Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bonhoeffer and Jesus: Probably Not on Our Side

It is a painfully difficult time to be a Christian in America who believes in Jesus Christ. God, who was persecuted under Roman rule and by his own religious tribe, who suffered by crucifixion and discovered victory through powerlessness, seems all but absent in the current political climate.

But America keeps trying to weasel God into our existing political hodgepodge. Whether a lapsed Presbyterian who cites Two Corinthians or a quasi-Methodist who seeks to be relatable, Christians from multiple sides and places seek to create an argument for why one candidate is more Christian than the other. The sense is that most arguments for a candidate’s faithfulness are made in comparison to the other candidate and not made in relationship to the Beatitudes, the prophets, or even, Pauline theology. Forcing God into our politics is reckless and offensive to Christian witness.

Now Eric Metaxas appears on the scene to trumpet Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a source for understanding how to vote in this year’s presidential election. He writes an endorsement for Trump, “please consider this: A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.” Hogwash. Metaxas also rhetorically points to assassinating a national leader in ways that Bonhoeffer would consider acceptable. Bonhoeffer would actually find this rhetoric deplorable. Any use of Bonhoeffer in this conversation is anathema.

American Christians, especially middle-class white Christians, need a lesson on the Confessing Church. Life Together, Sanctorum Communio, and Act and Being were sources for the Confessing Church that led Bonhoeffer to struggle with how to respond to Hitler’s Germany. The Confessing Church was gathered around the truth of Christ through reading the Psalms and prayer. These two practices led to faithful witness and prophetic practice. It meant fearing for life not seeking to secure it. It was costly, not cheap.

Current American political discourse is falsely infused in the name of Christ; it is rarely prayerful and largely absent from the truth of Scripture. We are seeking security in one candidate or another. We, as a nation, lack humility, presence, and wisdom. We lack an imagination from Jesus.  Nothing is costly but all appears cheap.

I am one who often espouses voting one’s conscience, yet this year, a Christian conscience is difficult to connect to the act of choosing, considering our options. Indeed, I have my opinions about politics and about the current presidential candidates. I wish Bonhoeffer (and Jesus) would think like me, but I don’t think I have the moral fortitude of him or his confessing church. I firmly believe that Bonhoeffer is not in favor of being used as a pawn to promote Trump (or really any of the current political candidates). I am sure he would not be inferring assassination as Metaxas has in his article.

American Christians – you may need to vote, but please do not seek to persuade anyone that Bonhoeffer or Jesus agrees with you.