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When the Church Sells Out to Power and Glory – Dissent as a Spiritual Discipline

[A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Charles Marsh, 2014] This book is not written to coddle nor to discomfort whatever our self-image is as American Christians today; Marsh is trying to show reality. To me, two eras of Bonhoeffer’s life seem particularly important to our current experience in the United States, and I will get to those in a minute. Marsh walks us from an introduction to Bonhoeffer’s ancestry through to the last imprisoned years of uncertainty. Those ended in his execution just days before the end of WWII. This is what biography should be – excellent credentials, extensive research, sensitive awareness, sympathetic objectivity, thorough treatment, and clear organization and writing. Now on to the two eras of his life that seem to me particularly important today. CHAPTER EIGHT, “THEOLOGICAL STORM TROOPERS ON THE MARCH” deals with the direct pressures on the church after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. It traces the ease with which the Nazified church, the innocent-sounding “German Christians,” took control of the Christian establishments. A major moral concern at this time was church involvement in the deliberate singling out of Jews for exclusion and ever more violent persecution. The terrifying crucial factor was the willingness of pew-level Christians to see Christ and the Bible replaced by enthusiasm for a strong Germany and a strong, “Christian” leader. Hitler actually used...

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Contempt and Hate Sloshing Around Is A Huge Moral Issue.

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? … Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?Many of my Republican friends would protest and say it isn’t true – they don’t hate people, nor even hold them in contempt. They love them. They just wish they’d straighten up and … I don’t know what. Not be poor? Not be born into economically oppressed inner cities (or stagnating rural areas)? Not grow up in an American subculture? Not be persecuted? Not be abused? Talk like the white majority in whatever community they are in? Go to church with them? Don’t listen to weird music? Don’t get arrested for things that white people are doing but don’t get arrested for? I don’t know what they want, frankly. Maybe they just want to be comfortable in their self-esteem. But some, of course, are quite willing to express it directly as contempt and are proud of it. Sadly, if they are voting Republican, whatever the motive, they are putting lots of people in positions of power who, in the name of those who voted for them, are a) not interested in understanding the plight of people on my lists below, and who are b) quite willing to do them damage through indifference, and through deliberate public policies of exploitation and...

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The Billionaires Win Big. What Next?

The billionaires won big in yesterday’s election, so the Party-That-Tends-To-Hurt-People got stronger. But, as the hurt increases, the ‘little people’ (which seems to be most of us) will not blame that party. They (we?) will dutifully follow the teaching of the billionaires (through, e.g. Fox News) and blame the other party, the Party-That-Frequently-Tries-To-Help People. Do we need to abandon this dollar-dominated, greed-driven, manipulative foolishness? Maybe really get into something more Gandhian, or more ML Kingian, maybe something that would even be more Christian, more basic, more powerful? Or maybe get more of a hybrid, where the spiritual power of the one strategy for good alters the nature, and thus the effectiveness, of the other strategy for good. I have to think about...

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Losing Gov Candidate says, “Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly … ” (Micah 6:8)

Chuck Hassebrook (D-NE Governor candidate) closed out his campaign last night by quoting Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Coming from him that is entirely credible because that’s how he has lived his entire life. And unlike others, he did not go into politics wealthy and he’s not coming out of it...

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Capitalism: Does Anyone, Biblically, Have Authority to Interfere in Economic Matters?

A major theme of the Bible is that there is indeed a higher standard for public behavior than the preferences of the wealthy and powerful of this world.I’ve experienced it a number of times – many of my Christian acquaintances can get so worked up with contempt and even hatred for their government. They often seem to have no respect at all for the idea of government interfering in people’s lives in any way – or at least not in well-off or successful people’s lives. We've all heard it. Something like ... I. Government can’t interfere in how employees are treated. It is NOT the government’s place to tell people how they should spend their money or how they should treat their employees. That’s an abuse of freedom and a terrible threat to all of us. So it is anti-American and very unChristian. And it will lead to socialism and Communism and fascism and tyranny. II. And it is NOT the place of any government to forcibly take money from anyone for any purpose – certainly not to use it for the benefit of someone else. When you get down to it, they feel, taxation is theft. Those attitudes are not actually capitalism. They are anarchism of a certain sort, or radical libertarianism, or tea-baggery. And of course I am stating it in extreme terms. But I actually do...

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