Thursday, November 13, 2008

Politics of Faith

In an article that helped bring the current Australian Prime Minister to national attention in late 2006, Kevin Rudd has this to say about Deitrich Bonhoeffer, politics and Christianity:
"Bonhoeffer’s seminal work, his Ethics, was not collated and published until after his execution. Its final essay is entitled ‘What Is Meant by “Telling the Truth”’, and it represents a call to the German Church to assume a prophetic role in speaking out in defence of the defenceless in the face of a hostile state. For Bonhoeffer, 'Obedience to God’s will may be a religious experience but it is not an ethical one until it issues in actions that can be socially valued.' He railed at a Church for whom Christianity was “a metaphysical abstraction to be spoken of only at the edges of life”, and in which clergy blackmailed their people with hellish consequences for those whose sins the clergy were adept at sniffing out, all the while ignoring the real evil beyond their cathedrals and churches. 'The Church stands,' he argued, “not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village.'

In his Letters from Prison, he wrote, reflecting in part on the deportation of the Jews, that 'We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.' Bonhoeffer’s political theology is therefore one of a dissenting church that speaks truth to the state, and does so by giving voice to the voiceless. Its domain is the village, not the interior life of the chapel. Its core principle is to stand in defence of the defenceless or, in Bonhoeffer’s terms, of those who are 'below'." - Faith in Politics, The Monthly, October 2006.
Rudd argues that Bonhoeffer went about this mission of 'speaking truth to the state' by causing dissent, primarily through the Confessing Church and the issues it protested. The goal was to “jam the spoke of the state … to protect the state from itself” (The Church and the Jewish Question). Rudd argues that Bonhoeffer:
"...was a man of action who wrote prophetically in 1937 that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” For Bonhoeffer, whatever the personal cost, there was no moral alternative other than to fight the Nazi state with whatever weapons were at his disposal,"
and concludes that:
"Bonhoeffer’s was a muscular Christianity. He became the Thomas More of European Protestantism because he understood the cost of discipleship, and lived it. Both Bonhoeffer and More were truly men for all seasons."
November 24 will be one year since Rudd's election victory over John Howard. So how Kevin 07 shaped up after twelve months in office? Has he taken up the cause of the defenceless? And as leader of the state, has he taken being told truth well? Is he the type of leader who allows the church to fulfill it's vocation to 'stand at the center of the village'? Or is he another crass politician who panders to religion when it is convinent and then shuts it away in a corner?

1 comment:

Joshua Saxby said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for your post. It gives me a little insight into what is happening. I am an irresponsible citizen and don't keep myself well informed. I would like to see some protests like we had in the 90's regarding "illegal immigrants" etc, and see how he responds.... however I'm not sure if the current generation is passionate enough about anything to put our PM to the test :(

Hey I was trying to email you before but couldn't figure out how. If you wanna catch up some time then please email me at :)