a barmen declaration for white christians in 21st century america...

On September 6, 2017 a "Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and
White Supremacy" was released in the United States for circulation, conversation and conversion born of repentance
. Taking their lead from the Barmen Declaration of 1934 (read this @ http://www.sacred-texts.com/ chr/barmen.htm) during the early days of Germany's descent into Nazi ideology and violence, the current declaration "represents an unprecedented gathering of Christian faith leaders from across the U.S. calling for a return to the liberating work of the Gospel and a rejection of racism and colonization." (read the full text @ https://www.redletterchristians.org/theological-declaration-on-christian-faith-white-supremacy/.) Two thoughts come to me upon critical reflection on this important public witness:

+ First, there is always a place in the public life of Christ's Body, the Church, for theological clarity. To be sure, few contemporary Christians will ever know about this document - and fewer still will read it. Nevertheless, it stands as an insightful call to repentance at a moment in time that aches for light in the darkness. Not many in Germany knew about or read Barmen either and it became a rallying cry for the faithful throughout the world. Writings such as these focus our moral attention; give voice to the Christian convictions we share beyond aesthetic, liturgical, and historical differences; and awaken both courage and conscience when fear dominates our culture. I am grateful for the hard work my sisters and brothers in faith have given in drafting this document and urge your support. 

+ Second, the creation of such a document challenges believers to leave the safety of abstract commitments so that the Word of God's love can become flesh in our era. At a fundamental level, this declaration invites repentance - metanoia - an inward change of heart resulting in an outward change of ethical direction. Repentance moves us towards justice and away from self-centered habits born of privilege and power. In our era, one manifestation of a new life in Christ for White people of faith involves bringing white supremacy to the Cross so that it dies. The paradox of crucifixion and the promise of the Paschal Mystery where God's grace brings renewal beyond death are not disembodied theological doctrines. They are entering the way of the Lord through the narrow gate of trust. 

The following words come directly from the declaration and underscore what the ethics of Jesus mean for so many of us at this moment in time.

+ Jesus “is the head of the body, the church,” in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Colossians 1:18-19) Our faith is rooted in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his teachings claim authority in life and in death.We reject as false doctrine any other claim on our lives—whether contrived of state or reason—that violates Jesus’ ethic of the equal and inestimable dignity of all people, each created in the very image of God and as such equally created with the divine call and capacity to sustain, protect, and serve the world.

“For ‘In God we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)

Our identity as the beloved of God belongs equally to one as to all—to deny or privilege the uniqueness of any person is to malign the image of God in the whole. We reject as false doctrine any hierarchy of human being that declares in word or deed the supremacy of any person or people group over and against other people or people groups. In this current context, we renounce white nationalism, white separatism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and any and all other movements that abide by the logics of domination and colonization.

“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16) Our responsibility is to encourage and strengthen one another in love to the full work and witness of Jesus who loved, esteemed, healed and served all. This is what it means to be the global Church in God’s world. We reject the false doctrine that the work of Jesus is malleable to the political constructs of dominance and colonization; and therefore we actively, meaningfully, and tangibly resist any and all governing policies that fail to serve the basic needs, protect the inherent dignity, and cultivate the capacity of all to sustain, protect, and serve the world.

+ “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20: 25-26) 
Our human call is always to sustain, protect, and serve—not to dominate. To seek power and glory is contrary to the call of the shalom/Kingdom/kin-dom of God. If we have moved about this world oblivious to or ignoring the pain of those subjugated under narratives of domination from which we have benefited, we repent of our sin and complicity. We confess that we have demonstrated allegiance to the colonizing systems of this world, rather than to the ways of Jesus. We acknowledge those who have suffered under oppression and exploitation, however subtle or overt, and continue to be wounded by the wrongful use of power in governance as a result of our sins of omission and commission. We reject as false doctrine any teaching that the human vocation is to exploit land, people groups, or other nations for the amassing of wealth. We also reject as false doctrine the belief that the Church has the call or right to confer upon any persons or people group unique title, favor, or powers to dominate others, as if from God.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) Our allegiance to the way of Jesus requires that all external constructs contrived by human efforts that seek supremacy are anathema to the shalom Kingdom/kin-dom of God. We are all equal members of one Lord, one faith, one baptism—and yet, as citizens, we are subject to the governance and structures that often oppress, subjugate, and exclude. We reject as false doctrine active support for or passive complicity with any effort to subjugate, exploit, disenfranchise, disadvantage, or purge any image of God in or from our society.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. All this is from God, who reconciled us through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-19) Our faith dictates that the work of Jesus is the reconciliation of all of creation back to God and each other. This divine work disrupts and dismantles all human ideologies and structures of subjugation and oppression, in the world and in the Church, which has often been a primary force of social control, oppression and exploitation. We reject as false doctrine any political, social or religious teaching that esteems any person as greater or less than any other who is equally full and created in the image of God, endowed by their Creator with sacred, inviolable dignity; worthy of full protection of the law and full capacity to flourish.

The declaration closes with a vow, born of baptism and shaped by incarnation, that is unambiguous. It has been simmering since the rise of the Tea Party and their overtly racist actions against President Obama and many people of color. It is informed by Charlottesville, of course, but also by the witness of Black Lives Matter. It deserves our embodied commitment.

In full recognition of these convictions and in full rejection of these errors, we resist and renounce all efforts to purge, subjugate, exploit, and disenfranchise those created in the very image of God. Any attempt to do so is a violation of God in creation, fully revealed in Jesus the Christ. We invite all who will to accept this declaration of sacred worth to remember and uphold these abiding truths in all matters of church, civic engagement, and in the larger body politic. We implore all who read and hear these words to acknowledge your place in the history of oppression and take tangible action to return to the unity of all Creation, bound together in faith, hope, and love incarnated in Jesus Christ.

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