading at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison on the 23rd.


The members of the White Rose were bold and defiant in the face of evil, of course those that have that kind of courage usually have short life expectancies in a totalitarian state, but they did not back down. Their pamphlets and graffiti criticizing Hitler garnered the attention of the Gestapo and when they were caught they were brutally tortured, but none backed down.

Their criticisms of Hitler and his Third Reich were hard hitting. Since all of the students had spent much of their childhood teenage years in Nazi organizations which were designed to make loyal little Nazis, their resistance came as a shock to many. All were children who could have easily due to their family background taken the easy road, but chose the more honorable and dangerous road.


Their pamphlets are striking, and each focused on a different part or aspect of the Nazi regime. In their first leaflet they wrote:

“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” They urged their readers “Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself as best he can at this late hour, he must work against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism.” And to “Offer passive resistance – resistance – wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure!”

Such was their beginning, but they went on to attack the Nazi, leaders, the Nazi system, and especially the silence of their countrymen over the extermination of the Jews and Polish intellectuals. They asked in the second leaflet:

“Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so…. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this “government” which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!”

In each of the letters they asked their readers to offer some form of resistance to Hitler and the Nazi State but urged passive resistance, but in the third missive they went into more detail, including something that anyone who thinks that they are loyal to their country need to appreciate:

“The meaning and the goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from any course, any action, whatever its nature. At all points we must oppose National Socialism, wherever it is open to attack. We must soon bring this monster of a state to an end. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences. The military victory over Bolshevism dare not become the primary concern of the Germans. The defeat of the Nazis must unconditionally be the first order of business… And now every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present “state” in the most effective way, how he can strike it the most telling blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt…”

Eventually their tracts became more biting, and in fourth the metaphysical linking Hitler to Satan and Anti-Christ. 


They wrote:

“Every word that comes from Hitler’s mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed…. I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defence? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight? We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler.”

In the fifth leaflet they spoke of where the Nazi war effort would end and the responsibility of not only Hitler but the German people for it:

“It has become a mathematical certainty that Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. Hitler cannot win the war; he can only prolong it. The guilt of Hitler and his minions goes beyond all measure. Retribution comes closer and closer. But what are the German people doing? They will not see and will not listen. Blindly they follow their seducers into ruin. Victory at any price! is inscribed on their banner. “I will fight to the last man,” says Hitler-but in the meantime the war has already been lost…. Do not believe that Germany’s welfare is linked to the victory of national Socialism for good or ill. A criminal regime cannot achieve a German victory. Separate yourselves in time from everything connected with National Socialism. In the aftermath a terrible but just judgment will be meted out to those who stayed in hiding, who were cowardly and hesitant.”

In the aftermath of the disaster at Stalingrad they published their sixth and last issue before being caught. In it they urged Germans to fight against the Nazi Party and regime, and confronted the way that since its inception Hitler and the Party corrupted the meaning of honor and freedom:

“Freedom and honor! For ten long years Hitler and his coadjutor have manhandled, squeezed, twisted, and debased these two splendid German words to the point of nausea, as only dilettantes can, casting the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently demonstrated in the ten years of destruction of all material and intellectual freedom, of all moral substance among the German people, what they understand by freedom and honor. The frightful bloodbath has opened the eyes of even the stupidest German – it is a slaughter which they arranged in the name of “freedom and honor of the German nation” throughout Europe, and which they daily start anew.”

Just over two weeks later they were caught and in Freisler’s People’s Court convicted and executed. During their trial, if it can be called that, Freisler and others expressed their shock that young Germans could commit treason. Sophie had no problem confronting her accusers:

Her last words before going to the guillotine were unapologetic: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” On the back of the order condemning her to death she wrote the word Freedom.


There are leaders in many nations today intent on destroying freedom and in many places the people and the country’d institutions fall in behind them, usually by painting pictures of threats so imminent that people willingly trade real freedom for a false security. It is a dangerous world and all of us must be alert to changes in society and question what comes out of the mouths of leaders, and even more so their true believer followers.


Sophie Scholl and her companions understood the risk, but they got their message heard at the highest level of government, and most were killed. But their example of courage and belief in freedom and human rights is still stronger that they mightiest despot, and unlike their mighty yet evil rulers they are the ones that Germany remembers. I think that is a lesson for us as well. I’ll write about that another time. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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