Friends of Padre Steve’s World
The German anti-Nazi pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a very poignant observation which is quite applicable to the radical politically motivated politicians, preachers, and pundits of the supposedly Christian Right, although I suppose that it could be expanded to include other religious radicals in this country and around the World:
“There is a truth which is of Satan. Its essence is that under the semblance of truth it denies everything that is real. It lives upon the hatred of the real and the world which is created and loved by God. It pretends to be executing the judgment of God upon the fall of the real. God’s truth judges created things out of love. And Satan’s truth judges them out of envy and hatred. God’s truth has become flesh in the world and is alive in the real, but Satan’s truth is the death of all reality.” Bonhoeffer Ethics p. 366
Bonhoeffer grew up in an era of world war, the collapse of Empires and social order, economic collapse, revolutions and the rise of the greatest evils that the world has ever seen. Likewise, he recognized dangers of radicalism, especially that of religious radicals. He was thirteen years old when the First World War ended and the Kaiser abdicated. In the wake of the traumatic loss of a war that they had been led to believe was all but won, Germany went through a violent civil war, the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, economic calamity, as well as various Communist and Fascist coup attempts in the early 1920s. The Great Depression was another crushing blow which led to the resurgence of radicals, and finally led to the Nazi takeover in January 1933 when Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor by President Hindenburg. When the Nazis came to power Bonhoeffer was a young pastor, and he was one of the first Christian pastors of any denomination to recognize the inherent evil of the Nazi state and Nazism and its hold over most German Christians.
We live in somewhat similar times and often religious people resort to radicalism believing it to be a “godly” response to the evils of their time. Bonhoeffer saw the danger of Christians who become radicalized in relationship to how such radicalization stands in direct opposition to the Gospel. Bonhoeffer penned this from inside a Nazi prison awaiting his execution.
“Radicalism always springs from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what is established. Christian radicalism, no matter whether it consists in withdrawing from the world or in improving the world, arises from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God his creation. He has fallen out with the created world, the Ivan Karamazov, who at the same time makes the figure of the radical Jesus in the image of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted to be a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In place of the love that believes all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), there is now the pharisaical denial of love to evil, and the restriction of love to the closed circle of the devout. Instead of the open Church of Jesus Christ which serves the world till the end, there is now some allegedly primitive Christian ideal of a Church, which in its turn confuses the ideal of the living Jesus Christ with the realization of a Christian ideal. Thus a world which is evil succeeds in making the Christians become evil too. It is the same germ that disintegrates the world and that makes the Christians become radical. In both cases it is hatred towards the world, no matter whether the haters are the ungodly or the godly. On both sides it is a refusal of faith in the creation. But devils are not cast out through Beelzebub.” (Letters and Papers from Prison p.386)
Modern Christian radicalism has become a very real part of the American religious-political landscape and it has managed to poison a generation through theology of Christian Dominionism. The theology itself finds its historic roots in Calvin’s Geneva and other radical Protestant theocracies. R.J. Rushdoonny is the founder of the Dominionism, a movement which has become one of the loudest voices in American Evangelicalism, Rushdoony’s version of the Christian faith is an Old Testament militancy based upon Israel’s conquest of Canaan. It is a very simple theology, one very similar to that of Islamic radicals and extremists, and it is based on perpetual warfare of “God’s people” against “God’s enemies.”
“Israel was attacked by Amalek. According to Deuteronomy 25:17, Amalek “feared not God.” Amalek’s attack on Israel, according to the “Midrashic lore,” was an obscene defiance of God and a contempt for God. Where men attack God’s people, there we often have a covert or overt attack on God. Unable to strike directly at God, they strike at God’s people. There is thus continual warfare between Amalek and Israel, between God’s people and God’s enemies. The outcome must be the blotting out of God’s enemies…. the covenant people must wage war against the enemies of God, because this war is unto death. The deliberate, refined, and obscene violence of the anti-God forces permits no quarter… this warfare must continue until the Amalekites of the world are blotted out, until God’s law-order prevails and His justice reigns.” R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), p. 318.
The goal of the Dominionist movement is the complete conquest, subjugation, and even the extermination of the people that they believed are the enemies of God. The widespread believe of the political and religious leaders of this movement is that Christians are innately superior to others because they possess the law of God. Gary North, Rushdooeny’s son-in-law, is now the primary ideological and theological spokesman for the Dominionist movement. He is very popular and influential in many conservative and political circles and with the Tea Party movement and has been an adviser to both Ron and Rand Paul.
“It occurs to me: Was Moses arrogant and unbiblical when he instructed the Israelites to kill every Canaanite in the land (Deut. 7:2; 20:16-17)? Was he an “elitist” or (horror of horrors) a racist? No; he was a God-fearing man who sought to obey God, who commanded them to kill them all. It sounds like a “superior attitude” to me. Of course, Christians have been given no comparable military command in New Testament times, but I am trying to deal with the attitude of superiority–a superiority based on our possession of the law of God. That attitude is something Christians must have when dealing with all pagans. God has given us the tools of dominion.” Gary North, The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), p. 214n
The late David Chilton, another leader of the movement wrote that there should be no tolerance for other religions, even Judaism. He made his case in the most severe terms that I have seldom seen outside of Nazi and Neo-Nazi writings, “The god of Judaism is the devil. The Jew will not be recognized by God as one of His chosen people until he abandons his demonic religion and returns to the faith of his fathers–the faith which embraces Jesus Christ and His Gospel.” David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1984), p. 127.
This militancy has gained popular support since the election of President Obama and it reflects the bitterness and anger of many Christian political activists. Many of whom these activists are very comfortable with using violence against those that they believe are their enemies, and quite a few speak of the use of force and violence to achieve their goals. You can find examples in sermons, blog posts, and editorials written by them, and in the multitude of videos that the post to the internet.
Randall Terry, the former head Operation Rescue who once said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” Gary North also wrote, “We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”
Cindy Jacobs another one of these politically connected self-anointed prophets, who is still around pushing even more radical comments made this claim on the internet back in 2000:“For there is a radical sound that I have issued – there is a sound that has come from heaven, and it even now has come to earth. And the Lord says, these are going to be days where I am going to trouble the enemy through you. These are going to be different days than you have ever known, and I am going to require sacrifice of you that you cannot imagine. I am going to require a sacrifice of your children, says the Lord. And the Lord says, I’m going to shake everything that can be shaken…” and that “There are churches that will be command posts for revolution, and to these command posts I would say, I am going to bring a revolution. Look and see; I am calling radical revolutionaries to the church.”
Sadly, they will not stop until they conquer and destroy everything that they hate, including the government of the United States as well as churches that they despise. Yet another of these extremists, Rick Joyner prophesied, “the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethrens strongholds in the church …” and Joyner has even called for a military coup to depose President Obama.
Despite their purported love for the Constitution many actually despise democracy and representative government, Rushdooney wrote, “One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.” R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law p.100
I could go on and on, but the examples are so many, and so vile that I will stop. But when read these people’s writings, and see them echoed by so-called “conservative” politicians I have to realize that they are the ones who are wrong, and that if there is a just God that they will have to answer for their words, and even the actions of their followers, like Robert Lewis Dear, Jr who killed three and wounded none people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.
At the same time, in the moments when I believe, I remind myself of Bonhoeffer’s words, which so reflect the Gospel of reconciliation, “God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”