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.”
“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.
“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,