Resolution "Calling on UCC Congregations to Covenant as Open and Affirming"
85-GS-76 VOTED: The Fifteenth General Synod adopts the Resolution now titled "Calling On UCC Congregations to Covenant As Open and Affirming."
Calling on UCC Congregations to Covenant as Open and Affirming
WHEREAS, the Apostle Paul said that, as Christians, we are many members, but we are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:4), and Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk. 12:31) without being judgmental (Mt. 7:1-2) nor disparaging of others (Lk. 18:9-14); and
WHEREAS, recognizing that many persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation are already members of the Church through baptism and confirmation and that these people have talents and gifts to offer the United Church of Christ, and that the UCC has historically affirmed a rich diversity in its theological and Biblical perspectives; and
WHEREAS, the Tenth through Fourteenth General Synods have adopted resolutions encouraging the inclusion, and affirming the human rights, of lesbian, gay and bisexual people within the UCC; and
WHEREAS, the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ adopted in 1980 "a program of Equal Employment Opportunity which does not discriminate against any employee or applicant because of... sexual orientation"; and
WHEREAS, many parts of the Church have remained conspicuously silent despite the continuing injustice of institutionalized discrimination, instances of senseless violence and setbacks in civil rights protection by the Supreme Court; and
WHEREAS, the Church has often perpetuated discriminatory practices and has been unwilling to affirm the full humanness of clergy, laity and staff with lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation, who experience isolation, ostracism and fear of (or actual) loss of employment; and
WHEREAS, we are called by Christ's example, to proclaim release to the captives and set at liberty the oppressed (Lk. 4:18); and
WHEREAS, examples of covenant of Openness and Affirmation and Non-discrimination Policy may be found in the following:
Covenant of openess and affirmation
We know, with Paul, that as Christians, we are many members, but are one body in ChristÑmembers of one another, and that we all have different gifts. With Jesus, we affirm that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, that we are called to act as agents of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the Church itself.
We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are often scorned by the church, and devalued and discriminated against both in the Church and in society. We commit ourselves to caring and concern for lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers by affirming that:
We believe that lesbian, gay and bisexual people share with all others the worth that comes from being unique individuals,
We welcome lesbian, gay and bisexual people to join our congregation in the same spirit and manner used in the acceptance of any new members,
We recognize the presence of ignorance, fear and hatred in the Church and in our culture, and covenant to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, nor any other irrelevant factor, and we seek to include and support those who, because of this fear and prejudice, find themselves in exile from a spiritual community,
We seek to address the needs and advocate the concerns of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in our Church and in society by actively encouraging churches, instrumentalities and secular governmental bodies to adopt and implement policies of non-discrimination, and further,
We join together as a covenantal community, to celebrate and share our common communion and the reassurance that we are indeed created by God, reconciled by Christ and empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit;
Inclusive non-discrimination policy
We do not discriminate against any person, group or organization in hiring, promotion, membership, appointment, use of facility, provision of services or funding on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical disability;
THEREFORE, the Fifteenth General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages a policy of non-discrimination in employment, volunteer service and membership policy with regard to sexual orientation; encourages association conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and
encourages the congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a non-discrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay or bisexual orientation within the community of faith.
No financial implications.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, author and theologian, currently serves as ninth General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.
Before his election at the 30th General Synod in June 2015, Dorhauer was the Conference Minister of the Southwest Conference of the UCC, the regional body that provides support and services to 47 local UCC congregations and clergy within Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
Prior to his role at the Southwest Conference, Dorhauer served as associate conference minister in the Missouri Mid-South Conference, and also served First Congregational United Church of Christ and Zion United Church of Christ, in rural Missouri. Dorhauer received a B.A. in Philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College (1983), and has a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary (1988), the same year he was ordained in the United Church of Christ. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary (2004), where he studied white privilege and its effects on the church. His second book, Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World, was released in June 2015. His first book(written with Sheldon Culver), Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, was published in June 2007.
Dorhauer is passionate about justice. Two statements that shape his theology are: "God is love. God is just." He is also passionate about the future of the denomination, insistent “that the Holy Spirit envisions a future in which the United Church of Christ matters.” During his tenure, he is calling on the denomination to rethink itself and to consider new ways of “being church” in light of reduced societal interest in institutional religion, and the steep decline in the membership of the UCC since the 1960s. He says alternatives to institutional churches, what some call the "emergent church," will not immediately supplant, but will grow alongside the institutional church for a long time.
Under his leadership during his first year in office, UCC congregations addressed racism through the Black Lives Matter movement and the denomination’s White Privilege curriculum, released in September 2016, which Dorhauer initiated; campaigned against discrimination, including that aimed at the LGBTQ community; and offered extravagant welcome and visible public support for Muslim neighbors through its Building Bridges initiative.
