September 15, 2019

Sermon: Are We Living at a Turning Point in History? (Luke 12:49-56)

Storm Clouds Gathering. Photo by Zooey at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Sermon: Are We Living at a Turning Point in History? (Luke 12:49-56)

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

• • •

The Lord be with you.

Last year, Sojourners magazine, a publication that exists to discuss “the intersection of faith, politics, and culture,” asked a question in one of its articles. Here is that question: “ARE WE LIVING IN A ‘BONHOEFFER’ MOMENT?”

Do you recognize that name? Sojourners was speaking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most famous Lutheran theologians and pastors in the last century. Bonhoeffer is famous for his writings and actions in Germany when the Nazis rose to power and led Europe into World War II. Bonhoeffer was part of what was known as “The Confessing Church,” a group of Christians who believed that it was a Christian necessity to oppose Hitler and the Third Reich.

When the Nazis came to power, they tried to unify all the Protestant churches into one state church. In answer, some Protestants, led by such theologians as Karl Barth, Martin Niemoller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, put out a statement called The Barmen Declaration, which said that it is theological heresy to have the State control the Church, and that both Church and State stand under God’s Word and commandments. The Nazis, of course, were trying to coordinate and take over the churches to promote their Aryan and antisemitic views and policies. Bonhoeffer and other members of The Confessing Church would have none of it.

Bonhoeffer had voiced his opposition to the rise of the Nazis very early. When Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany in 1933, just two weeks later, Bonhoeffer did a radio broadcast, warning that too many young Germans were attaching themselves to a false idea of a leader — or a Führer — who would be the savior of Germany. Bonhoeffer’s vocal and active opposition to the Nazis continued from that point, until 12 years later he was executed as a traitor.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived at a turning point in history. A crisis point. One of those times in the history of the world when people were called upon to take a stand, to take sides, to clarify their loyalties. It was a life or death time, a no-nonsense time, a time when the issues were becoming clear and people would be forced to choose which way they would go. It ultimately turned into a time of world war and deadly consequences for millions of people.

As we look back now, it becomes clear what people should have done in those circumstances. But what do you think you would have done if you had been a Christian in Germany in those years when the Nazis came to power? What would you and I have said or done as one of the most challenging crises in human history was developing and forming into a storm that would ultimately threaten to overwhelm the world?

In our Gospel text today, Jesus is warning the people of his day that they too were living on the cusp of one of those times — one of those turning points in history. He and his fellow Jewish citizens lived at a time of Roman occupation and growing unrest in the land. And now he had come: Jesus, the promised Messiah, at the greatest turning point in history, warning about a coming crisis and calling people to trust him, to follow him and to live out his teachings in the light of the impending storm.

In our text today Jesus indicates that this storm is going to come like fire falling from heaven. The troubles, he says, will include a crisis event in his own life — a “baptism” he calls it that he must undergo. He is certainly speaking of his own death here. He also says that the days which are coming will be so stressful and full of conflict that even households will be divided. Intimate family members will take sides and oppose each other passionately. A time of trouble and war is on the horizon, Jesus is warning, and people must be ready for it.

He is speaking of events that actually took place. Within a generation after Jesus died, the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, scattering the Jewish people from their land into exile among the nations. It was such a thorough and decisive loss for Israel that it took them almost 1900 years to ever gain a foothold in the Promised Land again. It wasn’t until after the days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and World War II that they came home.

Jesus saw that coming. He knew he had come in a moment of impending crisis. It was of those times in the history of the world when people would have to take a stand, take sides, and clarify their loyalties. It was a life or death time, a no-nonsense time, a time when the issues were becoming clear and people would be forced to choose which way they would go. It ultimately turned into a time of world war and deadly consequences for millions of people.

As the text goes on, Jesus admonishes the people that they must be wise, they must be discerning, they must recognize the signs that are pointing to this coming crisis. People in that land were very skilled in predicting the weather and planning their lives accordingly. But Jesus rebukes them for being unaware of the political, social, and spiritual storm that is on the horizon. “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” he says. It’s remarkable how we human beings can be so blind to the dangers in our midst, so slow to grasp the signs of the times.

