Archives For World War two

With the start of the new school year we’ve been engineering the tone of homeschool for the rest of the year. So, my focus has been elsewhere. Which means, as far as blog content goes, posts are short and sweet.

Recently, I came across Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on D-Day. One of THE defining military campaigns of the Second World War. (link to full text)

D-Day did more than symbolise a united stand against totalitarianism, it was a just act against blatant evil.

Hence the value of this document: it is both a humble prayer and political speech. Speculation is a cardinal sin for theologians, (or so I was taught), therefore I find myself holding back (with some difficulty) from thinking about how things would have gone if this act of contrition by the then American President had not happened. Looking at the paradigm of today’s political world, it is hard to imagine a prayer like this being deemed permissible.

For this reason: here is one the most powerful leaders in the free world submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no sentimentalism in it that I can see.This is not cultural Christianity parading the veneer of vaguely remembered Sunday School lessons in order to appeal to popular applause.

Underpinning this prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Excluding the word ‘crusade’, Roosevelt is inadvertently preempting the same considerations made by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1945:

‘Out of the humility of prayer grows the charity for comrade and foe. The recognition that we all stand under a more ultimate bar of judgement mitigates the fury of our self-righteousness and partly dissolves the wickedness of our dishonest pretensions…
We will therefore not be swollen by pride because others think well of us. We will remember that they do not know the secret of our hearts. Neither will we take their disapproval too seriously. The sense of a more ultimate judgement arms us with the courage to defy the false judgements of the community’ [i]

Both are impressive. Each make a unique contribution to how Jesus Christ, just judgement, Christian love and responsibility are valuable to an evangelical ethic that supports life and reaches out in truth. With the understanding that sometimes “no” is given in order to say “yes”; an ethical framework that every responsible parent knows well and practices daily.

Official & original:

With music and a video montage:

Repost: Originally posted 5th Feb, 2015


Updated 24th May 2017:
.
I’m seeing quite a bit of condemnation being thrown about regarding people offering their prayers for those lost and caught up in the tragedy in Manchester.

I’m in agreement with putting an end to sentimentalism and empty gestures like lightshows and hashtags. Prayer, however, shouldn’t be linked in with this.

There’s nothing wrong with prayer. At the end of the day, it all depends on who they’re directed towards and the motivation behind it. True prayer is preparation for action, not a substitute for it. Prayer is an act of true freedom.

When genuine, it rallies people in shared solidarity against arrogance, towards humility. It is a revolt against complacency, appeasement, disorder and gestures filled only with empty sentiment.

Underpinning F.D.R’s D-Day prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Ditch the sentimentalism and empty gestures, such as hashtags and lightshows. Don’t ditch prayer. For, ‘out of the humility of prayer..we will not be swollen by pride’ [ii] in right response to aggression.

‘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] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Discerning The Signs of The Times, Niebuhr Press Kindle. Ed.

[ii] ibid, 1945

Image: Mine. I cropped it using the first and last page of the transcript in order to draw attention to it.

Il faut en finir.jpg2Karl Barth never ceases to confound his students or humble our feeble attempts to steer him in a particular political direction. One key example of this is a letter written in December 1939, to ‘The French Protestants’ at the outbreak of World War Two.

His words here are straight from the front, back towards the left and then on towards the right.

Barth is not advocating that the Church take up a “‘crusade’ against Hitler“. Rather that the Church repent and pray for a ‘just peace’. Choosing the better side of responsible action over against irresponsible action or worse, total inaction. Barth is calling for the Church to awaken; to turn from a politics of appeasement and blind compassion, in order to avoid the problems created when both are infused with good, but naïve intentions.

‘It would be regrettable if the Christian Churches, which in previous wars have so often and so thoughtlessly spoken the language of nationalism and militarism, should just in this war equally thoughtlessly decide to adopt the silence of neutrality and pacifism. The Churches  to-day should pray in all penitence and sobriety for a just peace…to bear witness to all the world that it is necessary and worth while to fight and suffer for this just peace’
(Barth in Loconte, J (Ed.) The End Of Illusions, 2004:157)

According to Joseph Loconte, Barth lamented the ‘Munich Agreement’ writing in his diary: ‘catastrophe of European liberty in Munich’ ibid:153). Adding in a letter to Czech soldiers that ‘resistance to Hitler, was service to Christ’ (ibid).

Also noting that the partial injustice of 1919, The Treaty of Versailles, made England and France ‘chiefly responsible for the  state of affairs which arose in Europe after 1919 – which in turn, as far as Barth sees it, makes them responsible, too, for making Hitler possible’ (ibid:156).

