Monday, February 29, 2016

Responding To Donald Trump; It's Time For A "Confessing Church"

I generally keep my direct political views to myself.  I preach the Gospel; try to follow Jesus in His care for the marginalized and the poor; and when people who are my Christian friends express different political views I generally assume that our differences are about the best ways to achieve the same aims and to follow Jesus as best we are able. It usually isn't hard to know which way I lean, but I keep my thoughts about particular candidates to myself.

I can no longer do that.  I am not able to sit quietly (if I am every quiet) by while watching the commandments of Christ not only ignored, but violated, by people who claim to be Christian.  There is a precedent for this.  It occurred in Germany in the early 1930s.  Below is a quote from the statement on "positive Christianity" in Article 24 of the Nazi Party Platform of 1920

"We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state's existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good."

It is not hard to spot the idolatry of nationalism in the line "insofar as they do not jeopardize the state's existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race." Nor is it hard to spot the same idolatry in the nationalism of Donald Trump.

It is important that Christians of all types, and all different political stances say clearly, "We are Christians FIRST and Republicans, Democrats, or even Americans second."

For too long we have looked more like the German Evangelical Church with it's tradition of loyalty to the state, forgetting that this helped give rise to the "German Christians" who sought to create a Nazi church.  It may not have been our intention, but our silence lends credence to the expressions of bigotry and racial hatred stirred by Trump's campaign.

The Protestant "Confessing Church"  most famous members, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller payed heavily for their opposition.  Bonhoeffer was executed and Niemoller spent seven years in concentration camps for his criticism of Hitler.

Trump's most recent refusal to repudiate the endorsement of Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke, while repugnant, is merely the latest in a string of behaviors which fan the flames of racism and supremacist ideology. 

We need to be reminded of the Barmen Declaration which insisted that Christ cannot be co-opted by, made over in the image of, or placed in service of religious or political ideologies.  We need to say clearly and loudly that The expressions of racism and bigotry, the promises of exclusion of others and the disregard for the well being of the immigrant, the poor, and the marginalized expressed by Donald Trump and his supporters are INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST AND AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WE REPUDIATE THEM.

If Donald Trump says that he is a Christian, I will not argue that with him or anyone else.  I have Christian friends who are actively drinking alcoholics....I don't let them drive my car and I don't ride in theirs.  I pray for their recovery and if they try to get behind the wheel while drunk, I will try to stop them.  I pray for Donald Trump's repentance and recovery from the evil he espouses.  But I will actively oppose both his ideas and his election.  As a Christian I can do nothing else. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Ash Wednesday Poem

While placing ashes on the foreheads of people that I care about this evening, thinking about the congregations I have been blessed to serve over the last 10 years, the words to this poem began to run through my mind.

The black ash cakes my thumb
We come from dust
Their lives leave a mark on mine
indelible and forever
"we're taking dad off life support"
    "I'm leaving him"
"will you baptize my baby before she die?"
I draw the cross with oil on the baby's forehead,
   Months later with ash on the mother.
We return to dust
"Can you come bail me out preacher?"
       "A year sober! Can you believe it pastor?"
  "We're getting married, will you do the service?"
But God's love for us is eternal
The years roll on
   babies grow 
their pictures adorn the fridge
    next to our own grandchildren.
Hear the Good News of Christ's love for you
The dust of their lives, 
        the ashes of their wounds,
and mine
    Mark the skin of my soul.
I breath in the peace
    that is Ash Wednesday;
that broken and scarred as I am,
   I have been blessed
in the days I've been given
    to be among this people.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Jesus Agenda

I wanted to share with you the sermon that came out of the last blog as well as my preparation during a week of study while I shoveled out from under the snow.

It seems to me that Jesus' first words as an adult (at least as Luke records them) should carry a lot of weight regarding His mission and agenda for the Kingdom of God.

Your thoughts and comments, pro and con, are always welcome

https://youtu.be/G8iSYoCfk98

Shalom,
Stephen