And so, I would like to ask, along with Jesus and with Sojourners magazine: ARE WE IN SUCH A MOMENT?

Are we living in a time that has the potential to become a full-blown crisis? Are there signs around us that we should be seeing? Signs that a storm is coming? Signs that, pretty soon, we won’t be able to just conduct business as usual? Signs that our faith is going to be tested like never before? Signs that we are going to have to take stands, take sides, and clarify our loyalties in ways that might even upset members of our own families? Are there indications that a “life or death” time is not far away, and that we are going to have to make some extremely difficult choices about what we will say and how we will live our daily lives?

I’m not Jesus. And I’m not Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Frankly, I don’t know if we are facing an imminent turning point in history in our lives, in our country, or in the world. The people in Jesus’ day certainly were. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer was wise enough to see the storm coming in his day — though it is certain that many, many people didn’t believe him, didn’t agree with him, and didn’t heed his warnings. They didn’t heed the warnings in Jesus’ day either.

I’m not here as a watchman today, crying out that a storm is certainly coming. I’m here to say that there have been countless times throughout history when storms did come, and that there is no reason to think we will be exempt. So Jesus is encouraging us today to learn wisdom and discernment about the times in which we live, and to follow him accordingly.

Whether the storm is coming soon or not, it is always wise and right for us to listen to Christ, to trust in him, to follow his teachings, to help our neighbors, to live lives of sacrificial love and service, to take care of the most vulnerable and needy among us.

Whether the storm is coming or not, it is always wise and right for us to nourish the virtues of faith, hope, and love as individuals, as families, and as a faith community, worshiping God together, and leading lives of prayer, humility, and spiritual formation.

Whether the storm is coming soon or not, it is always wise and right to live as concerned citizens, challenging our public leaders and representatives do what is right, what is just, and that which will contribute to the common good.

If we practice these things, and stay open to the Spirit, we may find it easier to have the wisdom to know when a storm is brewing and to maintain the faithful practice of following Jesus when the storm hits.

At one point, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a catechism for the people of his own day, speaking to some of the issues that were pertinent to the storm that was coming upon Germany. He concluded it with one of his favorite quotes from Martin Luther:

“This is the Christian faith: to know what you must do and what has been given to you.”

Whether the storm is coming soon or not, it is always wise and right to remember that Jesus went through the greatest crisis of all for us, dying for us that we might have life, and sending the Holy Spirit that we might have the inner resources we need to follow the way of Christ in all the different seasons and circumstances of our lives. Even if the storm comes. Amen.

May the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Comments

  1. I think you were a bit too reticent. What with the political, social, economic, and environmental news lately… The Storm is not coming. It is here.

    • I’m not there yet. If we are there, and if we use Bonhoeffer as a model for what to do in the midst of the storm, then we have no choice but to ourselves become, in a real sense, radicalized. The normal course of the Christian life, the one CM outlines above in the post, is then not the path we are to follow, or that we can follow, because the pervasive evil control over our society will have made it impossible; it is certainly not the one Bonhoeffer followed once he become totally convinced of the depth of demonic corruption of his country and its leaders. I still look to the normal political processes; I’m not willing to operate outside them….not yet.

      • “If we are there, and if we use Bonhoeffer as a model for what to do in the midst of the storm, then we have no choice but to ourselves become, in a real sense, radicalized.”

        How much longer must we wait? How much more evidence is required?

        • Christiane says

          “SILENCE IN THE FACE OF EVIL IS EVIL ITSELF: GOD WILL NOT HOLD US GUILTLESS.

          NOT TO SPEAK IS TO SPEAK.

          NOT TO ACT IS TO ACT.”

          (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

          We’re ‘here’ people.
          OUR country has a current policy of open cruelty to asylum seekers, including cruelty to their children.
          The policy is publicly known so as to be a ‘deterent’ to those who might want asylum here.
          This is what our country has become. This is what WE have become.

