True justice, God's justice, demands a radical change of structures. This can only come from below, from the oppressed themselves. God will bring about change through the oppressed as he did through the oppressed Hebrew slaves in Egypt. God does not bring his justice through reforms introduced by the Pharaoh's of this world. Why then does 'Church Theology' appeal to the top rather than to the people who are suffering?
Why does this theology not demand that the oppressed stand up for their rights and wage a struggle against their oppressors? Why does it not tell them that it is their duty to work for justice and to change the unjust structures? Perhaps the answer to these questions is that appeals from the 'top' in the Church tend very easily to be appeals to the 'top' in society. An appeal to the conscience of those who perpetuate the system of injustice must be made.
But real change and true justice can only come from below, from the people--most of whom are Christians.
Kairos Preaching Speaking Gospel to the Situation
The stance of 'Church Theology' on non-violence, expressed as a blanket condemnation of all that is called violence, has not only been unable to curb the violence of our situation, it has actually, although unwittingly, been a major contributing factor in the recent escalation of State violence. Here again non-violence has been made into an absolute principle that applies to anything anyone calls violence without regard for who is using it, which side they are on or what purpose they may have in mind.
In our situation, this is simply counter-productive. The problem for the Church here is the way the word violence is being used in the propaganda of the State. The State and the media have chosen to call violence what some people do in the townships as they struggle for their liberation i.
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But this excludes the structural, institutional and unrepentant violence of the State and especially the oppressive and naked violence of the police and the army. These things are not counted as violence. And even when they are acknowledged to be 'excessive,' they are called 'misconduct' or even 'atrocities' but never violence. Thus the phrase 'Violence in the townships' comes to mean what the young people are doing and not what the police are doing or what apartheid in general is doing to people.
If one calls for nonviolence in such circumstances one appears to be criticizing the resistance of the people while justifying or at least overlooking the violence of the police and the State. That is how it is understood not only by the State and its supporters but also by the people who are struggling for their freedom. Violence, especially in our circumstances, is a loaded word. It is true that Church statements and pronouncements do also condemn the violence of the police. They do say that they condemn all violence. But is it legitimate, especially in our circumstances, to use the same word violence in a blanket condemnation to cover the ruthless and repressive activities of the State and the desperate attempts of the people to defend themselves?
Do such abstractions and generalizations not confuse the issue? How can acts of oppression, injustice and domination be equated with acts of resistance and self-defense? Would it be legitimate to describe both the physical force used by a rapist and the physical force used by a woman trying to resist the rapist as violence? Moreover there is nothing in the Bible or in our Christian tradition that would permit us to make such generalizations. Throughout the Bible the word violence is used to describe everything that is done by a wicked oppressor e.
Ps ; Is ; Jer ; Amos ; 6: 3; Mic ; ; It is never used to describe the activities of Israel's armies in attempting to liberate themselves or to resist aggression. When Jesus says that we should turn the other cheek he is telling us that we must not take revenge; he is not saying that we should never defend ourselves or others. There is a long and consistent Christian tradition about the use of physical force to defend oneself against aggressors and tyrants.
In other words there are circumstances when physical force may be used. They are very restrictive circumstances, only as the very last resort and only as the lesser of two evils, or, as Bonhoeffer put it, "the lesser of two guilts. This is not to say that any use of force at any time by people who are oppressed is permissible simply because they are struggling for their liberation. There have been cases of killing and maiming that no Christian would want to approve of. But then our disapproval is based upon a concern for genuine liberation and a conviction that such acts are unnecessary, counter-productive and unjustifiable and not because they fall under a blanket condemnation of any use of physical force in any circumstance.
And finally what makes the professed non-violence of 'Church Theology' extremely suspect in the eyes of very many people, including ourselves, is the tacit support that many-Church leaders give to the growing militarisation of the South African State. How can one condemn all violence and then appoint chaplains to a very violent an oppressive army?
How can one condemn all violence and then allow young whit males to accept their conscription into the armed forces? Is it because the activities of the armed forces and the police are counted as defensive? That raises very serious questions about whose side such Church leaders might be on. Why are the activities of young blacks in the townships not regarded as defensive?
