Someone I know recently posted the following article to Facebook, International Bonhoeffer Society Calls for 'Ending Donald Trump's Presidency' in 'Statement of Concern', and I thought that I'd share a few thoughts about that article. Before I continue, I need to point out that I have written no shortage of posts on this blog about my dislike for the current president. I stress that fact up front so that nothing that I say here will be misconstrued as though I am carrying the flag for him. With that being said, I'd like to discuss the problem that I see with the official statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society (IBS). (By the way, if I might take a brief moment to interject a bit of humor: did anyone at their society bother to realize that they share the same initials as an intestinal disease? But I digress...)
Here's the problem with statements like the one issued by the IBS: what gives them the right to speak on behalf of a long-dead theologian? By what right do they support their claim that they are the "grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer?" That is a self-appointed mission, and I have no cause or reason to recognize their authority in any political or moral debates where they are operating in Bonhoeffer's name. I have also read and studied various publications from Bonhoeffer, and if I chose to do so, I could cherry-pick specific phrases to reinforce any point of view that I personally held with something that Bonhoeffer had said. That's the essence of "Proof Texting," and people do that with the Bible every day; people posses moral or political points of view, and they choose something that will back up their opinion. It's done all the time, but it's immoral. It's unethical. And it violates scripture. Nevertheless, trying to demonstrate that some late personage who can no longer defend their point of view is a popular tactic for those who are otherwise incapable of defending their stance.
Here's a rather inane example that should illustrate my point quite nicely: I have spent the past 40+ years of my life as a Rush fan. I have at one time or other learned the lyrics to every song, learned how to play all of their songs on the guitar, read books written by their band members, read and watched interviews with band members, gathered together with various fans and discussed or debated the deeper philosophical meanings of their lyrics, and seen Rush live on over a dozen occasions. That being said, their drummer, Neil Peart, passed away last week, and it would be thoroughly asinine for me to gather together with a group of like-minded Rush fans and issue a statement that, "It is our belief that Peart would agree with us that Justin Trudeau is God's choice for Canada's Prime Minister," or "No right-minded follower of Peart would ever support Justin Trudeau." Do you hear how literally stupid that sounds? And yet this is EXACTLY what the IBS is doing. They have no ethical right to do so; but without the weight of a fabricated association with Bonhoeffer, the IBS has no voice. And yet, they have no more right to issue proclamations in Bonhoeffer's name than the Chesterton Society does for G. K. Chesterton, or the Martin Luther King Society does for MLK, or the Augustinians do for Augustine, or we do for Christ. If something isn't specifically in scripture, then we have no right - NO RIGHT - to say, "Jesus would agree with me."
Having said all of that, the IBS is certainly correct in their assertions that "evangelicals" are often guilty of proclaiming that "God chose Trump." And in that respect, those "evangelicals" are guilty of what I was just saying that no one should be doing; they should not be speaking for Christ. But the irony is, the IBS is trying to call out sin by committing their own sin. The SAME sin, to be exact. This is, of course, the textbook definition of hypocrisy. However, throughout their official statement, the IBS makes other points abundantly clear; for example: by calling out "evangelicals" for their behavior, the IBS outs themselves as orthodox. And if I'm not orthodox, then I have little cause or desire to agree with them theologically or philosophically. In addition, the IBS's talking points easily out themselves as liberal theologians, and if I am a conservative theologian, then I have even less cause to agree with them theologically or philosophically. And in a like manner, many of the IBS's political stances are clearly the regurgitation of talking points from political liberals, and if I am politically conservative, then I have even less cause to agree with them politically or sociologically.
In the end, the official statement from the IBS is based on authority that is entirely self-appointed; it does not exist in any fashion other than their own self-infatuation, and I have no reason to accept their proclamations based on authority that I do not recognize. In addition, I am diametrically opposed to their theological, philosophical, political, and sociological positions on many issues. I may dislike our president as much as the IBS does, but I use my own voice to make my arguments. Ultimately, the IBS appears to be a group of petty, misguided academics, who are locked safely away in their ivory towers of liberal thought, issuing useless missives that they believe have some form of impact. So immoral. So unethical. So childish...
One postscript, were I one to "Proof Text," it would be trivial to shut down many of the IBS's arguments through the misuse of scripture - for example:
- Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake, submit to all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."
- Romans 13:1-2: "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
- Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work."
- Titus 3:1-2: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."
Please bear in mind, I do my best to follow those points of scripture, regardless of who our president is. But that being said, I do NOT claim the authority of Christ to say, "God chose Trump as our president." However, according to scripture - that is true. Just as God chose Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, etc., all the way back to Washington. And yet, we are not called to follow blindly; if our government asks us to do something that violates scripture, we are commanded to follow Christ first. But in many situations, we follow Christ by following our leaders - even when we disagree with them.
UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."