          So if someone is trying to ‘silence’ you, remember that the Scriptures themselves direct us to:
          “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”
          (Proverbs 31:8)

          If someone in the Church wants for you to keep silent, you must then begin to question who they are answering to, and why.

          Bonhoeffer has the gravitas of having gone to the gallows for his stand. He is a Christian martyr, and belongs to the Church as a holy martyr for all time. His voice is prophetic. Lest we forget the past, and do not see the ‘signs’ now present of those with torches and hate slogans and the weeping of the children in the camps.

          We don’t have wait. The evil is actively in our midst.

          • Christiane says

            ‘we don’t have TO wait.’

            • I’m not talking about remaining silent in the face of evil. That’s not an option. But Bonhoeffer took a different course when he saw that vocal opposition was not and could not be effective, and that in fact all vocal opposition was gradually being silence by the Nazis; he stopped speaking publicly against the regime, and started plotting with others to overthrow it. As long as there is freedom to speak against the current evil, I don’t believe following Bonhoeffer’s example of trying to overthrow the government is legitimate. If and when we are silenced, or see that we soon will be, that would be a different story.

              • Christiane says

                in our time, we have the option of ‘resisting’ and eventually of ‘voting’, at least for now;
                but Bonhoeffer couldn’t see a way forward in his situation so he put himself on the line for the sake of innocent people . . . that is why we call him a Christian martyr . . . he died with his soul and his honor intact

                in our time, we need to observe the voting process in our communities closely, and try to assist those who want to vote but are being ‘inconvenienced’ by restricted hours, by lack of transportation to ‘out of town’ voting facilities, by irregularities at the polls, as long as we are still a free people, we can protest the gov’t openly, loudly, and sure, even get arrested ‘disturbing the peace’ if it helps and I would LOVE to do that in the company of some nun friends who have no problem raising holy hell for the right reasons 🙂

                we must make every possible effort to speak out and to act on behalf of the tortured children in the camps

                • My comment is in no way meant to diminish what Bonhoeffer did, or the sacrifice he made. I just don’t believe we’ve reached that point yet. But as for the rest, I’m on the same page as you, Christiane. Resist in word and deed, and help those who need help to do the same.

                  • I will say this: If Trump decides to designate all people and groups that call themselves anti-fascist as terrorist, as he’s threatening to do, we will as a nation have taken a step over into dictatorship. At that point, we may well be in territory similar to Bonhoeffer’s.

                    • Christiane says

                      Hello Robert,

                      I don’t advocate ‘rebellion that is violent’, no. We are still, even with the current AG, a nation of laws, and that is a stability I count on in as much as I may do so. What I hope for is that the Church’s VOICE get so loud that it overcomes the hate chants of the trumpists and that the Church’s voice demands that the children be cared for NOW as ICE custodians have shown themselves to be willing accomplices to the Trump Doctrine of Cruelty as Deterrent.

                      The Church, as Church, needs for its own sake, to resist the cruelty of Trump’s program against the children. If we don’t, I fear we shall lose what little influence we have left on the younger generations who are watching, who see the weeping children on telly . . . . they are watching . . .

                      these of the younger generation, they are already in the crosshairs of the next shooter to visit a school or a Church, or a synogogue, or a mosque . . . these children know what is lurking out there and how our ‘government’ has done nothing to protect them from the monsters that come in the daytime . . .

                      It’s a about the ‘witness’ . . . . we are losing on that front, and the only thing that can help us to to have the courage to stand up, to speak truth to power,

                      what the children are seeing is the opposite

          • Dave Greene says
            • Christiane says

              Hello Dave,
              try researching Eberhard Bethge as a source. I have it on good authority that Bethge is a very reliable source for accurate info on Bonhoeffer. Good luck. 🙂

              I also found this info at Patheos-evangelical:

              “The problem is that many quotes attributed to Bonhoeffer are found in his close friend Bethge’s biography of him which really is the only needed one. Bethge remembered things Bonhoeffer said to him. To question Bethge’s memory is simply bizarre. He may not have always gotten every word exactly right, but someone as close to Bonhoeffer in those critical times would not lose his mind and start attributing things to Bonhoeffer a decade later that are absolutely foreign to Bonhoeffer.”
              (quoted from Roger Olson)

      • Also, note that I did not just focus on politics. Economically, our course is unsustainable. Environmentally, our course is unsustainable. Those too will require radical changes of life from us. Will we change now, or only when circumstances force us to?

