What a great post over at inward outward, a blog offered up from The Church of the Saviour , and today it was Dr. David Hilfiker, who left his medical practice in Minnesota and moved with his wife and children to the innercity of Washington DC to establish Christ House, a ministry of the Church of the Saviour.
His post here calls for a “Confessing Church” to arise in America. I was thinking a lot about this just after Bush was “re-elected” in 2004, and I went and bought the Bonhoeffer DVD that the first commenter on this post wrote about.
People get mad at me for even invoking the “Nazi” case, for surely the Bush administration is not “evil”, or “evil like that”. But in both cases, we ARE talking about measures taken by greedy and powerhungry persons to dismantle systems of accountability, in the “name of free market”, which is constantly invoked as if “free market” were the cure for it all, and the highest value. But this is the age-old justification for everything. For freedom, for security, for democracy.
In the U.S., there no longer exists anything that could be remotely described as a social safety net. And current political and economic forces make it highly unlikely that that process will reverse itself anytime soon.
Weâ€™re told that left to its own, the free market will solve these problems. The poverty rate is down, unemployment is down, the economy (except for the last few months, perhaps) is surging. Well, after an unprecedented 10 years of economic boom, the poverty rate is down, although almost one out of five children and one out of three black children still lives in poverty. Not mentioned is that the depth of poverty has worsened. Among those who remain poor, average income keeps declining every year.
Thereâ€™s nothing new in any of this. And itâ€™s something more than run-of-the-mill human ignorance and arrogance. As a society, weâ€™ve made certain decisions about consumption, about responsibility to others, about the economy, about community, about the natural world that are all of one cloth. I donâ€™t know exactly how to describe this cloth succinctly, but there has been a wholesale replacement of trust in and obedience to God by a trust in and obedience to the free market.
The lines: “Thereâ€™s nothing new in any of this. And itâ€™s something more than run-of-the-mill human ignorance and arrogance. ” may have meant to say “BUT itâ€™s something more than run-of-the-mill human ignorance and arrogance”. It is seemingly a more systematized, organized, free-for-all attack on the “safety-nets” that are promising us that “the market” is the best “discipline”. But we have seen how well corporations care for public safety, health, and economic justice (and there will be people who say to that “Yeah, and they do a fine job”
Weâ€™ve moved, I think, into a new time in our history when thereâ€™s no effective opposition to the idolatry of the market, when the ethic of consumerism dominates consciousness, when the power of the wealthy to influence politics is unmatched, and when the power of the corporations to influence public opinion through their advertising is unparalleled (and quite unexplored).
The above sounds much like the warnings Al Gore is sounding in his “Assault on Reason” (although I still hate that title, but I understand his frustration and the difficulty of finding “powerful words” to match the sense of urgency). But Gore does do quite a bit of insightful analysis on the unprecedented power of the “market” and the “marketplace” of ideas, and how the addition of the manipulation of fear and the manufacturing of fears has made it easier to “convince” an unaware public.
Our current situation is more complicated than Nazi Germanyâ€™s. There isnâ€™t one crazy man and one evil set of policies. Leaders from a variety of places on the political spectrum seem to regard the situation as the best we can hope for.
This is where “W” was such an ingenious choice to be the “man up front” for the schemes of the neocons. Many people found if hard to be critical of such a “plain and likeable guy”. But let me not get sidetracked on the Bush administration here. The author wants to also make the point that “this is nothing new”, only combined into more lethal and corrupting ways. After I read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I could no longer feel that we had such a unique case here. (It certainly ranks up there on that top ten). There have always been “sides taken” and a mass movement toward legitimizing government in order to secure power or a sense of a place in society. But this too, I feel, is a symptom of the failure of the church to be for people that “place” of resistance, confession, and mutual support. We have attempted to make our weekly sermons suffice; sermons designed to help us feel better about ourselves. Dr. Hilfiker says something very similar here:
As Walter Brueggemann indicated a few years ago, the relationship of the church to the culture has changed. We are no longer prophets talking to the King in a closed system that sees both sides as fundamental to the social order. Rather, weâ€™re the banished remnant in Babylon, where the King doesnâ€™t particularly care what we say. Under such circumstances, we must give a priority to preserving Godâ€™s vision, of not letting the candle go out. This means that our spiritual practices and our life in community become desperately important. A commitment to community as such becomes a radical spiritual and political necessity.
How do we work together to separate ourselves more radically from the culture? Most of us are still under the illusion that we can have it all.
We cannot stand up to these forces as individuals , or even as individual family units. We have to have the Body of Christ, and the “Confession” of the “Confessing Church” must be a demonstration of what it means to “confess Christ” and “obey God rather than men”