Archives For Karl Barth

Last year I posted a quick response to the hysteria surrounding the election of Donald Trump. I headlined that post, ‘Why Trump is Not Hitler, & Why American Evangelicals Are Not German Christians’. My aim was to counter a lot of what I was seeing posted on social media by people who were usually level-headed and intellectually responsible.

It was disappointing to see normally sane individuals suddenly join the ranks of anti-trump – which really were I’m angry because the Leftist power structures and its monopoly on power, were diminished – riots. (It’s safe to say, that after twelve months, they’ve started to lose their shine as well.)

Worse still, were some Christian conservative academics who took to social media to virtue signal to the all-powerful Left in what I can only describe as a sycophantic attempt to validate themselves in the eyes of those on the Left. Even I felt pressure to censor my view of Trump and the current political scene, so as to not fall foul of the power brokers in my field of academic work and study.

Generally balanced academics picked up Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, forged both into anti-Trump weapons, and started swinging them around in unison with the “Trump is Hitler” chorus. Despite the intimidation, I decided to work a way back towards unity; shared ground.

Informing my post at the time, is the fact that both Barth and Bonhoeffer, who were anti-Nazi theologians, would be unlikely to leap before they looked, when it came to the political scaremongering surrounding Trump. They weren’t fans of labels, generalised slogans, and false doctrines. Nor were they supporters of the imposition of new cultural laws, restrictions on freedom of speech, inciting the mob, Nazi flags in churches and, collective conformity to party-lines. That’s part of what made them anti-Nazi theologians.

Did some Christians commit the blasphemy of looking to Trump as though God Himself had been elected to the White House? Sure, but no differently to how people deify celebrity, or in the relevant political arena, how people fell apart when President Obama was moved on and Clinton lost.

I also agree that there are similarities between the power structures in the 1930’s and today. However, where I disagree is where we draw those parallels. The similarities, as I’ve pointed out many times in my writing, fall parallel with socialism, repression and control of the universities by the Left. Among other points of constancy such as dehumanising anyone who disagrees them. For more on my thinking about this, take for example this quote from an article I published in October:

The danger should be clear enough. From a psychological point of view this rampant ad hominem is recognised as emotional manipulation. Recklessly calling someone a Nazi is a shaming technique designed to control the opponent in an attempt to discredit and silence them. The same goes for those who would paint all white people as racist.
Link both the reckless labelling of people as Nazis and the slogan “all white people are racist” together and the cocktail of hate is complete. All that’s needed are chambers filled with the pesticide Zyklon B, cyclone fencing, and all those determined by the Left as having “life unworthy of life”.
Any well-informed reader who knows the history behind the genocidal rampaging in Rwanda, of the Tutsis against the Hutus, will see that there is good reason for concern […]
Since the Left give us permission to do so, if a group of people calling other people Nazis are doing exactly what Nazis did, shouldn’t those being called Nazis have the right to punch a Nazi?
The answer is a tentative “no”. Those who stand opposed must do better than employ the same tactics used against them. Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Thatcher didn’t bring about an end to the Cold War by feeding the status quo.
(Let the Pharaohs of our Age also Learn: Pride comes before a fall, 18th October 2017)

Another similarity is the indoctrination of those on the Left by their ideological masters. Some may say that this is ridiculous. That those on the Left aren’t indoctrinated. That there is no, as I call it, leftist cult of modern liberalism. If that is true, then why has the past twelve months show the Western world that something is amiss and, although the man has his moments, it’s not Donald Trump or the “Christian right”.

Examples of how the culture of repudiation and its dehumanising has taken hold in the psyche of the average individual are magnified by social media, and those examples are incriminating. Such as the comment to this YouTube video.

This person is a victim of the times. So rather than argue with them online, I decided to write a general response outlining five reasons why their statement was flat-out wrong:

1. Unlike, North Korea, People aren’t risking their lives to escape America into Mexico, Cuba or Canada.
2. Unlike Zimbabwe, North Korea or Turkey, soldiers aren’t defecting from the United States, nor are America’s defences forces attempting a coup.
3. Unlike Syria, the United Nations is not monitoring the Government because of previous gas attacks on the Syrian people.
4. Unlike Turkey, the media and academics, despite their vicious and continued harassment of the Trump administration have not been rounded up and arrested.
5. It’s a logical fallacy, involves a poor reading of theology and it’s reckless labelling. One just doesn’t name-drop the anti-Christ or Hitler without qualifying the accusation in order to say why.