        • Dave Greene says

          I don’t think that particular quote is in Bethge’s book… sorry.

          • What quote?

            • David Greene says

              I guess I hit the wrong “reply” button, sorry 🙂

              My intent was to respond to Christian and the fake Bonhoeffer quote: “SILENCE IN THE FACE OF EVIL IS EVIL ITSELF: GOD WILL NOT HOLD US GUILTLESS. NOT TO SPEAK IS TO SPEAK.
              NOT TO ACT IS TO ACT.”

  2. Bonhoeffer’s vocal and active opposition to the Nazis continued from that point, until 12 years later he was executed as a traitor.

    I think it’s an important to note that, when he really decided to throw in against the Nazis by participating in a conspiracy against them, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr, a German military agency. He decided to work as a spy by feigning loyalty to the war effort. Anybody opposed to Hitler/the Nazis looking on from the outside who wasn’t in on the secret would’ve thought he fully supported them, and that by necessity, because it would’ve been important that most people on both sides not be in on the secret. Think about that: Bonhoeffer was willing to sacrifice the normal course of honesty and transparency required for the Christian life, a course he himself thought of utter importance for that life, to fight against a demonic evil possessing his country. He was willing to adopt a practice of deceit and secrecy, of lies and misdirection, for the greater good. The ultimate required that defeating Hitler by any means necessary took precedence over the penultimate of walking the normal Christian path. Are we at such a moment? If we are, the implications are staggering.

    • Note: Bonhoeffer was aware through family connections that there were many members of the Abwehr plotting against Hitler/the Nazis, indeed that many German generals were also involved in such plots, so he joined the Abwehr to be involved in a group that could do something tangible to defeat Hitler. Still, this required him to lie on a regular basis to people he knew he owed the truth, under normal circumstances; he was even known to give the Sieg Heil in public when others were doing it, to keep up the appearances of loyalty. The nation had come to a place where he believed that public criticism of its policies were pointless, only actions aimed at overthrowing its leader and his party mattered. Again, the implications of this if we too are at such a juncture, and of having Bonhoeffer as a model for the way Christians should follow under such circumstances, are staggering.

      • Andrew Zook says

        I agree that the times are challenging and will probably be even more challenging. Yes, I think we’re probably at or in a moment/era as the post’s question implies. But, I’m hesitant to look to Bonhoeffer as my guiding light. He was human, and therefore not correct in all decisions. I’d rather aspire to follow of the example of Christ, all the time, all the way to the end… (But humanly speaking, I don’t look forward to such a prospect. I quake; I am troubled by the thought)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Abwehr was German Military Intelligence, a rough equivalent of our DIA.

      • There were many members of the Abwehr who were opposed to Hitler, and actively seeking his overthrow. That is also true among the German generals.

  3. The corruption of our country and its leaders is the issue. And I don’t believe progressives have a clue. And I’m fully aware of Chesterton’s take on progressives and conservatives. And that implies not being the advanced person rushing into ruin or the retrospective one admiring by moonlight or moonshine. My point is that unalienable rights endowed by our creator and those endowed by any government are not going to be anything but in conflict in the future. A conflict that has implications as large as any in our history. I agree it is a turning point.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And a parallel to Bonhoeffer is that American Evangelicals have formed a Reich Church all on their own, falling over each other to be the loudest in Praise and Adoration of The Donald.

  4. There is most certainly a feeling in the air. Things seemed to be priming for a military conflict on a large scale. Of course history and psychology tell us that it is only ever ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      By “military conflict on a large scale”, do you mean the Launch Everything Global Thermonuclear War the Rapture Ready crowd used to gush over like giddy schoolgirls during my time in-country?
      “IT’S PROPHESIED! IT’S PROPHESIED!”

