In Germany in the 1930s, Christianity had in many ways become a partner to the Nazi movement. Many pastors agreed with the Nazi ideology and supported laws and statements that were issued by its leaders. A major focus of this partnership was a reinterpretation of Christianity as an Aryan religion that had no Jewish influences–and that there were “undesirable elements” that weakened the country and should be removed for the “greater good” (i.e., mentally and physically disabled, members of the LGBT and Romany [Gypsy] communities, Jews).
There were others who watched this co-option of German Christianity with horror, and at Barmen, representatives of various Protestant leaders came together to create a declaration now known as the Barmen Declaration that defined their opposition to any interpretation of Christianity based on racial theories. This placed members of their churches in direct political opposition to the government.
Today there are leaders of American Christianity who see a similar need. Far too many who claim to follow Jesus are supporting statements and actions that are in contradiction to what the Jesus of the gospels preached and how he acted.
In response to this concern, a number of American church leaders gathered in a retreat during Lent 2018 and have created a declaration for this time and this political environment. It is a call to the followers of Jesus to think again about what it means to truly live as his followers.
As in the Barmen Declaration, there are six specific declarations in the document titled Reclaiming Jesus. You can read the entire document at the link, but a short version of the concerns and responses follows below:
- We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness….Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.
- We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class….Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
- We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself….Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God.
- We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives…Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
- We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination….Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.
- We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples. Our churches and our nations are part of an international community….Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ.
The creators of this document call us to think again about whose church it is that we belong to…and what it means to go deeper into our relationship with God and with each other, especially across racial, ethnic, and national lines–and deeper into our relationships with those who are the most vulnerable.
Many of us believe that we are living in a time of darkness–but we also have hope in the one whom John calls “the light of the world.” This declaration calls us to share that light…and to live in response to the commandments to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
What will we do?