Although Barth prefers the term ‘just peace’, steering away from applying the phrase ‘just war’, he is advocating the latter. For instance: ‘Our generation would be answerable before God and before humanity if the attempt were not made to put an end to the menace of Hitler’. (ibid:156)

Other than reinforcing the important relevance of Barth to contemporary discussions. This letter shows that placing him into an ideological box, in order to serve an understanding of his theology, or using any conclusions drawn from that to advance the defence of utopian illusions or a benevolent ideological master, are deeply flawed. Such as being quick to claim that Barth was a sold-out pacifist.

Since there are parallels between his time and ours.Today’s Church needs to “get this”. It ought not fail to stand against sloppy sentimentalism, popular activism nor fail to act on the warnings which were so powerfully relevant for then, and are just as relevant to us today.

Barth asks:

‘Why have we heard and why do we continue to hear, and that not infrequently, voices of eschatological defeatism, a defeatism which appealing to the truth that “the whole world lies in the evil one,” busies itself almost cynically with asserting that Hitler’s present adversaries for their part are no saints either? The apprehension of the truth that God alone is holy will not excuse us from the duty of putting up resistance to-day.’ (ibid:157)
‘We must be prepared for God, just when we are acting in obedience to His command, to confront us with His own “Il faut en finir,” and again by His command to lead us to something wholly other… Done in this spirit of preparedness, our work of resistance will then be a good work…We are both allowed and obliged to know that God will reign in any case and the He makes no mistakes’ (ibid:161)

Loconte is right: ‘Any serious student of the 1930’s is struck by the familiarity of the debate’. (ibid:3)


Source:

Barth, K. 1939 First Letter to the French Protestants in Loconte, J. (Ed.) 2004 The End of Illusions  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Image: French roughly translated in English as ‘We must/will end it’ or ‘We shall go on to the end.’

(Originally posted Jan. 2015)

Garden Greatness

February 3, 2015 — 2 Comments

That generation.

A garden will make your rations go further_drop shadow


For the full range of these check out:

Plant a Victory Garden, Google Images

Canada At War

 

Kagawa_Columbia Univertisty Library Union Theological SeminarySomething not often heard about is Japanese opposition to war, both during and before World War Two.

I was introduced to Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian Pastor, poet and theologian, during my study as an undergrad.

Being born in an era still very sensitive to war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Forces during the war, it intrigued me enough to learn a little more about him.

Kagawa’s faith and work reached into pacifism, economics and international affairs. He was born in 1888 and became an orphan before he was four. Kagawa was raised a Buddhist, yet gave his life to Jesus Christ at the age of fifteen.

He lived his theology. Becoming known for the ‘conviction that Christian witness must include social service to meet the material needs of people…His desire to express Christ through social concern was first articulated when he moved into Kobe’s Shinkawa slum in 1909 to live among the poor[i]

In ‘Letters from Kagawa to America’ it clearly shows his belief in the compatibility of the Church with fair economic management:

‘As you know I am much interested in the organization of co-operative societies, because I believe that only through them can the necessary economic foundation of world peace be laid. These co-operatives must be imbued with the ideals of Christian love and service.’[ii]

In 1935, after arriving in San Francisco, he was detained for health reasons. He had contracted trachoma whilst working the slums of Japan. President Franklin Roosevelt was made aware of the issue and requested that ‘appropriate steps be taken to reach a final decision concerning admission of the prominent church leader without delay.’[iii]

Roosevelt, after receiving a letter of thanks for Kagawa’s admission into the United States, responded:

‘My dear Mr. Crane : I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated January 31, 1936, enclosing a copy of a letter addressed to you by Miss Helen F. Topping, in regard to Mr. Toyohiko Kagawa. I am glad to have the information concerning Mr. Kagawa’s activities, contained in Miss Topping’s letter, and appreciate your courtesy in sending it to me.’[iv]

Kagawa went on to speak in both the United States and Canada.

In the summer of 1941 he visited America again on a peace mission with the Japanese Christian Fellowship Deputation.[v] In June of that year, Kagawa met with Stanley Jones, a senior pastor in the American Methodist Church, discussing their ‘concerns about a possible conflict between Japan and the United States.’[vi]

Attempts made towards the Japanese embassy in America, to mediate peace and avert any potential conflict were rejected, Kagawa returned to Japan and later that year lamented:

‘I went to the {Japanese} parliament and urged them to be peaceful and not go to war. I told them that I had just come from America. I said I knew that the American people wanted peace – and so did the Japanese people. But it did not do any good. On December 7th, 1941 I felt like all the lights had gone out. My heart was broken.’ [vii]

After writing over 150 books, experiencing a life of achievements and setbacks, Kagawa died in 1960.

In January, 1963, Karl Barth, sympathetic to Kagawa, wrote:

 ‘What needs to take place today in the interests of peace is in the first place…a spiritual Reformation and thus a conversion of Christians and of the Christian churches themselves-a conversion to the truth of their own message. Among other things…a good deal of better theology is needed! And so…we come to the contribution which…I have to make to peace among the nations.’[viii]

Barth’s words and the efforts of Kagawa are highly relevant to advent. It is here that the angelic proclamation, “Peace on earth, good to will to men[ix]”  is again heard.  They form into a kind of challenge to seek first the things of God. Such words also remind us that although waves may rise, God remains capable of calming them[x].

