Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Day I Prayed for Bonhoeffer

On All Saint's Day 2008, during my first semester at God School, I attended my seminary's All Saints Day chapel worship service. As a part of a litany in the liturgy (say that ten times fast!), we were asked to name in prayer the saints we saw as our role models. I sat and listened to so many people name in prayer their own personal heroes as well as some of the biggest and greatest names to grace Christendom in the past century: Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Teresa. Oscar Romero.

I named Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

This was before Eric Metaxas's much-touted (and now disappointing, considering Metaxas's own support of Donald Trump for president) biography on Bonhoeffer that catapulted the German pastor and theologian into the pantheon of saints for many a Christian. As someone a part of a genocide-aided diaspora, I revered Bonhoeffer for his opposition to a genocidal regime already.

So I prayed that day for Bonhoeffer.

And I pray for him today, as the imperative is becoming starkly apparent that Christian clergy are required by dint of the verses in Exodus 22, Leviticus 19, and Deuteronomy 10, as well as vows we made to Heaven at our ordinations and commissionings to resist the anti-refugee, anti-immigrant actions of the federal government.

Bonhoeffer is a saint for a reason--he gave everything to resist fascism in the name of God. But, in my own small way, I hope and pray that I am honoring his legacy by publicly committing to the following acts of resistance, both to communicate to friends and strangers alike that I am their ally as well as to allow you (and them) to hold me accountable for what I believe that God is calling me to do at present:

1. My social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and here on Blogger will be devoted when needed to highlighting and advocating for the need for immediate change in the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities by this government.

2. If you live in Clark or Cowlitz counties in Washington state and need (or have a friend/family member who needs) an immigration lawyer as a result of this president's executive orders on immigration, I can refer you/them to local immigration lawyers I've spoken with. I am willing to accompany you/them to the first consultation for spiritual and moral support, and if you/they need money to pay attorney's fees, I will help raise it.

3. I have a very powerful and moving testimony (including photographs) of my own family's experience as refugees fleeing a war zone to come to America as olive-skinned, non-English speaking immigrants, and as a pastor, I am well-versed in the previously Scriptural passages pertaining to the treatment of immigrants. I will give a sermon, lecture, or workshop for free to your church, school, retreat, whatever (travel expenses negotiable and schedule permitting).

4. One of my spiritual disciplines since my seminary days has been to donate all of my credit card rewards points to various charities and nonprofits. My wife has already set us up with a membership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but I will be making donations throughout the year to nonprofits dedicated to justice and security for immigrants and refugees--including a donation today to the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project in Seattle.

5. (This one is inspired by my friend Lauren) Send me your receipt--you can email me through the contact widget on the right-hand side of the screen--for a donation of $30.00 or more to the ACLU, NIRP, or another similar organization doing the good work that needs to be done right now, and I'll let you pick the text and title of a sermon I preach this summer or fall (within the bounds of reason and good taste--I'll still hold veto power). Why $30.00? I did this--giving away the text and title for a sermon==for a silent auction fundraiser for my church a couple of years ago, and I learned there that $30.00 is roughly the going rate for auctioning off a sermon! If you aren't able to hear the sermon in person, I post all of my manuscripts here the day they are preached, so you can still read along.

6. The power of the wallet doesn't stop with donations. I am done with businesses that have capitalized on, or endorsed, this White House and the discord it has sown in the name of white nationalism. Uber is off my phone, and Lyft won't make it on, despite their donation to the ACLU, because both companies broke the New York cabbie strike held in solidarity with the detainees. Yuengling and MillerCoors products (not just Miller Lite and Coors Light, neither of which I'd touch with a yardstick, but also Blue Moon, Leinenkugel's, and yes, Portland hippies, Pabst Blue Ribbon--MillerCoors brews beer for Pabst. Not even the Canadians are off the hook--Molson is also a part of the same company that owns MillerCoors) will never grace our fridge. And I'll be buying our new grill for our outdoor deck from Lowe's or Sears, not the Home Depot.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply the start. Much like Trump's ghastly executive orders, I expect the scope of this list to grow as circumstances change and demand.

I will never be Bonhoeffer. I know that now. Really, I always have. He took with him to the grave something that we as pastors who follow him, and King, and Romero quite simply lack. With a precious few exceptions, we clergy today are mere husks compared to heroes such as them.

It is perhaps what I want most for the world--to bring back what our saints took with them when they were martyred. But I know that I cannot. I can simply offer what I can offer.

For when we say to ourselves, "I would have resisted in Germany in the 1930s," well, we're living today in the America of the 2010s, and what we would do now is the tiniest flicker of a shadow of a reflection of what we might do then, considering just how dangerous it was to be in Germany after 1933.

I have long resisted Nazi and Hitler's comparisons due to Godwin's Law and the need to keep the discourse that I facilitate reasonable and pleasing to God, so far as I am able. But it is also pleasing to God to resist the machinations of evil.

And resist it I must.

Here I stand, I can do no other.

If this be against divine will, may God have mercy on me.

Vancouver, Washington
January 31, 2017

Dietrich Bonhoeffer meme courtesy of Pinterest

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