One big reason why Christianity has gotten a bad rap in post-world WWII Europe is that increasingly it began to be seen as hypocritical and disingenuous. Partly, as a result, the churches saw massive losses in the 60s and 70s. Statistics show that in my own country the Netherlands, for instance, the decline has still not come to a halt. I realize that a reduction to a single cause of any historical phenomenon is asking for trouble. But I’m not a historian and my purpose in this article is not to give an exhaustive overview of the decline of Christianity in Europe. Rather, I want to address a similar problem in evangelicalism where the accusation of hypocrisy points to a weird tension between evangelical theology and justice.
Religious Trauma is a real thing. I know it. I feel it. I see it in others. And there is official recognition these days! A few years ago, I interviewed Teresa Mateus. Our Skype connection did not work so I had my computer record the squeaky voice that came through the speaker of my iPhone 4s. It worked. As I spoke to her, Teresa seemed to discuss people who have undergone serious abuse in the church. I did realize that such abuse happens in many different forms and intensities. I suppose in the back of my mind I even realized that I was affected too but I was mainly thinking about people other than myself.
I’m not a fundie watchdog. So when I hear Fundamentalists say something weird it always comes to through leftwing or liberal media. And, yes, today was when I heard about Jim Bakker making the fantastic claim that those who mock Trump bring the apocalypse closer. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Most of us know Trump as the man whose behavior and speech inspire comparisons with the situation in Germany before World War II. And people who resist him are now ushering in Armageddon? Apparently!
Bonhoeffer’s theology is multifaceted. It can be approached from many different sides and applied for different purposes. In part, this is because Bonhoeffer developed such a rich theological narrative, in part, because his theology addressed people in their context, in part, it is because his theology stands under the influence of many, often opposing voices. It is no wonder that there are many interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s theology that often conflict with each other. There is even a [book] out that addresses the problem of the many different Bonhoeffer’s that are paraded as the original in support of this or that theological or ethical stance.
Theocracy, that form of government in which God governs a nation directly through divine command, is hot again. Think for instance of Iran, al-Qaeda or ISIS. Closer to home, American evangelicals are busy using the White House to get a firm grip on politics and legislation. For them, Trump is God’s man who will ensure that the US will be governed again according to the moral values once established by God.
Theocratie, de regeringsvorm waarbij God direct regeert, is weer helemaal terug van weggeweest. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan Iran, Al Qaida of IS. En op dit moment zijn Amerikaanse evangelicals bezig om via het Witte Huis stevig grip te krijgen op politiek en wetgeving. Ze zien in Trump een man van God die er voor zal zorgen dat het land weer volgens Gods morele normen bestuurd wordt.
A God in the Hands of Angry Sinners: How the Evangelical Misconstrual of God and Politics Spells Doom
Many people in the United States are familiar with the famous sermon Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher and scholar in the Massachusetts of the 1700s, preached on the 8th of July 1741. The title of his sermon was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” As was his custom, Edwards read his sermon out loud. An utterly boring routine for a spiritually inert congregation. But something weird happened. People started shaking and trembling. Some fell to the ground sobbing and moaning. Edwards’ sermon is a good example of the theology of the Great Awakening, a movement of religious fervor and repentance that swept through the thirteen colonies of America and left a permanent mark on the Protestant faith in the North American continent.
Vanaf het moment dat de moderne wereld van zich liet horen is christelijke theologie in de verdediging geweest. Gaandeweg nam die verdediging steeds meer het karakter aan van crisismanagement. Steeds meer mensen vonden dat God niet incarneert, geen wonderen doet, en geen historische realiteit kan zijn. De bijbelse God werd alsmaar meer terrein ontnomen. De resulterende “God of the gaps” had steeds minder onverklaarbare zaken waar die garant voor kon staan en zo de toevlucht toe kon nemen.
I recently got interviewed by Clint Heacock from the MindShift Podcast about the deconstruction of my evangelical faith. Clint also asked me about the theological process involved and if there was any reconstruction after it all fell apart. I did retain something—or better, found something new—after all. It is called the theology of the cross.
By the way, the theologian I refer to but whose name eludes me (as always) during the interview is Justo L. González.
Vrijheid is mooi. Vrijheid is moeilijk. Allebei de uitspraken zijn waar. Er is geen groter goed dan de menselijke vrijheid. Het is bijna een open deur intrappen dat te zeggen. En toch is vrijheid tegelijk heel erg kwetsbaar. De vrijheid die wij nu al enkele honderden jaren mogen genieten in het Westen is maar een korte bliep in de geschiedenis van de mensheid. En zelfs dan is die vrijheid vaak ten koste gegaan van de vrijheid van anderen. Denk aan bijvoorbeeld de Afrikanen die als slaven naar de America’s verscheept werden of de zgn. “inheemse” bevolking van de landen die door het Westen gekoloniseerd waren. Vaak ook werd onze vrijheid bedreigd of zelfs onderbroken. Terecht gaat in Nederland Bevrijdingsdag vaak over hoe onze vrijheid als een kostbaar maar kwetsbaar geschenk beschermd moet worden.