Monday, November 05, 2012

Gospel Conflict

Gospel Conflict

The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.
The nature of gospel conflict – Jesus and the Sanhedrin, Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus settling a dispute among his disciples – suggests that prophetic witness is generally meant not for the secular, but for the sectarian.

After all, it’s the teachers of the law who accuse Jesus of blasphemy. It’s the Pharisees who accuse Jesus of eating with tax collectors and sinners. It’s John’s disciples who wonder why Jesus’ disciples do not fast. It’s Jesus’ disciples who tell him to send the crowds away. It’s the Sadducees who ask Jesus for a sign from heaven.

It’s the circumcised believers who criticize Peter, and it’s certain men from James who oppose Paul.

But conflict, for the Christian, doesn’t always come from within.

In 1933, at the behest of the Nazi government, the Evangelical Church in Germany adopted the Aryan Clause, effectively removing all pastors of Jewish descent from service. In “The Church and the Jewish Question,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers three tactics that the Church might use against the state:
  1. Ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character.
  2. Aid the victims of state action.
  3. The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.
And I wonder, in light of gospel conflict, whether these tactics might be tried within the Church.

Last year, some folks wrote a public letter addressed, in part, to my alma mater and to my church. In the letter, they suggested that it was time to reconsider our position on gay marriage.

More than 400 people have publicly signed the letter in support. Of these, some attend my church. Some work with me. Some have sat next to me in seminary classes. Some were in my youth group or on a youth leadership team I directed or in a class that I taught. Five or six were mentors to me. One was my counselor. One was my professor. One was my roommate my sophomore year in college.

I haven’t signed the letter.

But just over a week ago, in a meeting, I heard that two organizations connected to my church are considering new policies that would prohibit those who have signed the letter from participating in any of these organizations’ programs.

I used to serve on the board of one of these organizations. I presently serve on the board of the other. This new policy would affect at least one current board member and nearly a dozen volunteer staff.

And I still haven’t signed the letter.

But I think it’s time to ask a question: Is this proposed board action legitimate?

And another: Who are the victims, and how might I help?

And maybe one more: Anyone have a spoke I can jam in this wheel?


Emily said...

:-( :-( :-(

Angie Battle said...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been one of my heroes since I first heard of him in college. It would serve us well to consider those three questions more.

Eric Muhr said...

Agree. Definitely agree.

QuakerArtist said...

It is not clear to me, Eric if you have now signed the letter or if you want to. When you say 'my church' do you mean FUM? Or the Religious Society of Friends or your Quaker Church?

FYI, I am 55 years old, a birthright friend, member of Atlanta Friends Meeting and SAYMA (part of FGC) but I live in Ohio right now - on the public dole (not my choice)2.

I was in Oregon once for a New Year's Youth Retreat. That was several light years ago.

Eric Muhr said...

Good questions. I have not signed the letter, but I have supported those who have. When I say, "my church," I am referring to Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends.