Before I start this discussion, can I commend to any Catholic Morticia, who is now posting the texts from the Catholic Lectioary This is a worthwhile ministry and I pray that she continues with this. I looked at that today. There are some differences. Everything is in plain verse — one supposes this is so it can be read out loud. The Presbyterian lectionary puts the poetry into plain verse and leaves the prose alone: I tend to remove the poetical editorials and leave the text in place.
The issue that is facing all the church is that the times are evil,and what should we then do? Well, there are a collection of options. These include force. The Puritans would have taken the first text for today and turned it into a cry for battle: that we should take up our swords literally.
We must remember that the state will punish those who speak out. The example of the four Lubeck priests should speak to us.
Prassek was a 30-year-old chaplain at Luebeck’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church when he met Stellbrink, a 47-year-old pastor at the nearby Luther Church, at a funeral in 1941. They had a shared disapproval of the Nazi regime, and Prassek soon introduced Stellbrink to his two Catholic colleagues, Lange and Mueller.
The four clergymen were active but discreet in their anti-Nazi activities, speaking out against the Nazis and distributing pamphlets to close friends and congregants.
That changed when the British Royal Air Force bombed Luebeck on March 28, 1942. After Stellbrink spent the night tending to the wounded, he went to his church to celebrate Palm Sunday, and attributed the bombing to divine punishment.
Stellbrink was arrested a few days later, followed soon after by the priests. All four were sentenced to death. Rather than fear their executions, the four were said to have died as happy martyrs, confident that they were going to be with God.
“Who can oppress one who dies,” Prassek wrote in a farewell letter to his family.
But some German Christians actively fought that evil of that regime, and they could have meditated on these words.
1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!
Bonhoeffer argued that an act is better than 100 sermons. In the end, he participated in a failed coup: he died, along with some of the best of the German officer corps. For the actions of the Germans had disgusted the germans themselves.
Now we have a duty to the people among whom we live. And that is to act for good and not for evil. We need to be clear that there is always evil within our societies, As far as it is possible, we should not be part of it, nor should our churches. The current controversies around “tolerance” (which is masked Anti Christian Hatred) in Europe, the ongoing pressure Christians face in previously tolerant places such as Egypt, the ongoing abrasion of our right to think freely, act freely and associate freely — choosing who we will serve or do business with.– by a group, who deny vehemently that they are fascists, but use the fascist techniques of demanding mass acceptance of their ideology.
It is time to push back or flee. I pray that it is not too late. Because we do not want to face the choice a certain German woman did, at age 21. Sophie Scholl was executed well before her 22nd birthday — not for active rebellion, like Bonhoeffer, but for speaking freely. The Scholls, like the Lubeck Martyrs, died rather than take back their words.
What to do now?
1 Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
2 Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil
3 Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant —
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered
5:25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
6:1My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
As I have been thinking about this I am coming to the conclusion that we are heading to a time of active opposition from the state. The liberal project is going bankrupt — regardless of what today’s press releases say — but it is in the decline and fall of an ideology that danger arises. The Scholls and the Lubeck Martyrs were killed as the German armies were grinding to a halt on the Soviet Plain and being pushed out of Africa. History does not repeat itself but does follow patterns. You can expect the cries for tolerance, inclusion, multiculturalism, secularization and laicization to occur right up to the time that the currency devalues and the economy implodes.
I have some suggestions.
- We need to stick together. There are functional alliances between serious Christians across the Tiber and Bosphorus. We can discuss, and indeed should discuss with each other theology. But we should be more careful to correct each other and advise each other in standing strong/ This includes churches backing churches. The reformed group of churches will have to back the Catholics and Orthodox if they are under pressure — because once they have dealt with them they will move on.
- We need to keep our arguments private. Particularly when they are personal. This is difficult: like most bloggers I enjoy a good political or theological fight. But if it is personal matters, even email may not be safe enough. (You can pretty much guarantee that all email is being scanned by not only your ISP but by intelligence: although the NSA and CIA are not supposed to investigate citizens the UK, Australia and NZ belong to echelon and they can and will pass information on)
- This is a corollary to this. We need to avoid the courts. We need to minimize divorces, and if this has to happen (that would include annulments) we need to organize contracts in house and then merely register them with the state. If this means that we are supporting child care (you do not want a bunch of idle women in the church — you want them either keeping house and raising kids in marriage or working if not) for those who are divorced, and keeping those kids in church schools. The courts may have been our friends in the past, but now it is as if we were back in Corinth: we are in front of the equivalent of a proconsul, who is allied to a pagan emperor.
- We need to take back education. This is tactical: some state systems are not wholly damaged. As a single father, my sons go to a single-sex state school. There are five or so high schools in the city and they viciously compete for enrolments, and that competition makes them responsive to parents. But… when the school districts deliver a poor outcome, to boys and girls, and they actively promote evil, it is time to support home schooling cooperatives, church schools, and selective use of higher education. There are certain trades — I’m in one — where you need a five or six year university degree to have a basic competence (in my case, I added a two-year Masters in Public Health and a five-year minimum Fellowship in Psychiatry to my basic MB). But most young men are better off being apprenticed. Our young women are in a more difficult position. Two of the jobs that are traditionally female — teaching and nursing — used to be taught akin to a trade diploma. The two year course my mother did (shortened, in fact, to one year for my father, because he was a qualified builder before starting training college) is a four year degree for young women now. In that case, keep the kids close to home.
- We need to take back the social structure in our villages. We should not be relying on the visiting band to come and have a celebration or the biannual festival of arts. We are aware that these people are often the shock troops for progressive social change. Instead, we should have dances which do not need dates and drugs. We need to resurrect or support the amateur musicals, orchestras, choirs. We need to resurrect dancing (even if the Baptists run screaming into the night) and let our young people meet each other under supervision. A good model here is Austen: the local squire had dances in the barns. The family did not wait until they were in the fashionable promenade halls of Bath — which then, as in the big cities now — were full of very charming men and women who wanted to exploit the innocent.
- We need to be of good courage. These periods of political darkness end. God keeps our name, even if we cannot find a family, or have had our marriage cut off by the courts, or we are not interested in the opposite sex — or sex at all. We are not asked to be perfect. We are asked to be faithful.
The state is setting an agenda for destruction. It is time to push back.