The real tragedy in all of this is that by crying wolf about Nazism, the Left desensitises people to the heinous crimes of Nazism. It reduces Nazism to the absurd and reduces the ability for anyone to call out the real thing, when and if it, or an equivalent, God forbid, rises once more.

False accusations turn the blood brother of Communism into a joke, potentially doing great damage to the legacy of the millions who fell and suffered at the hands of both their Nazi and Communist oppressors. The meaning and reverence in the words “never again” and “Solidarity” are not the battle cries of cultural Marxists, Antifa, Leftists or Trump haters.

Those words are prayers, and their meanings are forged in the fires of hell on earth, something far removed from the Nike Air, Apple iphone, iMac, ivory tower professors, millennials, and anyone else, sucked in by those on the Left who feed them lines about oppression, privilege, the need for safe spaces and all manner of pejorative phobias used to conveniently dismiss opposing opinions.

Like its Marxist brother, Nazism is pure evil. We cannot allow these attacks on the legacy of its victims. We must not let their memory fade at the hands of those who would rather use the fallacy of moral equivalence, for cheap applause, or to maintain the power structures of the Left, than think through what it really means when they accuse Trump of being Hitler, and most Trump supporters of being fascists.

Perhaps the best statement about Trump, I’ve read so far, comes from Mark Landsbaum,

‘Yeah, his style is rude, crude and clumsy, to say nothing about childish. But we’ve tried polite, considerate and grownup and guess what – that’s what got the country where it was a year ago. I don’t much care how crude and clumsy he is as long as he continues on the trajectory he’s charted: millions of babies saved and 150 victories in 10 months. He’s not my pastor. He’s my mechanic.’

I am, when it comes to President Donald Trump, as I have been from the beginning, a cautious optimist. I see him as a diamond in the rough. I’m not yet a fan, but the person and thousands like them on the internet, who are quick to call Trump another Hitler, should be called out for what they are mindlessly repeating. Word for word, Leftist dogma and its party-line propaganda.


References:

Artwork otherwise not tagged: author unknown

Perfection:

On Prayer

September 21, 2017 — 1 Comment

 

 

Christian. Ignite Hope.

Christian. Write.

Christian. Shine.

Christian. Unchain.

Christian. Gather.

Christian. Sever.

Christian. Bind.

Christian. Empower.

Christian. Sacrifice.

Christian. Love.

Christian. Say ”No”

Christian. Say “Yes”

Christian. Breathe.

Christian. Live.

Christian. Comment.

Christian. Eat.

Christian. Be Content.

Christian. Exercise.

Christian. Rest.

Christian. Obey.

Christian. Grow.

Christian. Go.

Christian. Listen.

Christian. Question.

Christian. Discern.

Christian. Fight.

Christian. Serve.

Christian. Repent.

Christian. Pray.

Christian. Learn.

Christian. Translate.

Christian. Interpret.

Christian. Apply.

Christian. See.

Christian. Encourage.

Christian. Challenge.

Christian. Walk.

Christian. Follow.

Christian. Seek.

Christi n . Be found.

Christian. Bless.

Christian. Hear.

Christian. Heal.

Christian. Forgive.

Christ     . Victorious.

….

 ‘The focal point of the Church’s action is the decisive activity of prayer…Because prayer is the decisive activity, prayer must take precedence…, and in no circumstances must it be suspended.’[1]

….

Christian.

Don’t forget.


References:

[1] Barth,K. 1938 Freedom Under the Word, C.D 1.2 Hendrickson Publishers 2010 p.695

{inspired by St.Patrick’s Breastplate}

I purchase the Wednesday edition of The Australian, not only for the mid-week news coverage, but also for the commentary. Given the hostile nature of the debate and the level of excellence I admire Janet Albrechtsen for, issuing this response is either really smart, or really dumb.

Last week I laid out some of my reasons for voting “no” to SSM in a blog post called, “Nein: Why I will be voting “no” to SSM?