      • Not particularly but things are working toward a brutal shaking out it seems. Little civility on the domestic or international scene.

  5. Your claim about how all the Jews were exiled after the revolt in 70 A.D. is an extremely widespread belief, but it’s incorrect. It is believed by Christians for theological reasons and by Jews for a mixture of religious and political reasons, but it isn’t true.

    First,there was another revolt, the Bar Kochba revolt. But more importantly, there was yet another Jewish revolt under the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_revolt_against_Heraclius

    I remember being surprised when I read a popular history of the Byzantine empire to learn that there were enough Jews living in the region to launch a revolt and that both sides committed massacres, with Heraclius wanting to exterminate all Jews afterwards. The fact that Jews actually had enough power to revolt and commit massacres of their own didn’t fit the narrative I had believed about Jews being exiled and scattered for 1900 years. The genocidal order of Heraclius should be more widely known, but I suspect it isn’t in part because the whole story doesn’t fit the mythology of total Jewish exile.

    There were Jews in Jerusalem when it was captured in the First Crusade. There are conflicting accounts about whether they were slaughtered or just captured for ransom.

    Also there were Jews living in large numbers outside of Israel before 70 AD.

    There were many people killed and enslaved as a result of the revolts during the Roman era, and Jews were forbidden to live in Jerusalem itself, but they were not expelled from the entire land of Israel. Over the centuries they were second class citizens as were others under whoever happened to be ruling the region, but you could say the same about many ethnic or religious minorities in many places throughout history.

  6. Roger P Bronkema says

    What do you think he would say about same sex marriage being acceptable for the most part in our culture?

    • Who? Bonhoeffer? Given his times, I doubt he would have approved, but that’s not the kind of issue that made for a turning point in his day. The turning point involved state power and idolatry, and the kind of white nationalist heresy that put people like gays to death without mercy.

    • I think a 2019 Bonhoeffer would be accepting of same sex marriage.

      • And I could say I think he wouldn’t have, and that’s neither here nor there…LOL. He had a bigger fish to worry about than same sex marriage.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      5… 4… 3… 2… 1…
      And Teh Fag Card comes into play…

  7. My previous comment disappeared. I assume that is some technical glitch. Very annoying and I am not going to retype it.

    Here is another link about the myth (I would call it a huge exaggeration rather than complete myth) of the Jewish exile under the Romans. There is a heated discussion in the comments.

    http://www.jeremiahhaber.com/2007/07/no-rivkele-there-wasnt-roman-exile-of.html

    Hopefully this won’t vanish like the other one did.

  8. The Netflix documentary The Family takes a troubling look at backroom, political influence peddling that has been going on for 60+ years by a secretive evangelical group. This group started and has sponsored the National Prayer Breakfast.

    • ‘The Family’s most valuable payoff is, in the end, the story of fascist rhetoric’s entry in fundamentalist conservative politics. Trump doesn’t sound like a dictator by accident, and The Family finally explains why, in detail: The president speaks that way because men like Douglas Coe idolized fascist rulers of the mid-twentieth century and spread their appeal. The “covenant” offered by Christian fundamentalism is popular because of, not in spite of, its similarity to Nazi brotherhood, and it was engineered on purpose to be its equivalent.

      Though it’s doubtful that The Family will sway many conservative religious viewers—how can you prove that the show about a conspiracy isn’t a counter-conspiracy?—Coe’s admiration for Hitler cannot be forgotten once learned. Though the documentary’s larger argument is muddier and harder to verify, that speech from 1989 will haunt Coe’s spiritual descendants with a viciousness that will only grow as more of the public learns about his views. Meetings can be secret, and diplomacy can be covert, but videotape is forever.’
      https://newrepublic.com/article/154763/familys-big-secret-hiding-plain-sight

    • David Cornwell says

      I watched The Family last week. Very disturbing. But it also had a layer that appealed to youth that in some ways was good. I’d read a book (or part of it, can’t remember) a while ago so some of this wasn’t new to me. It seems to me that their “god-talk” is a cloak covering their true mission.

