The famous German leader, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, came back to his homeland [from the US where he was safe] at the request of some in the German church who saw the awful rise to evil power of Hitler and his minions. He and they struggled to bring into being what he called the ‘confessing church’ to recall the biblical prophetic challenges to the wrongs they perceived in the state. Also to confess that the church had been quiet too long in coming to grips with this issue. “A time comes when silence is betrayal” is the way Dr. Martin Luther King put it.
In addressing this issue, Bonhoeffer asked “are we still of any use?” The same question must be asked of today’s churches. In his efforts to be faithful, Bonhoeffer was arrested, and died in prison before the end of WW II. If the institutional churches cannot speak out against torture and unnecessary war, what good is it to have pulpits? The elements of atrocity, manipulation, and indifference add up to a spiritual crisis.
In his response to my previous blog, Hubbie shared the quote from Judaism: “…anger at the sight of wrong done is holy. If the anger kindles into passion, it will become conducive to strife.” He later adds: “perhaps what that quote means is that anger can be a good thing, but that you need to wait to act upon that anger until it has matured into reasoned action rather than raw passion.” [Emphasis is mine.]
One of our tasks as preachers is to assist in the maturation of anger into reasoned action. We lead our people in prayer, often highlighting the evils in our world. We will be guiding our people in the ELCA initiative Book of Faith, a five year process with the goal of heightening the awareness of Lutherans regards Scriptures.
Each of the above are ways for the maturation of anger. However – the pulpit is a vital element that we must not waste! The maturation of anger requires that our anger be identified, made relevant, and defined as our response to wrongs.
- It was/is wrong to manufacture evidence to support a war against the sovereign people of Iraq.
- It was/is wrong to torture.
- It was/is wrong to direct so much of our budget towards that war, while allowing our neighbors to go hungry.
Speaking out from the pulpit can be a scary action for any preacher. That fear, however, can be assuaged when we know we are not alone. When our sisters and brothers in other pulpits are also speaking out.
Seems to me a fairly strong rationale for joining colleagues in the weekly scripture studies!