That remains relevant, of course, only if a high court challenge to the planned Government survey (plebiscite) on SSM, doesn’t overrule giving Australians the right to voice their opinion, on this issue, in a democratic way.

What hasn’t been blocked, although major attempts from SSM advocates have tried to do so, is the debate.

Today, in The Australian (p.14), Janet Albrechtsen, a libertarian conservative, laid out her reasoning for having changed her position on same-sex marriage. Janet argues that protecting/preserving freedom – liberty – is the reason conservatives should vote “yes” to SSM.

The problem with this position is that for freedom to exist, it must be governed. If not, why have road rules and enforce them? Why have flags on a beach to protect swimmers from unknown dangers? Why have workplace safety laws?

If I understand correctly where Janet is coming from, it is a secular humanist view of humanity. This view sees humanity as inherently good; therefore it has no problem with advocating absolute personal freedom, but that position has a distinct lack of accountability and individual responsibility. It turns a blind eye to the blood soaked ground of the 20th Century and blurs the crimes committed in the name of liberty, during the Reign of Terror in the late 18th Century. This position rejects the Judeo-Christian pillars which form the foundations for the very liberty, Janet says she wishes to protect. To argue that by voting for SSM, a person is preserving freedom, is myopic. It is short-sighted.

Freedom exists in limitation. Edmund Burke wrote, “liberty must be limited in order to be possessed”. Karl Barth, who stood up against Hitler, carefully stated: ‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair. (C.D.1938, p.646)’.

Likewise, C.S Lewis, states in the Abolition of Man that, ‘the heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.’ To vote for SSM based on an idea of absolute personal freedom, no matter how sedated that might be, is as senseless and dangerous, as the words “love is love”.

I’m not yet a card-carrying conservative, but I do consider myself an ally in some of their current causes. Janet’s newfound position on SSM and her arguments for why conservatives should vote “yes” to SSM, isn’t a convincing one.

To her credit, the abuse of SSM advocates towards their opponents is acknowledged, but that Janet didn’t address the broader concerns, such as the long-term effects and the consequences of SSM on society as a whole, is the equivalent of dismissing the elephant in the room.

After holding out against the gathering storm, Janet, now seems, sadly, to be saying, “I’ve had enough of all the whining and tantrums. Just give the children what they want, or we’ll never hear the end of it.”


References:

Albrecthsen, J. 2017 Same-sex marriage: A libertarian conservative case for voting ‘yes’  Sourced from The Australian, 6th September 2017

Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.646

Burke, E. Letter To The Sheriffs of Bristol, (Sourced 6th September 2017 from https://archive.org/stream/sheriffsbristol00burkrich#page/42/mode/2up/search/liberty

Lewis, C.S, 1944. The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins Publishers

Commenting on contentious issues comes with a level of risk. These risks include misinterpretation, malicious dismissal, personal attacks and harassment. Therefore, I proceed here with the utmost caution.

Over the course of the next month Australians of voting age will be having their say in a postal-vote on same-sex marriage. From this plebiscite the Government will, presumably, discern the will of the people and act accordingly.

As a Christian theologian, I acknowledge that I may be accused of having a bias. I respond to this with humility, saying I have given this matter a great deal of consideration. As such I have endeavoured to speak truth in love.

I have also refrained from delving into biblical exegesis which backs our scientific understanding of human biology, procreation and the dangers of irregular sexuality. I have chosen to leave this out, not because of a lack of knowledge on my part, but because these subjects have been addressed at length by people, who are far more eloquent than me, and have more time and resources to devote to the subject at hand.

However, since Australia is still a country that values civic principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, in writing this, I am choosing to exercise my right as a free citizen, who is not a subject of a party, a church denomination or secret society.  It is in the spirit of these civic principles that I present the following:

I will be voting “no” to SSM because genuine marriage equality is no better displayed than in traditional marriage. This is a union that is equally shared between a man and a woman. This is where male and female, who are not brother and sister, come together to create a home. This is true equality. As such, it makes marriage the property of those who inherited the truth that man, is free to be for woman, and woman, is free to be for man.

From this union comes a new generation, who is at the mercy of this equality and by being conceived into it, becomes an heir to true equality. To eventually take on the responsibility for preserving it.