In practice what one calls 'violence' and what one calls 'self-defense' seems to depend upon which side one is on. To call all physical force 'violence' is to try to be neutral and to refuse to make a judgment about who is right and who is wrong. The attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is futile. Neutrality enables the status quo o oppression and therefore violence to continue.
It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor. It is not enough to criticize 'Church Theology' we must also try to account for it. What is behind the mistakes and misunderstandings and inadequacies of this theology? In the first place we can point to a lack of social analysis. We have seen how 'Church Theology' tends to make use of absolute principles like reconciliation, negotiation non-violence and peaceful solutions and applies them indiscriminately and uncritically to all situations.
Very little attempt is made to analyze what is actually happening it our society and why it is happening. It is not possible to make valid moral judgment: about a society without first understanding that society. The analysis of apartheid that underpins 'Church Theology' is simply inadequate. The present crisis has now made ii very clear that the efforts of Church leaders to promote effective and practical ways o: changing our society have failed. This failure is due in no small measure to the fact that 'Church Theology' has not developed a social analysis that would enable it to understand the mechanics of injustice and oppression.
Closely linked to this, is the lack in 'Church Theology' of an adequate understanding of politics and political strategy.
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Changing the structures of a society is fundamentally a matter of politics. It requires a political strategy based upon a clear social or political analysis. The Church has to address itself to these strategies and to the analysis upon which they are based. It is into this political situation that the Church has to bring the gospel. Not as an alternative solution to our problems as if the gospel provided us with a non-political solution to political problems.
There is no specifically Christian solution. There will be a Christian way of approaching the political solutions, a Christian spirit and motivation and attitude. But there is no way of bypassing politics and political strategies. But we have still not pinpointed the fundamental problem. Why has 'Church Theology' not developed a social analysis?
Why does it have an inadequate understanding of the need for political strategies? And why does it make a virtue of neutrality and sitting on the sidelines? The answer must be sought in the type of faith and spirituality that has dominated Church life for centuries. As we all know, spirituality has tended to be an other-worldly affair that has very little, if anything at all, to do with the affairs of this world.
Social and political matters were seen as worldly affairs that have nothing to do with the spiritual concerns of the Church. Moreover, spirituality has also been understood to be purely private and individualistic. Public affairs and social problems were thought to be beyond the sphere of spirituality. And finally the spirituality we inherit tends to rely upon God to intervene in his own good time to put right what is wrong in the world.
That leaves very little for human beings to do except to pray for God's intervention. It is precisely this kind of spirituality that, when faced with the present crisis in South Africa, leaves so many Christians and Church leaders in a state of near paralysis. It hardly needs saying that this kind of faith and this type of spirituality has no biblical foundation.
The Bible does not separate the human person from the world in which he or she lives; it does not separate the individual from the social or one's private life from one's public life. God redeems the whole person as part of his whole creation Rom A truly biblical spirituality would penetrate into every 'aspect of human existence and would exclude nothing from God's redemptive will. Biblical faith is prophetically relevant to everything that happens in the world. It is not enough in these circumstances to repeat generalized Christian principles. We need a bold and incisive response that is prophetic because it speaks to the particular circumstances of this crisis, a response that does not give the impression of sitting on the fence but is clearly and unambiguously taking a stand.
The first task of a prophetic theology for our times would be an attempt at social analysis or what Jesus would call "reading the signs of the times" Mt or "interpreting this KAIROS" Lk It is not possible to do this in any detail in the document but we must start with at least the broad outlines of an analysis of the conflict in which we find ourselves. It would be quite wrong to see the present conflict as simply a racial war.
The racial component is there but we are not dealing with two equal races or nations each with their own selfish group interests. The situation we are dealing with here is one of oppression. The conflict is between an oppressor and the oppressed. The conflict between two irreconcilable causes or interests in which the one is just and the other is unjust.
On the one hand we have the interests of those who benefit from the status quo and who are determined to maintain it at any cost, even at the cost of millions of lives. It is in their interests to introduce a number of reforms in order to ensure that the system is not radically changed and that thy can continue to benefit from the system because it favors them and enables them to accumulate a great deal of wealth and to maintain an exceptionally high standard of living.