It is no small feat that in Jesus Christ, God steps up, speaks and in his free choice claims us as his. If we hear this good news and act on it. Even in limitation, as Mary did, perhaps we too can hear in the words “Do not be afraid”, the response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” [xi]


Sources:

[i] Ericksen, P.A Kagawa, Toyohiko in Elwell.A.W, (Ed.) 2007 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Ed. Baker Academic Grand Rapids, pp.648 & 649

[ii] Friends of Jesus Kagawa in Lincoln’s land Sourced 9th December 2014 from: archive.org

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] Kagawa, Toyohiko Papers 1929-1968 Sourced 9th December 2014 from: The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, N.Y

[vi] Source: http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/56_S4.pdf

[vii] Toyohiko Kagawa working for peace sourced 9th December 2014 from spotlightenglish.com

[viii] Barth, K. 1963 Letters 1961-1968 cited in Gorringe, T.J. 1999 Against Hegemony Oxford University Press pp.217 & 221

[ix]  Luke 2:14

[x] Psalm 89:9

[xi] Luke 1:30-33

Image: Kagawa – Columbia Univertisty Library, Union Theological Seminary.

I Had To Learn …

November 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

*hyperextension: to extend beyond that which is normal; to literally ‘go round the bend.’

*Political correctness: agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.

*Slippery slope: a process or series of events that is hard to stop or control once it has begun and that usually leads to worse or more difficult things.

George Wittenstein White Rose


Source:

Definitions via Merriam-Webster.com

Die Weiße Rose

November 20, 2014 — 8 Comments

In February, 1943, along with her brother, Hans and friend Christoph, Sophie Scholl was executed by guillotine after a trial before the ‘Peoples Court’.

Their crime?

Writing and distributing leaflets which spoke the truth, and called for non-violent resistance against Hitler and Nazism.

Inge, Sophie’s eldest sister recalls:

‘I believe that at such times the students were able to converse freely with God, with that Being whom they gropingly sought in their youth, whom they tried to find at the end point of all study, action, and work.
At this time Christ became for them in a strange way the elder brother who was always there, closer even than death. He was their path which allowed of no return, the truth which gave answer to so many questions, and life itself, the whole of splendid life.
Sophie said at one point (though she spoke very, very little), “What we said and wrote is what many people are thinking. Only they don’t dare to say it.”
{After her arrest}, Sophie had been chiefly concerned in those days whether her mother would be able to bear the ordeal of losing two children at the same moment. But now, as Mother stood there, so brave and good, Sophie had a feeling of sudden release from anxiety.
Again her mother spoke; she wanted to give her daughter something she might hold fast to: “You know, Sophie— Jesus.” Earnestly, firmly , almost imperiously Sophie replied, “Yes, but you too.” Then she left— free, fearless, and calm. She was still smiling…
…Such rigor of thought was doubtless closely related to their discovery of Christianity, which in the case of my brother and sister paralleled the development of their independent political stand.
The church hierarchy in those years had compromised itself by its initial alliance with National Socialism, and it was silent. But countless Christians had gone underground and some had joined the resistance.[i]
Munich Station 1942 Sophie_ Hans_ Christoph 2

(Left) Hans Scholl, (Centre) Sophie, (Right) Christoph Probst.

 

Christoph Probst was 25; a husband and father to three small children. His wife ‘did not learn of his fate until after his execution.’ [ii]

Sophie Scholl was 22 and Hans, 25.

Sophie, Hans and Christoph were Germans. From Inge Scholl’s account, they were also Christians.

I’ve pointed to some of the emerging parallels between then and now, on this blog before. Those in this case, I think, speak for themselves.

‘To mature to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, no longer children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Christ.’
– (Paul, Ephesians 4:14-15)


Sources:

[i] Scholl, I. 1947 The White Rose: Munich, 1942–1943 Wesleyan University Press. Kindle Ed. (Loc.831-832; 867-869 & 1380-1381)

[ii] ibid, Loc. 872-873

Video excerpt is from the movie ‘Sophie Scholl: The Final Days‘ (2005, Germany), Fred Breinersdorfer (Writer), Marc Rothemund (Director).

Candle2_V4With justification, the general reasoning against any sizable interest in the suffering and pain of Germans in World War Two might go along these lines: ‘’Well, the fact that some Germans suffered horribly doesn’t equal the unnecessary loss and pain their country caused to the Jewish people or the Allies.’’

