Last Sunday the witness of FCC, Darien was brought to bear on recent events in Charlottesville. Some say this is an overreaction and we overdo what the press exaggerates. After all, only a miniscule percentage of citizens are involved in white supremacist hate groups. For such as these the press is the real problem.
For me, that misses the point. When the highest office in the land countenances militant, organized, and deployed hatred as “fine people”, it mainstreams hatred. Did you read the effusively grateful Tweets of David Duke? As hatred grows in social acceptability—just “another opinion or point of view comparable to ours”—the danger invisibly deepens. Like some loyal citizens can participate in this evil?
Little has been said about the failure of adequate policing in Charlottesville. Why would the police step aside to let those arriving at the rally with clubs, helmets, shields, tactics, and displayed pistols attack ones nearly wholly unarmed? Likely because the white supremacist hate groups attain legitimacy. This trend must be nipped in the bud before hate groups find a place at the table of public discourse.
But the real question for us to consider is: what kind of church must we become to effectively oppose tyrannies of hatred? We look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany for surprising and counterintuitive answers here.
Sam Wells recently wrote about this in the Christian Century, telling of how the Confessing Church understood what the liberal and conservative churches didn’t.
First, Bonhoeffer was theological by nature. Remember, German Christians had been seduced into believing that the Fuhrer was a deity. Did you know that the “heil” of “heil Hitler” doesn’t only mean “hail Hitler,” but also “holy Hitler?” In order to oppose that, you had better know something about the one true God. We don’t have to have completed two doctoral religious theses by age 24, like Bonhoeffer. But we need to be adept in discerning the stench of idolatry wherever it appears.
Second, Bonhoeffer was all about Jesus. Following Jesus is what landed him in prison. The church fears boldness in Christ because we’ve heard Jesus’ voice coopted by oppressive and imperialistic voices to dominate, exclude, or devalue other voices. And the church has often unwittingly bought into it. But that is not Jesus’ actual voice or the Christ of Scripture. The truth is once the church stops talking about Jesus, we have nothing to say, personally or socially. Why is that? Because the reign of God Jesus proclaimed is the only full-blown revolt against hatred and evil in the history of the world. Why is that? The reign of God Jesus proclaimed is the only true manifesto not based on self-interest, but God-interest.
Third, Bonhoeffer was politically engaged. No few Christians in 1930s Germany thought salvation was only about saving souls. They believe that it wasn’t their business to get involved in politics. That reasoning left 6 million Jews dead and ten times that number globally dead. Politics is the name we give to resolving differences short of violence. If you don’t do politics, you end up doing violence. Do you want the church and Christ’s gospel on the sideline for that exchange?