And thy want to made sure that it stays that way even if some adjustments are needed. On the other hand we have those who do not benefit in any way from the system the way it is now. They are treated as mere labor units, paid starvation wages, separated from their families by migratory labor, moved about like cattle and dumped in homelands to starve--and all for the benefit of a privileged minority.
They have no say in the system and are supposed to by grateful for the concessions that are offered to them like crumbs. It is not in their interests to allow this system to continue even in some 'reformed' of 'revised' form. They are determined to change the system radically so that it not longer benefits only the privileged few. And they are willing to do this even at the cost of their own lives. What they want is justice for all. This is our situation of civil war or revolution.
The one side is committed to maintaining the system at all costs and the other side is committed to changing it at all coasts. There are two conflicting projects here and no compromise is possible. Either we have full and equal justice for all or we don't. The Bible has a great deal to say about this kind of conflict, about a world that is divided into oppressors and oppressed.
When we search the Bible to a message about oppression we discover, as others throughout the world are discovering, that oppression is a central theme that runs right through the Old and New Testaments. The biblical scholars who have taken the trouble to study the theme of oppression in the Bible have discovered that there are no less than twenty different root words in Hebrew to describe oppression. Moreover the description of oppression in the Bible is concrete and vivid.
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The Bible describes oppression as the experience of being crushed, degraded, humiliated, exploited, impoverished, defrauded, deceived and enslaved. And the oppressors are described as cruel, ruthless, arrogant, greedy, violent and tyrannical and as the enemy. Such descriptions could only have been written originally by people who had had a long and painful experience of what it means to be oppressed. And indeed nearly 90 percent of the history of the Jewish and later the Christian people whose story is told in the Bible, is a history of domestic of international oppression.
Israel as a nation was built upon the painful experience of oppression and repression as slaves in Egypt. But what made all the difference for this particular group of oppressed people was the revelation of Yahweh. God revealed himself as Yahweh, the one who has compassion on those who suffer and who liberates them from their oppressors. I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them.
Ex Throughout the Bible God appears as the liberator of the oppressed. He is not neutral. He does not attempt to reconcile Moses and Pharaoh, to reconcile the Hebrew slaves with their Egyptian oppressors or to reconcile the Jewish people with any of their late oppressors. Oppression is sin and it cannot be compromised with, it must be done away with. God takes sides with the oppressed. As we read in Psalm JB "God who does what is right, is always on the side of the oppressed. Nor is this identification with the oppressed confined to the Old Testament.
When Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth to announce his mission he made use of the words of Isaiah. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favour. Lk There can be no doubt that Jesus is here taking up the cause of the poor and the oppressed. He has identified himself with their interests.
Not that he is unconcerned about the rich and the oppressor. These he calls to repentance. The oppressed Christians of South Africa have known for a long time that they are united to Christ in their sufferings. By his own sufferings and his death on the cross he became a victim of oppression and violence. He is with us in our oppression.
There is a long Christian tradition relating to oppression, but the word that has been used most frequently to describe this particular form of sinfulness is the word 'tyranny'. According to this tradition once it is established beyond doubt that a particular ruler is a tyrant of that a particular regime is tyrannical, it forfeits the moral right to govern and the people acquire the right to resist and to find the means to protect their own interests against injustice and oppression.
In other words a tyrannical regime has no moral legitimacy. It may be the de facto government and it may even be recognized by other governments and therefore be the de iure or legal government. But if it is a tyrannical regime, it is, from a moral and theological point of view, illegitimate. There are indeed some differences of opinion in the Christian tradition about the means that might be used to replace a tyrant but there has not been any doubt about our Christian duty to refuse to co-operate with tyranny and to do whatever we can to remove it.
Of course everything hinges on the definition of a tyrant. At what point does a government become a tyrannical regime? The traditional Latin definition of a tyrant is hostis boni communis - an enemy of the common good. The purpose of all government is the promotion of what is called the common good of the people governed. To promote the common good is to govern in the interests of, and for the benefit of, all the people. Many governments fail to do this at times. There might be this or that injustice done to some of the people.
And such lapses would indeed have to be criticized. But occasional acts of injustice would not make a government into an enemy of the people, a tyrant. To be an enemy of the people a government would have to be hostile to the common good in principle. Such a government would be acting against the interests of the people as a whole and permanently. This would be clearest in cases where the very policy of a government is hostile towards the common good and where the government has a mandate to rule in the interests of some of the people rather than in the interests of all the people.
