Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

advent and the politics of the cross

I'm in Southern Germany this week, in Friedrichshafen, which has quite a history related to WWII. There's a great deal of munitions manufacturing that occurred here, along with the production of the Zeppelins. Ulm is a nearby city, and was the home of Sophie Scholl, an outstanding woman of courage and faith who was willing to put her life on the line for her convictions. She paid for her courage with her blood, beheaded at the age of 21 for distributing pamphlets to warn of the Reich's dangers and encourage resistance. You need to read the book, or at least see the movie.

I have the book with me here and Germany and was carrying it at a staff meeting the other night. Her name is well known in this part of the world, with streets named after both her and her courageous brother. The history of these events is still recent enough here that one of the staff members explained her recently deceased Aunt knew Sophie personally. It's a long story, but the leaflets that Sophie and her friends wrote and distributed eventually found their way to America, where they were printed and dropped by allied aircraft, by the tens of thousands, as a means of both exposing the darkness, calling Germans to courage, and imparting hope.

It's all interesting history, but I hope and pray it becomes, for us, more than that. I hope Sophie's courage demonstrates the reality that the gospel is political, that all legislation is the legislating of morality. Deciding whether or not to provide access to basic health care for children is a moral issue. So is a government's decision to offer or withhold aid to a developing country. So is a decision to engage in a war, preemptively or not, for right reasons or wrong. So is how we view both a woman's right to have destiny over her body, and a fetus' right to live.

Please don't accuse me of comparing any particular issue to the Reich, in terms of the weight of evil, for to do so would be to miss the point because of the story. The point is that all through history, people have had the courage to stand apart from the prevailing ruling powers in order to defend those who can't defend themselves, or in order to bring a particular evil into the light. This is the responsibility of people of faith, and when we abdicate that responsibility we rob the gospel of its power, and in so doing distort its true nature, for it is intended to bring, "freedom to captives, justice for the oppressed" and so much more to our broken and hurting world.

"Advent" simply means, "the arrival of something special" and with the signs of advent everywhere here in Germany, that the presence of Jesus has continued to show up in human history through countless people, laying down their lives so that the reign of Christ might unfold in some measure, right here, right now. Leaflets falling from the sky were an advent. William Wilberforce introducing legislation to end slavery was an advent. Elisabeth Elliot bringing the Bible to Auca Indians in their own tongue was an advent. Blessings in Jesus name, wherever they break into our broken world, are an advent. Surely it is God's intention that advent continue, through you and I, at this moment in history. That's why the gospel remains not only spiritual, but political.

PS - there are more pictures on the previous post. They're from a bike ride to Meersburg


At 4/12/08 11:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so healing for someone who believes strongly in advocating for others, but has felt a biting response from both believers and not. Thank you! I can't wait to get my hands on this book. Bless you!

At 4/12/08 11:46, Anonymous Gary said...

"Deciding whether or not to provide access to basic health care for children is a moral issue."

It is easy to make the implicit assumption here that it is, or should be, the government's role to provide health care at all. I don't agree with that. There are very few things that can be done more efficiently by govenments than by private enterprise, and even fewer that SHOULD be done. In my view, relying on government is a way of abdicating personal responsibility -- and far too easy to just let happen. In my view, the same argument holds for offering aid to developing countries -- why does the government even have the money in the first place? I think the mere existence of organizations like World Vision says a lot about how at least some people feel about their government's ability to provide appropriate aid efficiently.

Perhaps this is your point; I haven't seen the movie. But as the economy, and my own economic health, have continued to dive for the basement, I have felt an increasing burden to become PERSONALLY involved in helping others, and trying to bring hope to those who are feeling hopeless.

Thanks for listening.


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