From this comes the nurture of children. This involves the man and the woman, as father and mother, who are given, not just an inheritance from those men and women who nurtured them, but the responsibility to preserve the tried and true, against its usurpation. In some cases, to even move beyond abuse and neglect, where true equality has become compromised, or irregular; to rise up, and be what they were not shown.

Man and woman invite each other into this equal union. It is an act of reconciliation between the man and woman. Misogyny and misandry are alien to it, and only pose a threat to the unity, balance and true equality that such a union encourages.

There can be no compromise with misogyny or misandry. No allowance for a whole generation to only know one parent and be withheld unjustly from the other. We see on a daily basis, the results of fatherless homes. Some of us have even experienced the brokenness of an orphan heart and wrestle daily with wounds caused by the absence of a mother or a father.

Love is not defined by the state, which is governed by whimsical fads, customer satisfaction ratings and is often bloated and self-serving.

I will be voting “no” to SSM because I also believe in the Biblical witness which proclaims this true equality. It points to centuries of witnesses who followed its faithful path.

Their witness is an inherited and loving “no” against those who would replace Father and Mother with ”parent one and parent two”. It is an inherited and loving “no” against those who would chain innocence to irregularity, by confusing a child about their own identity, imposing adult presuppositions, fads or twisted social experimentation on them.

God is love. Love is not God. If love was god, it would be a false god; a god made in human image. It would not be God. Therefore love is love, is a lie. If love is love, then there is no argument against racists who love their race more than others and proudly show it. The answer then is that love cannot, does not and must not be construed as, being able to define itself.

As the anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth stated in 1938:

‘God is not what we know as love in ourselves…We are taught by John’s Gospel [et.al] and [his] 1st letter, not about the deity of love, but the love of the Deity’
(C.D 1:2 1938:374)

I will be voting “no” to SSM because love is love, is a lie.

An environmentalist seeks the preservation of nature and what is good in nature. They rightly stand against the imposition of human structures, specifically, the violence done to nature by grotesque pollution, and human pride and greed, which arrogantly justifies the unnecessary destruction of nature.

It stands to reason then, that any environmentalist who argues for SSM based on the argument that love is love, and all that is behind love is love, necessarily allows the person who loves his or her money, more than the environment, to destroy the environment. Empowering them to act in violence against the environment.

Making, by default, the environmentalist in their “no” to the greed and pride of the lover of money, and their ”yes” to SSM, a hypocrite of the highest order. Not only are they not protecting the natural union between man and woman, woman and man, for the generations to come, they are negating their stand against the abuse of the environment. Therefore any environmentalist, who supports SSM, makes environmentalism obsolete.

I will be voting “no” to SSM because there is no creative power in darkness.

The moon is dressed up and reflects the light of the sun. It is imitation light. It is not light itself. It does not produce life, nor does it have the power to nurture it, without corrupting it. It is a morbid light. Light imitating light.

The moon can never be or fulfil the role of the sun. No matter how much man and woman, in worship of that morbid light, may wish to twist this fact. Light which imitates light, is a false dawn; at its end there is only darkness; the flames of annihilation, self-annihilation and the malady of nothingness. Light that does not become light, cannot produce life.

“the moon gives off light, but not life. It is a cold, morbid light. It is light without heat ; a secondary light, only a dim reflection from a dead world.”
(Orthodoxy, p.18 paraphrased)

I will be voting “no” to SSM because as a son broken by the absence of his father, I cannot in good conscience consign others to the same depth of pain and loss, felt by the absence of a mother or a father.

Coming from a background where my father was not around, not just because of his own failures, but those of others, I cannot, in good conscience, consign others to experience that pain, and loss.

I cannot in good conscience consign a child to confusion over their gender, which is determined biologically. I cannot in good conscience consign a child to a numerical system such as parent 1 and parent 2, where they may never know the love of a father and a mother.

I cannot in good conscience consign a man to abandon his children, for want of being a woman, or a woman abandon her children for want of being a man. Then demanding those children accept the loss of that parent and accept the heartache and longing it causes with the self-justification that the adult’s want overruled the needs of the child.

I cannot in good conscience surrender love to abuse and the perversion of science to aesthetically turn the moon into a sun, and the sun into a moon, and then demand it be widely accepted as scientific fact.