Such a government would be in principle irreformable. Any reform that it might try to introduce would not be calculated to serve the common good but to serve the interests of the minority from whom it received its mandate. A tyrannical regime cannot continue to rule for very long without becoming more and more violent. As the majority of the people begin to demand their rights and to put pressure on the tyrant, so will the tyrant resort more and more to desperate, cruel, gross and ruthless forms of tyranny and repression. The reign of a tyrant always ends up as a reign of terror.
It is inevitable because from the start the tyrant is an enemy of the common good.
This account of what we mean by a tyrant or a tyrannical regime can best be summed up in the words of a well-known moral theologian: "a regime which is openly the enemy of the people and which violates the common good permanently and in the grossest manner" B HSring, The Law of Christ , Vol 3, p That leaves us with the question of whether the present government of South Africa is tyrannical or not?
There can be no doubt what the majority of the people of South Africa think. For them the apartheid regime is indeed the enemy of the people and that is precisely what they call it: the enemy. In the present crisis, more than before, the regime has lost any legitimacy that it might have had in the eyes of the people. Are the people right or wrong? Apartheid is a system whereby a minority regime elected by one small section of the population is given an explicit mandate to govern in the interests of, and for the benefit of, the white community. Such a mandate or policy is by definition hostile to the common good of all the people.
In fact because it tries to rule in the exclusive interests of whites and not in the interests of all, it ends up ruling in a way that is not even in the interests of those same whites. It becomes an enemy of all the people. A totalitarian regime. A reign of terror. This also means that the apartheid minority regime is irreformable. We cannot expect the apartheid regime to experience a conversion or change of heart and totally abandon the policy of apartheid. It has no mandate from its electorate to do so.
Any reforms or adjustments it might make would have to be done in the interests of who elected it. Individual members of the government could experience a real conversion and repent but, if they did, they would simply have to follow this through by leaving a regime that was elected and put into power precisely because of its policy of apartheid. And that is why we have reached the present impasse. As the oppressed majority becomes more insistent and puts more and more pressure on the tyrant by means of boycotts, strikes, uprisings, burnings and even armed struggle, the more tyrannical will regime become.
On the one hand it will use repressive measures: detentions, trials, killings, torture, bannings, propaganda, states of emergency and other desperate and tyrannical methods. And on the other hand it will introduce reforms that will always be unacceptable to the majority because all its reforms must ensure that the minority remains on top.
A regime that is in principle the enemy of the people cannot suddenly begin to rule in the interests of all the people. It can only be replaced by another government--one that has been elected by the majority of the people with an explicit mandate to govern in the interests of all the people. A regime that has made itself the enemy of the people has thereby also made itself the enemy of God.
People are made in the image and likeness of God and whatever to the least of them we do to God Mt , To say that the State or the regime is the enemy of God is not to say that all those who support the system are aware of this. On the whole they simply do not know what they are doing. Many people have been blinded by the regime's propaganda.
They are frequently quite ignorant of the consequences of their stance. However, such blindness does not make the State any less tyrannical or any less of an enemy of the people and an enemy of God. On the other hand the fact that the State is tyrannical and an enemy of God is no excuse for hatred.
As Christians we are called upon to love our enemies Mt It is not said that we should not or will not have enemies or that we should not identify tyrannical regimes as indeed our enemies. But once we have identified our enemies, we must endeavor to love them. That is not always easy. But then we must also remember that the most loving thing we can do for both the oppressed and for our enemies who are oppressors is to eliminate the oppression, remove the tyrants from power and establish a just government for the common good of all the people. At the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ and at the very center of all true prophecy is a message of hope.
Nothing could be more relevant and more necessary at this moment of crisis in South Africa than the Christian message of hope. Jesus has taught us to speak of this hope as the coming of God's kingdom. We believe that God is at work in our world turning hopeless and evil situations to good so that his "Kingdom may come" and his "Will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
One day "all tears will be wiped away" Rev ; and "the lamb will he down with the lion" Is True peace and true reconciliation are not only desirable, they are assured and guaranteed. This is our faith and our hope. Why is it that this powerful message of hope has not been highlighted in 'Church Theology,' in the statements and pronouncements of Church leaders?