      What I have found out is that a Republican member of the House is a person who was in some of my sociology classes in college is an active part of The Family. Not surprised! He later went to the Air Force as an officer, was the electronic warfare officer on B52 planes that bombed Viet Nam and at times were armed with Atomic weapons capable of destroying the world. I think he retired before the last congressional election.

  9. When did iMonk become a political blog?

    I used to come here to escape the political. No more, it seems. Even the post-evangelical wilderness has become infused with political back-and-forths, to the exclusion of anything else, it seems.

    I started reading Michael’s writing years ago because he fed my soul. Now, the blog just seems to feed the fires of peoples’ political vanities.

    Think my soul will have to look elsewhere if it wants to continue to find food that feeds it…

    • Christiane says

      Hello Jess,
      when did the Republican Party become ‘christian’ and attempt to co-opt the term ‘evangelical’?????

      I’d say if you want to do the history, go back about thirty or forty years to the time of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and the ascendancy of the ‘Christian Far Right’ when it aligned with the Republican Party and gained ‘power’ and ‘control’ using ‘the abortion issue’.

      my goodness, your attempt to silence people here is very thinly veiled, and we all know that what is going on today with the persecution of innocent people AND CHILDREN by the trumpists is a MORAL ISSUE, not a political one.

      Yes, ‘bubbles’ keep you happy. That’s why partisan ‘bubbles’ are so good at tearing a whole nation into a divided one.
      And the Russians love it.

      So what DID you really know of Michael Spencer???? Please don’t tell us that you think your opinion of him was that low! Do you really think Michael Spencer would have kept silent in the face of THIS:

      https://www.newsweek.com/migrant-children-share-heartbreaking-stories-u-s-detention-1446447

      • Christiane, you make my point.

        I never mentioned anything about my political stances. You know nothing about them, yet your rant assumes to know everything about them and then chastises them. This is exactly the problem with what this blog has become: shrill voices assuming others’ politics and then shouting them down. No room here anymore for the “Christ-shaped” spirituality Michael proffered.

        Leaving now to try to again find a quiet place in the wilderness.

        • I agree with Jess. I come to iMonk for spiritual sustenance and challenge. I am disheartened at how political it has become. I’ve been looking at other blogs, but this blog is still the starting point for my day. I wait a day to read it, so that I can read the comments that the post has received. I miss Michael Spencer, and I’m glad you still post his blog entries. I think I remember a post following Donald Trump’s inaugural and Chaplain Mike’s post promising the blog wouldn’t be highjacked into political vitriol. I think that promise has been broken. And it breaks my heart…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        when did the Republican Party become ‘christian’ and attempt to co-opt the term ‘evangelical’?????

        Roughly the 1980s with the rise of The Moral Majority; by the Nineties Jesus Christ became effectively a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP. (And after the 2016 merger, of the Trump Organization.)

      • Christiane, not a very gracious reply. Perhaps you need to take a break at your beach house or summer cabin.

    • Michael’s blog was political from the start.

      And in case you didn’t notice, this was a sermon about what Jesus said in his own day about what was happening in the world around him. Please also note that its emphasis was not talking about current politics but about following Jesus whether or not this is a turning point in history.

      • Mike, as I recall, any of Michael’s political musings focused on the post evangelical wilderness, not the US political environment. In fact, one would be hard pressed to know his political leanings from his writings here, though he did leave clues from time to time. That’s one of the things I loved most about him, and have come to miss more and more here. He tried to keep his focus on Jesus, and largely succeeded. Can’t say the same now.

        • David Cornwell says

          Even with our eyes on Jesus there comes certain points in history where one must also confront the evil that is before us. To ignore it is to be blind to evil and to reality. It is denial. This is especially true in a country where we strive to be democratic.

          • David,

            I have much respect for your artwork and opinion… but today – ugh!