I see a loving “no” as being part of our corporate responsibility towards future generations, and our collective responsibility to preserve, for those generations, the good, like that of civic principles which uphold true freedom and true equality, that have been handed to us, often at great cost.

It is with these considerations in mind that I say “no” to same-sex marriage.


References:

Barth, K. 1938, Church Dogmatics 1/2 Hendrickson Publishers

Chesterton, G.K, 1901 Orthodoxy Relevant Books

Related reading: 

When a Man Loves a Woman: Barth’s Freedom in Fellowship

Bonhoeffer’s Discourse On Pride, Identity, Lust & Christian Discipleship

#loveislove?

Karl Barth and Roger Scruton make unlikely conversation partners. Barth, was a Reformed Swiss theologian, who held up the distinction between theology and philosophy, and Scruton, is a British philosopher, who talks theology, but knows his limits on the subject.

The meeting between the two takes place in Barth’s On Religion and Scruton’s, The West and All the Rest. Together they provide a telescopic view of modern religio-politics and the socio-political landscape of the West.

One big theme for Scruton is the relationship between the ‘social contract’ and Creed communities[i] (or communities bound by religious law). One clear example of a Creedal Community is a community living under Shari’a law.

Shari’a is held up by the Muslim community as unchangeable divine law. ‘The gate of itijiahd is closed’, meaning that the divine law, the Shari’a, can no longer be adjusted or added to, but merely studied for meaning that it already contains.’ [ii]

Within Islam, salvation comes through the law. Routine obedience to both ritual and law ‘makes and unmakes a Muslim’s relationship with God.’ [iii] Islamic ‘communities are not formed by doctrine, but by obedience, established through ritual and law’. [iv] There is no objective political body such as is created, in the West, by the separation of the Church and State.

‘Like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction, Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state […] Islamic jurisprudence does not recognise secular, still less territorial, jurisdiction as a genuine source of law. [v]

Scruton asserts that Western foundations were laid by Judeo-Christian doctrine and Roman law, where ‘law is defined over territory [territorial jurisdiction]’. Jesus’, “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s” (Mt.22:21). From the two, emerged the so-called “social contract”. This consists of the rights and responsibilities of free citizens, lived out, and governed within the boundaries of classical enlightenment liberalism and its ‘’culture of toleration’’.

Scruton explains that even though in the Western sphere, ‘religion is the concern of family and society, but not of the State’ [vi], the “social contract” has an undeniable foundation in the Judeo-Christian experience, which advocates love for God and love for neighbour, whether that neighbour be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or neither. Neighbour serves neighbour, just as that neighbour would serve himself (Leviticus 19:9-18, Deuteronomy 6 & Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31).

This implies personal responsibility, which functions under the covering of this basic agreement. An agreement that works for social and political cohesion; a ‘common loyalty to a single [secular] political culture’ [vii], within in a diverse, vibrant and free society.

Rather than within a coercive society or politik grounded in allegiance to one overarching ruler, party or carefully structured narrative.

In other words, the “social contract” exists within a house where freedom is governed responsibly; it cannot exist in a house of slavery, where freedom is squashed by opposing extremes such as Islamism,  Nihilism, subjective relativism,  or communist/Marxist doctrine.

Barth’s major theme meets Scruton’s precisely where Barth asserts that religion, when it’s abstracted from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, becomes idolatrous and toxic.*  E.g.: Works righteousness; where the focus is not on what God has done, but on what man and woman do, and how they can reach God, without God.

Scruton and Barth, present a tangible argument for the importance of recognising the dangers of severing the “social contract” from the Judeo-Christian experience.To do so, is to lose its unique critique and affirmation.

Responsible freedom and civics (the “social contract”)  facilitate true freedom, because it understands that true freedom only exists when just limitations, are applied to protect freedom from the challenges which threaten its existence.

Such as post-enlightenment nihilism (manifested as militant secular humanism), cultural Marxism, Islamism and radical feminism, all of which, through revisionism and deconstruction theory, seek to sever society from tried and true, Judeo-Christian doctrine and experience, without regard for the anchoring of freedom that it provides.

For Barth, men and women act against God’s grace (His unmerited salvation). In man and woman’s quest to reach God, on human terms, his and her ‘erecting of towers of babel’, are faithless acts, built on flawed and faithless human arrangements.