Along with his passion for justice, Dorhauer has a passion for and love of baseball – specifically the St. Louis Cardinals – music, literature and poetry. He has been married to his wife for nearly 31 years and they have three children.
Dorhauer was chosen as the GMP candidate by an 18-member search committee in February 2015. His candidacy was confirmed by the UCC Board of Directors by a two-thirds vote in March. He was elected at the 30th General Synod, which met June 26-30, 2015 in Cleveland. Dorhauer replaced the Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Black, as the ninth person to lead the UCC since the denomination was formed in 1957.
Dorhauer was the first person to conduct a legal same sex wedding in the state of Arizona when he performed the wedding service of David Laurence and Kevin Patterson on October 17, 2014. In June 2015, facing verbal threats while standing across from 250 armed bikers targeting a local mosque, Dorhauer, as nominee for United Church of Christ general minister and president, joined 250 inter-religious supporters from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths opposing a protest outside the Islamic Center of Phoenix. In October 2015, in one of his first directives as general minister and president, Dorhauer issued a call to leaders of the United Church of Christ to stand against planned demonstrations in their community targeted at Muslims and their places of worship. That same month Dorhauer also went to a Kansas City high school to rally with students countering a protest of Westboro Baptist Church, which opposed the school’s decision to crown a transgender girl as homecoming queen.
Rev. Traci Blackmon is the Executive Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO.
Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal
Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for 9 years, prior to becoming ordained in the United Church of Christ and installed as the first woman and 18th pastor in the 162 year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ. A registered nurse with more than 25 years of healthcare experience, Rev. Blackmon's clinical focus was cardiac care and in latter years her focus shifted to mobile healthcare in underserved communities with the greatest health disparities in her region. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham - Southern College (1985), and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary (2009).
As pastor, Rev. Blackmon leads Christ The King in an expanded understanding of church as a sacred launching pad of community engagement and change. This ethos has led to a tripling of both membership and worship attendance over the last seven years, expanding membership engagement opportunities, and the establishment of community outreach programs. Community programming includes a computer lab, tutoring, continuing education classes, summer programming, a robotics team, children's library and girls' mentoring program, all housed in the church.
Regionally, Rev. Blackmon's signature initiatives have included Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit, a mobile faith-based outreach program she designed to impact health outcomes in impoverished areas. Sacred Conversations on Solomon’s Porch, quarterly clergy in-services designed to equip local clergy to assess physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health concerns within congregational life, Sista SOS Summit, an intergenerational health symposium for women and girls, and Souls to the Polls STL, an ecumenical, multi-faith collaborative that was successful in providing over 2,800 additional rides to the polls during local and national elections.
A featured voice with many regional, national, and international media outlets and a frequent contributor to print publications, Rev. Blackmon's communal leadership and work in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, MO has gained her both national and international recognition and audiences from the White House to the Carter Center to the Vatican. She was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay
Nixon and to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack H. Obama. Rev. Blackmon co-authored the White Privilege curriculum for the United Church of Christ and toured the nation with Rev. Dr. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breech, Rev. Dr. James Forbes of The Drum Major Institute and pastor emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York, and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus proclaiming the need for a Moral Revival in this nation.
Rev. Blackmon is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and currently serves on the boards of The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago Theological Seminary, and WomanPreach! Rev. Blackmon is a co-author of the newly released White Privilege curriculum through the United Church of Christ and has received several awards and recognitions, inclusive of:
- The White House President’s Volunteer Service Award
- The St. Louis American Stellar Award
- 2015 Ebony Magazine Power 100
- Deluxe Magazine Power 100
- St. Louis University - Community Leader of the Year
- 100 Black Men of St. Louis Community Leader of the Year
- The Coalition of Black Trade Unionist - Drum Major Award
- NAACP - Rosa Parks Award
- Rosa Parks Award - United Trade Unionist
- The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award
- National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award
- The United Church of Christ - Antoinette Brown Leadership Award
- Honorary Doctorate, Eden Theological Seminary
Rev. Blackmon currently resides in both St. Louis, MO and Cleveland, OH and was named 2017 Citizen of the Year by The St. Louis American and as one of St. Louis' 100 most influential voices as well as . Rev. Blackmon is the proud mother of three adult children: Kortni Devon; Harold II; and Tyler Wayne Blackmon.
If you are a member of the press and would like to schedule an interview with Rev. Traci Blackmon, please contact:
Connie Larkman, News Director
For all other inquiries, please contact:
Denise Pittman, Executive Assistant
The Rev. James Moos is Executive Minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and Co-executive of UCC/Disciples' Global Ministries.