German suffering is avoided with the vigour of a young theologian. Who once confronted with the task of unpacking Karl Barth’s complex rejection of natural theology, quietly seals it up in a quaint summary and stamps the details with a Dante-esk ‘abandon all hope – ye who enter here!

The conversation moves on and the issue is quickly concealed.

So it is with some difficult primary documents.

They are politely ignored or misappropriated in haste; dangerously decontextualised in attempts to bring the past into agreement with the present[i]. In this case true history is abandoned in favour of an ultra-conservative or progressive party-line. Primary documents are for a time effectively written off, partially discounted, misused or conveniently ignored.

The victim? A warts-and-all linear view of history.

Read and received rightly, primary sources show us exactly where, how and when the past can read and inform the present.

Such an undertaking allows us to carefully acknowledge the past with all the seriousness and respect that it rightly deserves.

If allowed to speak as it is, what a primary source can teach us is invaluable. Their contents will challenge comfortable opinions by dragging us into the context. Sometimes even becoming a contradiction to the self-serving and selective views of history so endemic of our time.

It’s a rare occurrence for those in the English-speaking world to be granted a first-hand insight into the pain, suffering and thoughts of those few Germans who went against the stream during World War Two.

Christian Puritz’s 2013: ‘Christ or Hitler?: Stories from my life and times, by Pastor Wilhelm Busch’ is a recent example of such rarities:

WilhelmBusch_Family photo 1943

Busch and Family, 1943. Just before Wilhelm’s son (centre) left for the Russian front. He fell there a year later.

When my son reached the senior classes in the grammar school he himself wanted to resist the ungodly repression of those days. He chose his friends from the Bible Circle that I was leading. This work had already been so defamed that only a handful of young people had the courage to swim against the tide and keep coming.
His friends decided one day to disobey the command of the Hitler Youth (to which all young people without exception then had to belong) to assemble on Sundays during the time of the church service. (Church Youth Groups were forbidden by the Gestapo, the Secret State Police)
I never commanded my son to enter my youth work; he just grew into it of his own accord.
My boy decided to do a bicycle tour. He invited his friends. And in the end he said it would be nice if his father came as well…
On one of the tours we made a discovery that shocked us. My boy had a nose bleed which just would not stop. We took him to a hospital and eventually were told: ‘This boy has haemophilia; his blood can’t coagulate.’
And yet later they conscripted him for the war in Russia. I ran to see the army doctor who examined him. But a pastor who belonged to the ‘Confessing Church’ and was not ‘standing without reserve behind our beloved Führer’ did not get a hearing.
I can still see the little troop standing on the station. Destination Russia!
They were just children, eighteen years old. I could have screamed when I saw my child marching away, looking so pale. What did this tender artistic soul have to do with an unjust war? He had been caught in a pitiless machine.
Then somewhere in Russia he bled to death. Abandoned and alone! No! Not alone! In his wallet was found a bloodstained scrap of paper with the words: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want… And though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.[ii]

It’s true enough that when compared to the suffering of millions under the Nazi reign of terror, this is of little consolation.

However, within these first-hand accounts there is a uniqueness. The showing of an exception, in Germany by Germans, to what might otherwise be mistakenly understood as the rule; the total alignment of all Germans to the Fascist state.

This kind of insight is also reflected through the lives of German men and women, such as: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Theologian), Oskar Schindler (Industrialist), Paul Schneider (Pastor), Claus von Stauffenberg (Soldier), Edith Stein (Feminist/Carmelite Nun), and Sophia Scholl (Student).  {Oskar Schindler being the only one on this list to not be murdered by the Fascist State}

6220_dietrich

Left to Right: Bonhoeffer, Schneider, Stauffenberg, Schindler Scholl & Stein

 

In these cases and the few like them, there is a juxtaposition of those inside the Axis with those outside it.

In their resistance we witness a politics of realignment. The unavoidable and political ”nein”  to any state, political party, ideology or politician who lays claim to being a secondary messiah equal to that of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We are reminded that in Jesus Christ we are turned back towards God. In their struggle we are handed the reminder that we may stand, must stand and therefore ought to stand against any stream, scheme or masked revelation that seeks to ‘tame and control the Gospel by adapting it rather than being adapted by it’. (Karl Barth CD.II/I:163)

Just as

…’the light of eternity shines into the sadness.[iii]

Insight brings hope.

 ‘It would be wrong not to lay lessons of the past before the future’[iv]
– (Winston S. Churchill, 1948)

 


 

Sources:

[i] For example: the attempt to synthesise this (White Rose Society) with this, (The Historical White Rose Society).

[ii] Puritz, Christian (Trans/Ed.) Christ or Hitler?: Stories from my life and times, by Pastor Wilhelm Busch (1897-1966) (First) (Loc. 2137-2169) Evangelical Press. Kindle Ed.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Churchill, W. 1948, The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Vol.1 Houghton Mifflin Company Kindle Ed. (Loc.39)