These human arrangements are absent of any involvement or acknowledgement of or faith in the Divine. Barth points out that, as history proves, when one religion fades or is usurped, another inevitably takes its place.

Scruton appears to agree, stating that both Marxism and Feminism, share the ‘ambitions of a monotheistic faith [religion]’

‘It seeks to replace or rearrange the core experience of social membership and therefore has the ambitions of a monotheistic faith, [like Marxism] offering a feminist answer to every moral and social question…a feminist [and Marxist] [account of history], theory of the universe, and even a feminist goddess. It drives the heretics and half-believers from its ranks with a zeal that is the other side of the warmth with which it welcomes the submissive and orthodox.’  [viii]
‘…we should acknowledge that the worst forms of nationalism and socialism arise when their adherents look to them to provide the equivalent of a religious faith. –  an absolute submission that will sweep away all doubt, demand total sacrifice and offer redemption in exchange. This is what the latter-day Marxists are demanding.’ [xix]

This goal is also evidenced in the remarks of, György Lukács, one of the founders of “Western Marxism”, in Record of a Life:

“You cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.” [x]

Scruton and Barth share a common protest. Connected to Barth’s discussion on religion without revelation, Scruton helps build a strong theological critique of Islamism, Marxism and Feminism. All exist as religions without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Just as religion without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, is bound for destruction, so is Western political philosophy that jettisons its Judeo-Christian foundations; foundations that hold up a moral and faith basis for Classical Liberal enlightenment principles, such as the largely successful independent working relationship between Church and State.

In Islam there is no equivalent to a separation between Church and State. Like Marxism, the State is the Church (or Mosque). All moral opposition is treated as treason. (Exemplified by ex-Muslim & secular humanist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her book, ‘Infidel’ and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his 1971, Harvard address).

As neighbour betrays neighbour, family member betrays family member, all politically incorrect discussion or dissent [talk not approved by the State] is reported to organisations like the Morality Police (Gasht-e Ershad) or the Soviet Cheka, The Soviet Union’s equivalent to the Gestapo[xi].

Scruton makes it clear that, what is at work behind the scenes, in the West, is not a denial of religion, but a quest to replace it. Barth makes it clear that any religion completely absent or synthetically veiled with lip service to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, is one to be resisted.

Like Barth’s admonishment of natural theology during the rise of Hitlerism and the Third Reich. Like his warnings of how faithlessness leads humanity towards inhumanity. Like Barth’s meticulous warnings of any religion which exists without the sublimating [raising to a higher status] of religion through the revelation of Jesus Christ [God’s unmerited salvation – grace], Scruton points a telescope towards a storm that’s been darkening the horizon, but has been dangerously dismissed, by far too many for far too long.


References:

 

[i] This term is attributed to Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West.

[ii] Scruton, R. 2002 The West & All The Rest: Globalization & The Terrorist Threat ISI Books

[iii] ibid, p.21

[iv] ibid, p.103

[v] ibid, pp.6 & 66

[vi] ibid, p.63

[vii] ibid, p.63

[viii] ibid, p.72

[xix] Scuton, R. 2014 How to Be a Conservative: The Truth in Socialism, Bloomsbury Publishing (p.64)

[x] Scruton, R. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, New Thinkers of The Left. Bloomsbury Publishing

[xi] Another example comes from Alain Besancon, who wrote: ‘Muslim states, according to strict adherence to law, cannot authorize the reciprocal tolerance asked of them by Christian states. In calling for this, Christians show their ignorance of Islam.’ (Forward to Jacques Ellul’s, Islam and Judeo-Christianity).

*(Such as: any religion [claim to the way of salvation] that holds a veneer of revelation, but ultimately rejects both covenant and Jesus Christ as the promise and fulfillment of God’s revelation; God’s free choosing and acting in and through the covenant of grace.)

On page 291, of his 2013 book, Hollywood and Hitler, Thomas Doherty makes a small, but note worthy statement about the song “God Bless America.”  Written by Irving Berlin from an earlier tune called “Yip!, Yak!, Yaphank!” , “God Bless America”  was to become an unofficial second national anthem.

