The Barmen Declaration was written by German Christians in 1934, responding to the rise of fascism in their country. I have paraphrased the document and added a few things, bringing it up to date and making it personal. I think it may be somehow relevant to our current global situation, but I’m still mulling it over. Let me know what you think.
Barmen Declaration - 2006
When it comes to living together as children of God, I oppose any attempts to coerce unity by means of any false doctrine, including use of force, the invocation of hyper-patriotism, the implication that to disagree would be unchristian or un-American, or the use of scare tactics to achieve the desired goal. Unity exists in God alone.
I am happy to be a Christian, and I love the church very deeply. I am happy to be an American, and I am proud of the good things my country has done. At the same time, I know that my church and my country have not always done good things, and in fact have sometimes done pretty nasty things. I am sorry for these things. In addition, I have no wish to see either the church or the nation disintegrate.
The way I see things, our unity as a church, our unity as a nation, and more globally our unity as a human race that is a miraculous result of the realization of God’s reign on earth – this unity is at risk. It is threatened by the attitude of arrogance, greed, pride, reckless ambition, and self-centeredness of the powerful, and specifically by the actions, grounded in this attitude, that oppress, injure, and kill the powerless and those caught in the middle.
It’s the church’s job to be the living presence of Christ in the world, empowered and equipped for ministry by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the people (the liturgy) in Word and Sacrament. Everything the church says or does, therefore, must show that it belongs to God.
It is NOT the church’s job to cater to the prevailing power, the political or ideological whim or to put any worldly loyalty above loyalty to God and God’s purposes for this creation.
It’s the church’s job to exist in the world as an eschatological sign of God’s past/present/future reign on earth, and to acknowledge the crucial role the state plays to provide for justice and peace in the “in between” time.
It is NOT the church’s job to sit idly by and watch as a power-hungry state exceeds its responsibilities by infringing upon the freedom, upon the very lives of the earth’s people, nor is it the church’s job to exceed its own responsibilities by becoming merely a pawn of the powerful, or the religious arm of whatever government happens to currently be in charge.
It’s the church's job to resist evil in whatever forms it presents itself in the world. The church has been given that freedom and that responsibility by God.
It is NOT the church’s job to condone without question any act of violence that the powerful justify. Nor is it the church’s job to deny the possibility of a way of peace by naïvely assuming the only way to resolve conflict involves violence. Those who follow the Prince of Peace know a better way.
And finally, it is the church’s job to deliver God’s grace freely to all people.
It is NOT the church’s job to arrogantly select whom to love and whom to hate, nor is it the church’s job to subordinate the abundant grace of God to the flimsy prejudices of the powerful.
I think that if the church will just do its job and stop doing all that other stuff, we will pretty much be okay, and God will be happy with us. Anyone who can go along with that, I hope that you’ll join me in promising to just do our job as best as we can. True unity is grounded in faith, love, and hope.
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