            • David Cornwell says

              I least I got an “ugh!” I’m not sure what you disagree with in the above statement. But thanks for your stated respect.

              • It’s SO ugly, it’s beautiful !

                The photo sets the stage for the blog to follow and the comments, also.
                Full of ‘storm and thunder’ 🙂

                Thanks, David.

        • There have been many political Crises since Hitler and World War II that could be considered a turning point in history, from Vietnam to Watergate and others. Events too could be considered. What this article seems to unconsciously do is to tie the current environment to the movements of Hitler and Nazi Germany, a tactic currently being used by those on the left to denigrate certain actions by those on the right.

          Being a student of history and especially of the two World Wars I find it an unfair comparison, not because I have any affinity for either party at the moment, but more because contributors are so blatantly unread and uninformed. Do some research before using words that for some of us are inflammatory. We are not living in a time that is similar to Nazi Germany, we do not have camps that have taken our own citizens against their will and restricted their rights. This article, although does not explicitly stare such things, does provide subtle impressions.

          I have been around here for a long time and there has been a shift, Michael was decidedly conservative in his day although he may have moved more to center as time went on. Only in his earliest writings did he focus on politics; most of the time he focused on his travels through his view of the evangelical wilderness and Denise’s Catholic influence on him. And in those days I was walking a similar path, going on retreats, reading mystical Christian authors. These days we are spending way more time Trump bashing.

          Whether you like the President or not you have the ability to vote him out in the next election cycle. I heard the same crazy rhetoric during the Obama years where the world was at a turning point and we will hear it with the next President depending on what side you are on.

          Long winded – but I agree with Jess….

          My thoughts…..

          • Iain Lovejoy says

            “we do not have camps that have taken our own citizens against their will and restricted their rights”
            No, just camps that have done that non-citizens residing in the US, and the parents of citizens, and citizens of Mexican origin who hadn’t got their papers with them when rounded up. And a President telling actual (coincidentally not white) citizens to “go back home”, and actual (oddly enough non-white again) citizens being called “anchor babies” and somehow not “proper” citizens. So that’s fine then.
            Yeah. Obviously what is happening in the US isn’t point for point identical to Nazi Germany: that would be silly. The issue is that the US government is doing some startlingly similar bad stuff, and Christians shouldn’t be failing to react, or even cheering it along, which is, yes, what a lot of them did in Nazi Germany.

            • Christiane says

              even in sacred Scripture, we have examples of people confused when power commit immoral acts:

              “3but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms and was like a daughter to him. 4Now a traveler came to the rich man, who refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.”

              5David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan: “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!…”

              (2 Samuel, chapter 12)

              so we today are confronted with something heart-breaking and cruel, and immoral, and if we cannot know this and recognize it for what it is, we can begin to understand the blindness of King David before he realized what he had done to Uriah . . .

              we are all human afterall and my goodness, even sacred Scripture testifies to our inability to see what is right in front of us and recognize it for evil . . . God have mercy!

              • “to the hard of hearing, you shout;
                and to the almost blind, you draw large and startling figures . .”
                (Flannery O’Connor)

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                  It’s called “go for IMPACT”.

                  Because you often need to hit the donkey up side the head to get his attention. Especially these days where everyone is screaming at high volume.

          • David Cornwell says

            I could give some thoughts on this post, but it would take a lot of space. I’ll just say I respectfully disagree with you. You make some points, and of course, we must be careful. I’m not in a frame of mind to launch a long-winded debate today. Not surrendering; just ceasing!

          • Radagast, I think you and Jess are responding more to the comments than to the actual post.

            In the sermon I intentionally avoiding any specific references to political issues or parties. I merely used the Bonhoeffer illustration because some Christians raised the question in light of their own concerns about the potential of rising fascism in the world.

            The point of the sermon was not to affirm or deny their concerns, but rather to point out that some are raising the question, and to link it with the Gospel text in which Jesus specifically rebukes people for failing to be discerning. Whether we’re at a turning point or not — I honestly don’t know. I was challenged by Jesus’ words, however, to keep my eyes open and to make sure I am cultivating the spiritual habits that will help me if a storm comes

            • Mike, I did respond more to the comments than the post. It seems that many if not most posts these day, regardless of content, do result in political rants. I don’t recall that with Michael’s posts. I don’t mean to blame your posts when I say that. Just observing, and very saddened by the observation.

              • Back in the day (and I’ve been reading here since at least 2003), Michael Spencer would shepherd the comments (sometimes firmly, with warnings and deletions) to keep the focus of the discussion more Jesus-shaped and not so world- or politics- shaped. At that time I remember a much wider variety of voices in the comments, both progressive and conservative and more respectful in discussion than now….bashing each other’s politics to the point of driving one side away wasn’t tolerated (as it seems now).

        • Jess, were you aware that this blog started out as a primarily political blog? Perhaps you came along a little later, as did I.

          First of all, I don’t consider this a political post at all, despite where the comments may have led. It’s a sermon, meant to encourage following Jesus no matter what the climate around us.

          Second, do you think it’s possible to talk about being a post-evangelical today without some reference to the culture wars and evangelical support for Trump? For many, these are the very reasons they ARE post-evangelicals.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And if you “stay out of politics” (like TWW is trying to do) at a time where Church is getting as Political as anything in the old USSR, you’re going to get blindsided by the Political.

            • too late for the Xtian rt. wing to ‘stay out of politics’ so now they get push-back and they are ‘offended’ and use ‘Jesus’ for an escape or an excuse?
              like conflicted much? I guess.

          • Mike, either side can justify their political responses and feed their egos in these comments. I don’t want to even start down that path. I find it too easy, and I am too full of myself as it is. Hence my original comment, and my effort to focus on Jesus.

            • Jess, what, in your view, would look like Jesus-shaped spirituality and action right now? (I’m not setting myself up to pounce, just curious.)

              • Heather, VERY briefly, I would try to discern the answer to “Where is God in all this?” and act on that discernment. Pretty much the same Ignatian spirituality regimen my spiritual directors have encouraged me to follow for years. Not much of an answer, really, I but don’t have the time for a more complete response.

    • In times of crisis, we do not have the luxury of simply focusing on our own spiritual feelings, to the exclusion of everything else. For many of us, the turmoil of our times IS our cross to bear. Refusing to talk about it neither helps us, or makes the problems go away.

      • “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.
        They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

        (from the letters of Flannery O’Connor, ‘The Habit of Being’)

    • From the very beginning. You can’t escape politics.

    • Ken E Boyd says

      Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen

  10. At the ripe young age of 58 I have lived just long enough to have witnessed part of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, nationwide riots and upheaval, a spate of assassinations, multiple presidents on both sides of the aisle, the age of plane hijackings, Disco in its totality, 9/11 and the current age of international terrorism. Even the fundamentalist fervor of Jesus’ immediate return in light of current events at the time and the feeling that world was ending imminently. Still in all, I have never felt the potential danger for the fabric of the American system and consequently most of the world due to the entangled sociopolitical nature of it all and the force of our influence therein, as pointedly as I do now. If we are not definitively at a precipice with a chance to fall in, the possibility is certainly evident and, yes, I think anyone who sees this feels the urgency of living out their calling with more bravery, originality, integrity and resolve than ever. That is genuinely the way I feel and certain things have changed in my life as a direct result of that feeling. The light and hope here is that where iniquity abounds, grace does much more so abound.

    • We are at a boundary in our national life, that is certain. At the next election, we shall see if we pass over it into completely new terrain. I fear we will. God help us all.

      • If that moment comes, there will be no ready escape into pious neutrality. We will either help our neighbor to escape by any means necessary, or we will opt for personal purity at the expense of neighbor.

        • Not sure what you mean there.

          • Please pardon my lack of clarity in this comment. At this point, I think I’d rather not try to rephrase it; I was trying to say something rather too complicated, and at the moment.I think it would be better to abandon the comment than to explain it at length. It probably wasn’t worth saying.