 ‘as the wave of antisemetic violence [during what was penned by journalists as Krystallnacht], in [Nazi Germany], was subsiding, the singer Kate Smith had long planned to dedicate her variety show program to the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day, a solemn look back at the last war as the world stood on the brink of another. Smith asked Irving for a patriotic theme suitable for the occasion’[i]

Whilst it is right to describe “God Bless America” as a patriotic song, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it also fits well within the rubric of protest songs.

Cast in the light of his original intent, Berlin’s song is an anthem for peace. It rallies people of all races, around the banner of peace.

God Bless America” is perhaps also the most significant musical push-back against the onslaught of mid-20th century Nazism, to come out of America during that pre-WW2 era.

Post-1939, into, America’s 1942 involvement in the war; first in the Pacific, then in the North African, and European theatres, this prayer for peace, while still holding its integrity, extended its meaning towards a prayer for freedom.To call on God’s blessing is to call on His grace and victory.

And if prayer is, as Karl Barth asserted:

 ‘…the beginning of an uprising, [a revolt] against the disorder of the world’[ii]

Then “God Bless America” is a protest. It is an effective protest that draws people’s attention towards the great Other. Towards the God, who, in His Covenant with Israel, and it’s fulfilment in Jesus Christ, sets out to present Himself as the revolution against the disorder, that is set in play by false lords, false claims to authority, and all human versions of “ordering” the world, which takes place under those false claims, in total allegiance to those false lords*.

Irving’s lyrics join up with the voice of the Confessing Churches, who, in the 1934, Barmen declaration, led by Karl Barth, declared that any proposition that suggests, or asserts that salvation could come through Hitler, or any human, outside of or abstracted from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, is false, and is therefore is to be utterly rejected. This is because:

‘Jesus is the one Word of God and the proper hearing of this Word takes place in trusting and obeying […] The one Word is the way upon which, and the door through which, God comes to us in his truth and in his life, comes as the light that overcomes the lie and as the resurrection that disempowers death’[iii]

There are no ways to God, there is only one way from God to us. Founded and expressed entirely through, and in Jesus the Christ. No man, woman, leader, idea or natural organism can lay claim to this revelation that lays claim to all of humanity, without usurping God. It’s not something that can be moulded, crafted and raised in the name of human triumphalism.

Irving Berlin’s song declares that before nations and governments, there is no other Lord, but God.

As problematic as ambiguity and nationalism[iv] that is attached to the song, can be; at its inception, “God Bless America” was conceived as an anthem for peace. It was written at a time when the majority of Americans understood God as the one who makes Himself known in history, as testified to in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

What “God Bless America” became was both a prayer and protest. It focuses, unites, humbles, and in combined song, rouses a challenge against all those who actively seek to do the opposite.

God Bless America” is a song of defiance in the face of an adverse and overwhelming enemy. As a prayer, it becomes the anthem for revolt. Not just against an oppressor from without, but also from within; against the sinful nature of the flesh that exists within each of us, to which God has answered, not by the way of man’s religion, and feeble attempts to save himself, by way of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In “God Bless America” both the Sh’ma Yisrael and The Lord’s Prayer are heard. If we lean in close enough, we’ll hear Irving, Kate, Barth, Roosevelt and the many others, who, in fox holes, camps and gas chambers, ‘prayed both'[v], we may hear them “whisper their legacy”[vi] to American and non-American alike. I should point out that I’m not an American, but that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from joining in and singing the same kind of prayer and following the same kind of protest. For:

‘Even the “devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)


References:

[i]  Doherty, T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939, Columbia University Press, p.291

[ii]  Barth, K. CD Fragments IV:4

[iii]  Busch, E. 2010 The Barmen theses then and now: the 2004 Warfield lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids Michigan, U.S.A. pp.23 & 37

[iv] For more on this see Sheryl Kaskowitz’s article ‘How “God Bless America” became a conservative anthem’

[v] Victor Frankl: we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions. Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.’ Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press. p. 134.

[vi] Robin Williams, 1989. The Dead Poets Society.

*According to an unverified source, the Klu Klux Klan, only with Pro-American Nazi’s are said to have boycotted the song. The only source I could find, so far, which mentions this, is parade.com:  6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Song ‘God Bless America’ 

Original image credit: Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash