The American theologian H. Richard Niebuhr began his prescient, perhaps timeless, essay on the Sino-Japanese War – “It may be that the greatest moral problems of the individual or of a society arise when there is nothing to be done.” In the face of a colonial conflict in Asia, and calls for U.S. intervention, Niebuhr urged an active inactivity.
As we in the West celebrate their accomplishments and support their efforts, it is important to temper our expectations and widen our conception of responsible government. The heritage of most Christian reflection on politics has been relatively pragmatic concerning acceptable and appropriate social arrangements.
By Andy Flannagan
Our attitude to the planet and its structures, as economics and ecology mix inextricably, are formed by whether our mindset is one of moving on to the next place, or one of renovation. Our God is a God intent on renovation. He has a plan for this place and it is good. This place IS the next place. It will be transformed. And incredibly we are called to be part of demonstrating what this next place will be like right now, which surely involves change within and through political structures.
This text is one of the most fruitful lessons for thinking about the political theology of scripture in the whole three-year cycle. It is also one of the most humorous texts in scripture, as the powerless subvert the powerful.
By Andrew Marin
Historians note that on 28 June, 1969 the modern era of the battle over gay rights unofficially began. It was in the early hours of that morning in Greenwich Village in New York City at an underground gay club called Stonewall Inn that a group of LGBT patrons began fighting back against the NYPD, who regularly showed up to receive bribes and shake-down those in the club under the threats of a very public, and irrevocably damaging, “outing.”
The wisdom of the world pretends completeness, offers an answer for every query, a reason for every action. Paradox is anathema: dark and demented. And so the interests of the wealthy and the powerful are secured, the false comfort of worldly wisdom prerequisite for accumulation and domination. That which threatens the supremacy of this wisdom – and so threatens the interests of the wealthy and the powerful – can only be “vile, cruel, and destructive.”
Rather than falling prey to a stultifying pessimism regarding the continuous existence of evil, injustice, and oppression in our world, as Christians we should rejoice that God is in control of history, and that even evil will ultimately work to realize the glorious future of God.
A community which still seeks to value the damaged, lost and, yes, even the depraved enough to want to not only punish wrong doing but seek to reform individuals and redeem communities; to not simply take individuals who are seen as a canker and turn them into sausage meat.