More thoughts on Barmen, the Confessing Church, the Election of Donald Trump, and Resistance Moving Forward

Image result for martin niemoller and karl barth
Martin Niemöller and Karl Barth
So I have had a few days to reflect further on the election of Trump, what it represents, and how the church and believers in Christ should react. I still believe that the confessing church movement in Germany in the 1930s may shed some light on our current situation and perhaps provide us with a way forward. As I understand it, the main theological point of the Barmen declaration was to call out the idolatry of the so called "German Christians" who had come to align Nazi ideology with their faith, but in so doing had lost focus on the central convictions of Christianity, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Where Barmen shows us a way forward is that so many American Christians supported Trump and Trumpism, in spite of his hateful, misogynistic, and bigoted language. Of course the parallels with Barmen and the particular situation of the Protestant church in Germany in the 1930s break down somewhat. I'm not certain that the Trumpists organized to formally co-opt the American Evangelical movement in the same way that the Nazis attempted to do so with the formal appointment of Reichsbischof Ludwig Müller. Evangelicals in the United States context are formally separate from the state and do not have the kind of episcopal structure that the German Protestant church had. Nor do they have the four hundred year history of church-state connections that the German Lutheran church had. Still, at least in this blog post, there are two things that I think we can glean.

First, conservative evangelicals like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham who supported Donald Trump did so knowingly and with full awareness of his hateful rhetoric. They persuaded many of their followers to follow through and vote for this man, in spite of his obvious moral flaws, and language, rhetoric, and campaign promises that were the very antithesis of the gospel. In so doing, these hypocrites have finally demonstrated that they no longer represent Christ in the public sphere, but have become team-players for an anti-Christ. So, in the spirit of Barmen, it is time for us as Christians to proclaim that Christ taught love and not hate, included outcasts in his ministry, and broke boundaries to love those who differed in ethnicity, religious worldview, and gender. This is central not only to what we as progressive Christians believe, but all Christians. 

We must stop calling those who do not hold these central convictions "evangelicals." They are not. Euaggelion means good news. For millions, there is nothing good about the news that a Donald Trump victory heralds. We must stop calling the right wing cultural and political movement that supported Trumpism "evangelical;" for it no longer has anything to do with the good news of the gospel. At best we can call such folks "cultural Christians," at worst, anti-Christs. In any case, we must call them to repent from their idolatrous adherence to Trumpism, and confess no other Lord than Jesus.

Second, one major critique that can be made against the confessing church movement in the 1930s was that it was so focused on internal issues related to German Protestantism, in that it did not go far enough to stand with full conviction in opposition to the violent Nazi oppression of Jews and other minorities. Progressive Christians cannot afford to make the same mistake! We must organize in solidarity with the 11 million immigrants who are fearing the violence of being forcefully deported, while seeing their homes and property taken away from them, while seeing their families ripped apart. This fear is real and realistic. In recent days Trump has said he his only going to focus at first on the three million or so "criminals" who do not have legal papers...THREE MILLION!!! Another American holocaust is about to commence. The church cannot, must not, should not remain silent in the face of such evil! Hate breeds hate.  Given the violent misogyny of his campaign, we'll surely see policies enacted that will do violence upon women's bodies. Further his policies will endanger the safety and sanity of LGBTQ folks, and threaten the well being of minority and other faith communities. If the church is to be true to the gospel, it must stand in solidarity with all of these people and engage in active and nonviolent resistance to any policies that threaten to do our neighbors harm.  
The time is now. Those of us who are Christians must now reexamine our core values and our core beliefs and realize that we cannot proceed in the haze of happy and lazy churchgoing, as we have in the past. More thoughts on what this may look like to come...


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