Is it because they have been addressing themselves to the oppressor rather than to the oppressed? Is it because they do not want to encourage the oppressed to be too hopeful for too much? As the crisis deepens day-by-day, what both the oppressor and the oppressed can legitimately demand of the Churches is a message of hope.
Most of the oppressed people in South Africa today and especially the youth do have hope. They are acting courageously and fearlessly because they have a sure hope that liberation will come. Often enough their bodies are broken but nothing can now break their spirit. But hope needs to be confirmed. Hope needs to be maintained and strengthened. Hope needs t be spread. The people need to hear it said again and again that God is with them. On the other hand the oppressor and those who believe the propaganda of the oppressor are desperately fearful.
They must be made aware of the diabolical evils of the present system and they must be called to repentance but they must also be given something to hope for. At present they have false hopes. They hope to maintain the status quo and their special privileges with perhaps some adjustments and they fear any real alternative. But there is much more than that to hope for and nothing to fear. Can the Christian message of hope not help them in this matter? There is hope.
There is hope for all of us. But the road to that hope is going to be ver hard and very painful. The conflict and the struggle will have to intensify in the months and years ahead because there is no other way to remove the injustice and oppression. But God is with us. We can only learn to become the instruments of his peace even unto death. We must participate in the cross of Christ if we are to have the hope of participating in his resurrection. To say that the Church must now take sides unequivocally and consistently with the poor and the oppressed is to overlook the fact that the majority of Christians in South Africa have already done so.
By far the greater part of the Church in South Africa is poor and oppressed. Of course it cannot be taken for granted that everyone who is oppressed has taken up their own cause and is struggling for their own liberation. Nor can it be assumed that all oppressed Christians are fully aware of the fact that their cause is God's cause. Nevertheless it remains true that the Church is already on the side of the oppressed because that is where the majority of its members are to be found.
This fact needs to be appropriated and confirmed by the Church as a whole. At the beginning of this document it was pointed out that the present crisis has highlighted the divisions in the Church. We are a divided Church precisely because not all the members of our Churches have taken sides against oppression.
In other words not all Christians have united themselves with God "who is always on the side of the oppressed" Ps As far as the present crisis is concerned, there is only one way forward to Church unity and that is for those Christians who find themselves on the side of the oppressor or sitting on the fence, to cross over to the other side to be united in faith and action with those who are oppressed. Unity and reconciliation within the Church itself is only possible around God and Jesus Christ who are to be found on the side of the poor and the oppressed.
If this is what the Church must become, if this is what the Church as a whole must have as its project, how then are we to translate it into concrete and effective action?
Kairos Preaching: Speaking Gospel to the Situation
Christians, if they are not doing so already, must quite simply participate in the struggle for liberation and for a just society. In midcentury, African American pastors and laypersons changed the political and social landscape of America in the struggle to end legal racism. The true church mobilized in in Uppsala, Sweden, when the World Council of Churches established the Programme to Combat Racism, affirming in word and deed that combatting institutionalized racism was the primary mission of the ecumenical world body.
Then, in , the church was re-awakened by a new Kairos call, authored by an ecumenical group of Palestinian clergy, theologians and civil society activists. What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing? Answering this call is not without cost. Today, as in previous struggles, prophetic action creates a conflict within the body of the church, surfacing the tension between its prophetic core of compassion for the oppressed and the vulnerable, and the caution so often exhibited by the institutional church, often in complicity or overt alliance with temporal power.
Racist and authoritarian regimes in particular function in this way: for example, colonial powers on the belief in the inferiority of the colonized and enslaved; tyrannous governments on the divine or natural right to wield supreme power over subject groups. Movements for change succeed by challenging and ultimately removing these supports.
Toppling the ideological, theological and political pillars that supported the apartheid regime was precisely the aim of the authors of the South African kairos document. They held that the system could not be reformed, because as long as these pillars of support remained in place, so too did the fundamental ideological and political structures of tyranny. Kairos South Africa called for an end to rule based on a supremacist political ideology supported by the pillars of ethnic nationalism, belief in the historic right to supreme power, and a theology that granted divine authority to this political program.
