In 1934 Christian theologians in Germany like Karl Barth, Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against the Nazi take-over of churches under the Hitler regime. They created a document called the Barmen Declaration which confessed that the Church was not to be an arm of the state and that the basic tenants of Christianity were not to be hijacked (my word) by oppressive agendas. This was a time when a German Christian movement also sought to gain power by fusing Christianity with National Socialism in order to capitalize on the nationalistic fervor of the times despite the cruel Nazi agenda. (It is reported that Hitler at one point replaced bibles in the churches with Mein Kampf and that banners with swastika’s hung over altars). While our churches aren’t being taken over by the government, we must be alert to signs of how Christianity is being subjugated by a distorted vision.
In the spirit of the Barmen Declaration, two weeks ago over 100 Christian leaders met at the historic Old South Church in Boston and signed what is called The Boston Declaration. The declaration begins like this:
[As followers of Jesus, the Jewish prophet for justice whose life reminds us to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) we hear the cries of women and men speaking out about sexual abuse at the hands of leaders in power and we are outraged. We are outraged by the current trends in Evangelicalism and other expressions of Christianity driven by white supremacy, often enacted through white privilege and the normalizing of oppression. Confessing racism as the United States’ original and ongoing sin, we commit ourselves to following Jesus on the road of costly discipleship to seek shalom justice for the least, the lost, and the left out. We declare that following Jesus today means fighting poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression from the deepest wells of our faith.]
We must not be asleep to a twisted cross of oppression that supplants the true Cross of Christ which was given for all. Jesus implores us to “be alert” and to “stay awake”.