Monday, September 6, 2010

Evil as light, charity and social justice: forgetting the cross


“The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The list here of evil masquerading as good sounds familiar. It isn’t all the same. It comes from a time and a place when extreme nationalism and anti-semitism were wedded to liberalism. Jesus as human was turned into the noble hero who did not die for sins. Suffering, redemptive love, transforming grace were all political and theological blight.

Abortion for healthy babes in German wombs was a definite no-no. Abortion along with experimentation for Jewish babies was insisted on, as was death for disabled babies and people, German or Jewish. Eugenics, which was big in the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th caught on and with an ugly bloom exploded in Germany masquerading as charity and social justice.

I could go on. Thinking of the news in France, Roma people were not cared for then either. And any ethnic group except those who were Anglo-Germanic who existed in Nazi lands fitted into the category of those unfit to live.

Regarding Christianity, half of God’s word was dismissed as problematic (too Jewish) and the other half carefully used so that only a positive veneer would affect the listener. But it seems to me that the redemptive act of Jesus Christ and the bodily resurrection of our Lord is that part of Christianity severed and replaced by the lie of a fake charity (love) and social justice in our day.

No, I am not writing that feeding the hungry, caring for the oppressed and suffering is evil disguised as light and charity. Remember Paul’s words when writing of the differences in the ministry of Peter and James to the Jews and his and others to the Gentiles? Paul in speaking of that in Galatians writes, “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I was also eager to do.” (2:10) And remembrance and care for the poor is throughout the Bible.

But encouragement to sin, disregard for fallen brothers and sisters caught in sexual immorality, is hidden under the hue and cry of light, charity and social justice. And that kind of false light and charity possesses some of the same bent toward a positive Christianity that infected the German Christians.

I was struck by the words of one writer on the “That All May Freely Serve” GA blog site. She wrote about the different groups whose representatives spoke to the Young Adult Advisory Delegates during GA. Her conclusion, “Anyway, the point is, we [TAMFS] really engaged the YAADs. Even though some of them might have disagreed with our mission, they couldn't disagree that we were interesting and funny and happy, unlike Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional (both of whom were sort of sad) or Voices [for Justice](who was kind of angry)…” (Bold author’s)

We can never forget that Jesus is not only King of all kings. He is the suffering servant of the Old Testament. He is the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) He was sad; sad enough to die for all of our sins. Sad enough to suffer for our everlasting joy.

The wickedness of evil, as Bonhoeffer put it, seems redundant, yet the descriptive words eliminate the glamour of evil that sometimes occur in an age such as ours. The confused must be fed the life giving illuminating word. The gracious, forgiving love of Jesus Christ shines very bright in such darkness. The redemptive work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will undergird the Church as we face the future.

11 comments:

John McNeese said...

Viola

I know of your concern for this church and your belief that we are on the wrong path.  However, going from extreme nationalism, to anti-semitism,  to eugenics, to Nazis, to sexual immorality, to TAMFS and YADS, is a misuse of the words of Bonhoeffer.  

Viola Larson said...

Without a fascist dictator no nation could ever reach the level of wickedness that Nazi Germany reached.(Or Assyrian king or Aztec ruler, etc.) The fact is France was far more anti-Semitic than Germany they just didn't have Hitler to lead them.

However I was aiming at the church with the last part of what I wrote. There are subtle similarities with what was happening in the German church and today. And I left everything, as I wrote, in a vague stew so one could sort out as they read.

I did not intend to do that at first. But as I wrote about abortion in the third Reich I kept thinking of how in our church we sometimes hear the words reproductive health when we really mean abortion on demand. That does seem to fit the statement.

And then I started looking at scripture and I thought of all the times we try to dismiss the Old Testament... So I thought I would let everyone else do the sorting.

Jeff Winter said...

Wiola quotes, "I was struck by the words of one writer on the “That All May Freely Serve” GA blog site. She wrote about the different groups whose representatives spoke to the Young Adult Advisory Delegates during GA. Her conclusion, 'Anyway, the point is, we [TAMFS] really engaged the YAADs. Even though some of them might have disagreed with our mission, they couldn't disagree that we were interesting and funny and happy, unlike Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional (both of whom were sort of sad) or Voices [for Justice](who was kind of angry)… It is evident that the writer on the blog didn't hear the Directors of OnebyOne and Presbyterian Hispanics for Biblical Sexuality. These speakers were engaging and funny as they talked to the YAADs about folks who have left homosexuality. People who take seriously the Bible can be humorous as well as having something important to say.

Jodie said...
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Jodie said...
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Joseph Sunde said...

Wonderful post!

Sherry Kirton said...

After reading the "Welcome Revolution" blog that you quoted I was struck by how much the writer was patting her team on the back and in the same breath referring to brothers on 'the other side' in rude stereotyped terms. I wanted to comment there, but was so struck by the way she claimed one teaching that I only put it on my facebook status instead.

I posted, "Just read a blog that claimed that we conservatives have forgotten that Jesus was against (all) traditional interpretations of the law. My question to her, then, is, 'so what happens when your interpretation becomes the tradition?' "

I realize that many christians only accept the words of the Bible as truth when it suits them. I used to be one of them, and so I hold out hope and prayers. Thanks, Viola, for pointing out the shady charity.

Viola Larson said...

Jeff,
sorry I never got back to you. I know serious people can be humorous as well, and they can have wonderful fun often in a far more joyious manner than those who go about with a constant smile. Jesus talked about the joy of his own obedience, but he didn'r brag about being happy.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Joesph.

Hi Sherry-you give others hope also. Thanks.

Doug Hagler said...

You just can't get enough of comparing social justice to Nazism, can you? No matter how feeble or spurious the comparison is proven to be.

How, exactly, was Nazism connected to liberalism? In what universe is fascism a movement of the "Left"?

And in what universe is befriending and supporting same-gender people who love each other comparable to putting human beings in gas chambers and ovens?

Viola Larson said...

Doug,
First of all it depends on what one means by social justice. I believe I stated that “feeding the hungry, caring for the oppressed and suffering” was not what I was talking about.
And on the question of liberalism I am referring to those German Christians who followed Schleiermacher and Harnack in denying the deity of Jesus Christ. They also denied the redemptive act of Jesus Christ on the cross. And they denied the authority of the word of God. They were liberal nationalist. As Cochrane states in his book The Church’s Confession Under Hitler:
The ‘German Christians,’ regarded from the standpoint of Christian faith, were a liberal, nationalistic sect which, at the National Socialist Party, formed a union of various schools and groups. These schools and groups, in spite of all differences, were united in their nationalistic tendencies and liberal Christianity.”
Or for a longer quote, this is Franklin H. Littell in the book The German Church Struggle and the Holocaustwritten in 1974:
“American Liberal Protestantism is sick, and the theological form of its sickness can be summarized by saying that it stands solidly on ground but lately vacated by the ‘German Christians’ who collaborated with Nazism.
The inevitable result of such initial academic aloofness and doctrinal uncertainty in the German universities and churches was the fatal weakening of the two centers which might have been the chief barriers to the Nazi system. More than that, they predictably produced a generation that came to power amiably inclined toward spirituality and religion in general but ill i8nformed as to the particular claims of the Christian faith and hostile to the particulariam of Judaism.”
And Littell quotes one of the Confessing Church members “Lutheran Theologian Hermann Sasse:“The Evangelical Church has to start every discussion with the avowal that its doctrine is a permanent affront to the morality and ethical feeling of the German race.”
Littell goes on to write, “Nevertheless, they spoke plainly enough to be accused constantly of meddling in politics, to be charged with ‘fundamentalism’ for asserting doctrines not negotiable …”
There is much in this chapter for both conservatives who follow Glen Beck and progressives who cast all aside.
And I was pushing towards a possible future problem. No, ordaining homosexuals and marrying same gender couples has nothing to do with burning people in ovens except for this, casting away the authority of Scripture opens the door, in the Church, to make alliances with tyrants and demagogues. And I could write a whole other essay on that subject but I won’t.