Following his ordination in 1986, Moos was called to Adams County Parish, UCC, where he served until 1991. Moos then became senior pastor at Bismarck (N.D.) UCC, serving 15 years before accepting the call as executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries.
Moos' involvement at the Conference and national levels includes serving as chair of the Northern Plains Conference council (1990-1991), multiple periods of service with the Conference's Church and Ministry Committee and Mission and Outreach Committee; and on the Wider Church Ministries/Common Global Ministries Board of Directors (1999-2005).
A Global Ministries short-term volunteer to East Timor in 2002, Moos has served as president of the East Timor Education Foundation, a funding agency for Global Ministries, from 2004 to the present.
In 2005, Moos began a six-year stint on the UCC Executive Council, including two years as its chair.
Moos enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1976 and was on active duty until 1980. Five years later, he became a reserve chaplain for the Air Force and served for 18 years.
Growing up on a farm near Streeter, North Dakota, Moos went on to earn his bachelor of arts degree at Seattle Pacific University in 1983 before obtaining both his M.Div. (1986) and Ph.D. (1996) from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Moos is married to Sharon Moos, whose career is in the health-care administration field.
Jim has been deeply engaged with Global Ministries in support of its partnership with the Protestant Church in East Timor. He brings experience in administration and finance, a commitment to the prophetic witness of the United Church of Christ, a passion for connecting local churches to the global body of Christ, and an understanding of the collegial and ecumenical nature of serving as Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive of the UCC/Disciples' Global Ministries.
If you are a member of the press and would like to schedule an interview with Rev. James Moos, please contact:
Connie Larkman, News Director
For all other inquiries, please contact:
Linda Long, Executive Assistant
Presidents and General Minister and Presidents
Fred Hoskins & James E. Wagner – Co-Presidents (1957-1961)
Ben M. Herbster – President (1961-1969)
Robert V. Moss – President (1969-1976)
Joseph H. Evans – President (1976-1977)
Avery D. Post – President (1977-1989)
Paul H. Sherry – President (1989-1999)
John H. Thomas – General Minister and President (1999-2010)
Geoffrey A. Black – General Minister and President (2010-2015)
John C. Dorhauer – General Minister and President (2015-Present)
In 1975, the United Church of Christ honored two clergywomen with the first Antoinette Brown Award, celebrating the life and ministry of the first woman ordained into Christian ministry since biblical times as well as the lives and ministries of UCC clergywomen who exemplify Brown’s spirit of trailblazing leadership in church and society.
Forty years later, the pathways are considerably widened for women in ministry in the UCC, but there are still necessarily pioneers and innovators in our midst, women who lead in extraordinary ways and who make possible other women’s ministries. From “now until January 15, 2019, we invite your nominations of trailblazers (UCC clergywomen who honor Antoinette Brown’s vision of women in leadership in church and society) as well as catalysts (collectives, projects, congregations, or organizations that serve as provocative spaces that advance women in ministry) below. Alternatively, you can download the form. Honorees will be celebrated at General Synod 32 in Milwaukee in June 2019.
Resolution "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church"
93-GS-33 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church."
Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church
IV. STATEMENT OF CHRISTIAN CONVICTION
A. The Nineteenth General Synod calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church. A multiracial and multicultural church confesses and acts out its faith in the one sovereign God who through Jesus Christ binds in covenant faithful people of all races, ethnicities and cultures. A multiracial and multicultural church embodies these diversities as gifts to the human family and rejoices in the variety of God's grace.
B. The Nineteenth General Synod recognizes the following as marks of a multiracial and multicultural church:
1. CONFESSIONAL: A multiracial and multicultural church is called by God through Jesus Christ to acknowledge and confess its sins of racism and to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry.
2. THEOLOGICAL: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from its racial and ethnic diversity.
3. MISSION: A multiracial and multicultural church is called to participate in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God through Christ in all communities with all peoples in all places.
4. INCLUSIVE MINISTRY: A multiracial and multicultural church uses an inclusive and equitable procedure for the calling, placement and standing of ministers in the church while providing equal access to employment in all settings of the church: locally, regionally, nationally, globally and ecumenically.
5. RACIAL JUSTICE STRUCTURE: A multiracial and multicultural church has a full-time national racial justice agency that seeks to coordinate programmatic strategies and involve the entire membership of the church in making racial justice a reality in church and society.
6. MONITORING BODY: A multiracial and multicultural church has a racial and ethnic body to monitor all settings of the church on issues of racial and ethnic inclusivity in the ministry, mission and programs.
