Snowing in April...

For some reason I found myself awakening early this morning - not my usual drill - I guess I sensed that it was snowing. April 28th and it is snowing. This is not unheard of in these parts - and I can remember sitting in 8th grade French class watching big, wet flakes fall in early May - but it has been so warm of late that the snow comes as an odd surprise. Like this morning's Psalm says: our God will come and not keep silence; before the Lord there is a consuming flame and round about is a raging storm." (Psalm 50: 3) Well, the raging is ending and most of the snow is turning to rain as the morning matures.

Two thoughts are taking shape as I continue to read and reflect on the relevance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for this generation - especially in light of the recent immigration law in Arizona:

+ First, while the United States is profoundly polarized - and millions continue to suffer the effects of our volatile economy and respond with fear and shame - there is a stand-off between Left and Right in this nation that is not all bad. To be sure, it slows helpful legislation like health care and banking reform down to a glacial pace, but it also forces reasonable people into careful conversation and practical solutions rather than ideological action. This was clearly not the case in Bonhoeffer's day as the Nazis controlled the legislative process and used brute force and intimidation to beat back their opponents. And all the blathering of either MSNBC or Fox News has not changed this fact.

Yes, Tom Delay and his thugs used some of the Feuher's tactics in the process of stealing the election from Al Gore - and they would have gone farther had not the visual media been present. Yes, it is clear that a bold minority of hate-mongers long to duplicate the actions of the SS on American soil: fringe militias, the John Birch Society and other fear-based groups are growing. And there is a clear, focused and principled response to them, too. Over the weekend, thousands of church people and labor unionists gathered in Phoenix, AZ to protest the new immigration law. Phoenix mayor, Phil Gordon, has directed city attorney's to challenge the law in court. And so there is hope and action and truth.

+ Second, besides the exploitation of economic and racial fears, the manipulation of a diminished and confused Christian Church strikes me as a parallel to Nazi Germany that warrants deeper exploration. I am not suggesting that there is anything like the Reichbishop at work in the US. Nor am I trying to exaggerate the consequences of liberal theology that continues to preach an optimism about human progress without a serious grounding in the Cross. Barth has already done that work and besides it would be too obvious and shallow.

And at the same time, however, I am baffled and frightened by the "God, guns and Jesus" idolatry being promoted by Sarah Palin and her rogues gallery. Where are their pastors? Why are they allowed to get away with such demonic preaching and teaching? Is this one of the tragic consequences of the contemporary American church wherein denominational connections have atrophied and accountability and integrity vanished? As the old saying puts it, "Even the Pope has a confessor." Is this the result of a church leadership vacuum?

Bonhoeffer worked mightily to push the ecumenical church into calling Nazi ideology into question. While serving as the chaplain to the underground seminary for the Confessing Church, he led his students in study, prayer, confession and the celebration of the Eucharist. He publicly refused to cooperate with the corrupted "German Church" and demanded that his peers do likewise. And he named social sin clearly in his generation.

I see the theology of Palin and her ilk as idolatrous. Evil. Demonic. This is not a question of civility - which she mocks and denigrates - this is a challenge for those who claim to follow Jesus. Reinhold Niebuhr taught Bonhoeffer and others that too often the children of darkness know how to get things done while the children of light try to stay pure. Perhaps the time has come for interfaith and ecumenical groups to carefully name the dangerous and ugly idolatry of our time and refuse to cooperate with anything that legitimizes it?


Anonymous said…
I so agree with this...Palin, et al is presenting such a frightening version of faith that I do not find it at all surprising that so many people are fleeing the church. If I believed this is what Christianity is about, I'd be fleeing the church as well. And I become increasingly uncomfortable with being associated with these beliefs, just by sharing the name "Christian". But until main stream Christians are willing to become much, much more vocal about the fact that this doesn't match any theology we would claim as Christian, that we find these beliefs idolatrous and evil, I don't have a lot of hope for the future of Christianity. We are moving into scary times reminiscent of, as you say, Nazi Germany, among other things.
RJ said…
Hey there my friend: the time to name the demonic is now rather than after it had gained more momentum and control, yes? Reading LOTS of Bonhoeffer and Barth and history trying to understand the real connections and the ones that are unimportant. Thanks for your word... more on this soon. Hope you are actually having spring in Ohio which can be lovely. My love to your family.

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