The offenses against the Palestinians have been sanitized, indeed effectively denied -- cast as a narrative of national liberation, with Israel as the victim in need of protection from an implacable enemy. Indeed, the endgame has already been reached in the reality of a single apartheid state, in which a Jewish minority rules over a subject population of Palestinians. The protests of the international community have had no effect on the relentless progress of this cynical and deceptive process.
The church has been deeply complicit in this tragic and criminal process. Pillar 2, theological: A Modern Heresy Alongside the political pillar of support stands the pillar of a theologically-informed ideology deeply embedded in our Western culture, its origins dating back to English Protestantism.
This theology has been expressed in several forms of Zionism, which although conceived as a political ideology, has become completely interpenetrated by theology. Similarly, Zionism has been woven into the warp and woof of Christian theology because of the deeply felt Christian responsibility for Jewish suffering at the hands of the church. Christian self-perception has become strongly associated with Christian penitence and the quest for reconciliation with the Jewish people.
Christian Zionism, as it is called, is expressed across the spectrum of Christian thought and belief, from progressive to the most conservative. In mainline Christianity, it effectively grants the Jewish people a right to the land on the basis of their past suffering and confers innocence to the Jewish people for any sins committed in implementing that privilege. Unwritten rules dictate that although Jews and non-Jews alike may pay lip service to the cause for Palestinian rights and to the concept of a Palestinian state, they may not advance any arguments or efforts that challenge fundamental Zionist assumptions.
This eschatology was strengthened by the conquest, the Jewish possession of all of Jerusalem seen as a signal of the imminent return of Jesus. Absent the End Times component, fundamentalist Christian Zionism is shared by liberal Christians with respect to accepting the Old Testament promise of land as literal and in force.
The liberal Zionist response to criticism of Israel represents a major challenge for the church and is an important component of both the political and theological pillars of support. It is championed by institutional Jewish interests and supported by many Christians reluctant or unwilling to create a rift with Jews on personal, professional, and institutional levels.
Challenge the idea of a Jewish state and you are answered with the objection that Zionism requires it. Challenge Zionism, and you are confronted with the reality of the Jewish state that depends on the acceptance and legitimization of Zionism as both a theological principle and a political program.
Like Samson standing between the columns upon which rested the house of his oppressors, both must be toppled in order to bring about the required change in the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. False church, true church 6 It is also heretical for Jews because Zionism in its modern incarnation justifies domination, exploitation and dispossession on the basis of race.
This negates the transformation of Judaism from a territorial, cult-based national religion into its modern form born in the diaspora, a faith expressing the social justice principles of its monotheistic core. Bonhoeffer discovered in his struggles with the ecumenical movement that this is true not for theology that blatantly sides with racism and tyranny, but when church bodies attempt to accommodate to injustice through a blurring of the distinction between right and wrong. The theological and ecclesial pillars that support oppression and tyranny are built of outright lies and deception, but also of fraudulent representations of truth and justice.
If the oppressor does ever introduce reforms that might lead to real change this will come about because of strong pressure from those who are oppressed. It is the role of the true church to serve as the conscience, the mouthpiece, and the organizing body for resistance to oppression and the bringing about of necessary change in human affairs. It is a church within the church and a church beyond the church which carries within it resources which are capable of transforming the dominant structures not only of the church but of society.
At that moment, racism becomes an ecclesiological issue because the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake. How can the church learn from and remain faithful to that legacy in confronting the conditions of today? How will it meet the challenge of this kairos? Can a new and renewed ecumenical movement, responsive to the ecclesiological and political conditions of our times, provide the setting and the platform for this work? The question has been posed: words, or action? Obedience, or equivocation? Early on, Bonhoeffer addressed the conflict between two very different notions of the nature and purpose of the ecumenical movement.
In every instance, the cry of those calling for resistance to injustice is answered by forces within the church that seek wish to muffle those voices, not through outright suppression but through appeals to reason, arguments for caution, and proposals of compromise. The question of the identity and mission of the church is one that has followed, one might say productively vexed, the ecumenical movement throughout its history.
Following his assassination in April, he was replaced by James Baldwin. In his address, Baldwin said: [quote about how the church must make fighting racism its top issue or it will be totally irrelevant]. But what will serve as the heir to the ecumenical movement in its proudest moments? It has become a bureaucracy.
