Monday, January 30, 2006

New Sojourners in my mailbox

"The church is only the church when it exists for others."

The February 2006 issue of Sojourners arrived in the mail today (along with a "Professional Clergy Dept." solicitation from The Christian Century).

I found at least two must read articles for me in this issue. First is a piece commemorating the 100th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who led the Confessing Church against the Nazis in Germany.

"The church is only the church when it exists for others." When the Confessing Church did not intervene for Jews beyond its own membership, for gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis, for the euthanized, Roma ("gypsies") and imprisoned socialists and communists, in that moment it forfeited being a church.
In a word, the "most understanding people" did not take a stand because of their deep-seated Protestant acceptance of state authority in the traditional church-state alliance. As Bonhoeffer wrote Sutz in another letter, "An end must also finally be put to the theologically founded reservation regarding the action of the state- all of it is only fear. 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves' (Proverbs 31:8)-who in the church still knows that this is the minimum commandment of the Bible in such times?"

While our sources and reasoning may differ somewhat, isn't this still a key demand of Unitarian Universalism? People can wail all they want about politics from the pulpit, but I challenge anyone to find a Unitarian Universalism absent this committment that is still meaningful or worthy of our inheritance of two proud traditions. We are the sons and daughters of people who fought for public education, abolition, suffrage, civil rights, human rights and peace. This is no time for us to hide our light in a bushel or bury our talents in the ground.


At 10:30 AM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

Must every political situation people don't like get the Hitler comparison?

As I said to one of the commentors on my blog recently, "I don't like the Kelo decision, but I'm not accusing the liberals on the Supreme Court of putting people into gas chambers."

Social Security privatization?

Bad financial policy, not a gas chamber.

Building a highway section someplace you don't want one?

Possibly bad transportation policy, not a gas chamber.

Boy, those conservatives think differently than we do, it must be because of their Myers-Briggs type? (A sermon preached assuming there were no conservatives in the room.)

Bad use of psychology on the preaching minister's part, not a gas chamber.

Arguments that a highway built someplace the minister doesn't want one is just a slippery slope to the gas chamber (which is what usually follows when one points out that someone's political opponents are not in fact Hitler,)will be met with rolled eyes.

If you can't express what you're trying to say in terms of morals and spiritual values and let your congregation make the connection to the political issue you're talking about, then either your opinion of your congregation's intelligence is too low or your topic is so incredibly far into the political that you should be addressing a political organization.


At 11:57 AM, Blogger jfield said...

What in my post was not about moral or spiritual values? The only political specific in the Bonhoeffer quote was the idea that there is no theological reason to assume the legitimacy of state actions. All I covered was that churches must be open to all and must ethically lookout for outsiders and those without power.

Your tirade suggests that there is no concrete situation where you would not object to the social aplication of any possible shared UU moral or ethical values.

I don't buy the "churches should stick to vague values" line any more. It feels to me that people who want Unitarian Universalism to be nothing more than a high school debate team will always find something to object to if any demands are made on their behavior or anything is said that challenges the status quo.

By the way, nice try calling Godwin's Law when I am talking about Bonhoeffer.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

Was the intention of your post not to draw a clear line from Bonhoeffer's actions in a time of Nazis to the way you want UUs to behave now?

My point was simply that some actions appropriate in the context of Nazis than aren't in the context of a democracy where things aren't going the way either of us would want them to.

If you don't want a high school debate, then people shouldn't write sermons on high school debate topics like political issues. Whether the patriot act does more harm than good is exactly the sort of thing we talked about in high school. We never touched the concept of, say, the sacrifices and rewards of free religion, the true cost of religious freedom and why it is worth it. I think people would get the idea what you thought about the patriot act, and it would be a sermon they couldn't hear at the League of Women Voters.

Could there be a time when a political issue was so important that a stand from the pulpit is appropriate? I assume so, though probably by that point the church would just be giving me moral justification for what I think anyway.

Have I seen one in a UU pulpit that I thought was really compelling? Not really, even from ministers I respect a lot.

Most of the big issues that probably most deserve to be discussed are kind of foregone conclusions. I mean, torture is a really bad thing.


Even thoughfully approached, it is hard to do an anti-torture sermon that really gives one much that is new to think about.

Most of the political sermons I've ever seen have basically told me how very right I am for believing in evolution, not believing in the death penalty, etc, etc, and soforth. It amazes me that other people can listen to a twenty minute talk on how right they are and not get bored.

who can write for twenty minutes on how right she is, but that's somehow different.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger birthingjourney said...

I was reflecting on this discussion and came across Lo-Fi Tribes post,
The Trouble With Freedom

"We are all responsible for the world we create, and we have no excuses."

Thank you Shawn. We are responsible not only for our own personal freedoms but we have a responsibility for the larger world, for others for those after us.

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

I don't deny that. But there are a lot of ways we can be responsible to one another.



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