It no longer takes initiatives on its own; it now depends on its member churches for that. It is very far from manifesting costly discipleship. Bonhoeffer writes that it is in the Gemeinde, the community in which the true spirit of the church resides, that the church can fulfill its mission to be obedient to the word of God, to indeed be the church in the area of human affairs.
Bonhoeffer related this specifically to the question of the ecumenical. Can religion produce a qualitatively different kind of society? Is the Kingdom of God a real possibility? Bonhoeffer, the consummate and passionate theologian, understood this as the crisis grew in his own life and within that of the German church. There is only a yes or no to this confession. Is it a place for coming to an authoritative decision on where its obedience to Christ lies?
Or is there to be endless discussion of possibilities, forever, evading a division of the spirits? It has spawned documents from kairos organizations worldwide, responding to the Palestinian call while standing squarely in the contexts of their own local cultural and political struggles. XI, No. This has most recently emerged in the recognition of the powerful connections between Palestinian liberation the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.
In our discussions, we named our shared struggle against the scourge of this global empire of our times. Empire is an all-encompassing global reality seeking to consolidate all forms of power while exploiting both Creation and Humanity. The empire we face is not restricted by geography, tribe, language or economy.
Empire is an ideology of domination and subjugation, fueled by violence, fed by fear and deception. It manifests itself especially in racial, economic, cultural, patriarchal, sexual, and ecological oppression. Empire deceptively informs dominant, white supremacist, capitalist paradigms controlling global systems and structures. Global empire is sustained by weapons and military bases along with ideologies and theologies.
It identified as heresy theologies that justify Apartheid. Change originates from the grassroots. Perhaps at no time since the global fight against nuclear armament has the church been mobilized in discipleship groups the way it has for Palestine. This is occurring at multiple levels of the church, and organizations appearing at congregational and community levels, within denominations, and in networks of local groups such as Kairos, the German Palestine solidarity network, and Sabeel.
Today, the church struggle is characterized increasingly by the confrontation between the actions of church groups at the grassroots, in alliance with non- faith based liberation struggles, and the forces of neoliberalism. The latter are often disguised as efforts designed to promote the welfare of the masses. In reality, they are intended to preserve and advance the status quo of the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.
This is perhaps the greatest challenge that the church movement for Palestinian liberation will face in the current struggle, encountering an even steeper gradient than that faced by previous global movements. Few outside the Third Reich or among those directly subject to its tyranny questioned the evil embodied in the authoritarian and racist nature of its program. Decades before the fall of the South African apartheid regime, the world at large had soundly condemned the racist and brutal realities of Apartheid South Africa.
In the case of Israel, however, the world, on popular as well as official levels, has by and large accepted the fiction of Israel as a society committed to human rights and equality for all its citizens. The trappings of a liberal democracy and a recent escalation of public relations efforts by Israel have helped to perpetuate this myth. Translated, David Lewis, Geneva: WCC Publications , , 65 41 The three demands are: 1 Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June and dismantling the Wall; 2 Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; 3 Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution Then, in the mid-twentieth century, a remarkable turnabout occurred.
In a paroxysm of horror, shame and guilt following the Nazi genocide, the church, beginning in Germany and spreading West, undertook a project of penitence through a stunning reversal of its stand on the Jewish people. Instead of being despised for rejecting the foretold Messiah, the Jews were restored as the most beloved of God, the original, exclusivist covenant now reinstated and with it the conditional but irrevocable promise of the land. Instead of seeing itself as the triumphant replacement of the Jewish people and inheritor of the covenant, Christianity in its mainline Protestant form has now defined itself negatively in its confession of the Christian sin of anti-Judaism.
Louvain: Peeters Press. Although partially — and grudgingly — backing off from the charge of killing Jesus, the Catholic church did not go as far as relinquishing its exceptionalist and exclusivist claims. Historic Christian triumphalism has thus been replaced by a Judeo-Christian triumphalism, and its language is Zionism. This requires a profound and wrenching paradigm shift for Christians. It threatens treasured relationships and in many cases the loss of support — financial and otherwise — on institutional levels. This is without doubt a cross to pick up, but this is to be expected with any prophetic endeavor.