7. PROPHETIC ADVOCACY: A multiracial and multicultural church engages in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice with particular concern as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities.
8. MULTILINGUAL: A multiracial and multicultural church supports the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the church and facilitates the translation of all official church documents such as the constitution and bylaws, creeds or statements of faith into languages that are spoken fluently in the local churches.
9. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION COMMITMENT: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms acommitment to accomplish specific affirmative action goals and objectives.
10. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, EVANGELISM, AND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT: Amultiracial and multicultural church develops, supports and implements strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities; challenges and invites every member of local congregations to move beyond traditional comfort zones in living out God's multiracial and multicultural mandate; and prepares Christian education resources relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the church.
11. SEMINARY TRAINING: A multiracial and multicultural church encourages related seminaries knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of the racial and ethnic constituencies of the church.
12. FAITHFUL AND EQUITABLE STEWARDSHIP: A multiracial and multicultural church plans and implements strategies to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the church in regard to the empowerment of all local churches, and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society.
15. RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLINGTHE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURALCHURCH
Assistant Moderator Malaski asked Ms. Bagley to continue with the report of Committee One. Ms. Bagley asked the delegates to find the appropriate materials in Report Pack C. She explained that, in addition to the Pronouncement, the Committee was assigned the Proposal for Action and the resolution entitled Resolution of "Affirmation of Previous Declarations, Pronouncements, Resolutions and Proposals for Action Pertaining to Institutional Racism and a Request to Implement the Recommendations of the Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism Throughout the United Church of Christ." Ms. Bagley stated that many of the issues the Committee discussed were contained in both the Resolution and the Proposal for Action. Consequently, after contacting the submitters of both pieces of business, the Resolution was consolidated into the Proposal for Action. She then spoke to the recommendations.
The Rev. Ronald Kurtz proposed a friendly amendment to add the Stewardship Council to #11 of the directional statement. The committee accepted the amendment.
Mr. Robert Sandman (OH) proposed the following amendment to the directional statement: To insert a paragraph after paragraph 2, section 3, Directional Statement. The paragraph to read: Believes furthermore that when each member and setting of the United Church of Christ acknowledges and confesses the sins of racism, God does forgive us and does love us still. God's forgiveness, however, is no license to go and sin again. Instead, this state of forgiveness and love is the beginning of the journey toward learning to become a multiracial and multicultural church.
Mr. Sandman spoke to the amendment. A discussion and vote followed.
93-GS-34 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod defeats the amendment.
There was more discussion regarding the original recommendation, and some questions of clarification were asked.
93-GS-35 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Recommendations Regarding a Proposal for Action on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church." as amended.
A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLING THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURAL CHURCH
Ill. DIRECTIONAL STATEMENT
Whereas the Nineteenth General Synod has adopted the Pronouncement on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church, and whereas General Synod in the Statement of Christian Conviction recognized the marks of a multiracial and multicultural church, the Nineteenth General Synod:
1. Calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church and to affirm a commitment to achieve this goal;
2. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to acknowledge and confess faithfully their sins of racism, to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry, to confront indifference, ignorance and neglect, and to participate in deliberate study and action to stem the resurgent tide of racism in American society by identifying the root causes of racism as well as other forms of discrimination and oppressive acts that preclude our fulfillment of our covenant with God and each ocher;
3. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to affirm consistently the necessity of Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from the racial and ethnic diversity of the United Church of Christ; and to participate actively in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God in all communities with all peoples in all places;
4. Calls upon all congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, related institutions and future General Synods of the United Church of Christ consciously to elect, now and evermore, significant numbers of persons of all races, ethnicities and cultures to policy- making positions throughout the church;
5. Calls for an ethic of accountability in our relationships with each other in all settings of the church by empowering the national instrumentalities to collaborate and work collectively to develop and implement the study and action process of the "Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism" throughout the United Church of Christ; to incorporate the concern for institutional racism in all future plans and program implementation, and to request Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM) to monitor continually the implementation of this Proposal for Action throughout the United Church of Christ, reporting to each General Synod through the Executive Council on the church's efforts, progress, and status in eradicating intentional and unintentional acts of racism in church and society;
6. Calls upon the Office for Church Life and Leadership, associations, conferences, and all other pertinent local, regional and national bodies to use an inclusive and equitable procedure for the recognition of calling, determination of placement and standing of ministers in the United Church of Christ; and to ensure equal access to employment in all settings of the United Church of Christ;
7. Calls upon the Commission for Racial Justice, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to continue to coordinate the implementation of programmatic strategies in all settings of the UCC to challenge racial injustice, discrimination, and bigotry; and to provide leadership in helping to mobilize and involve the entire membership of the UCC to make racial justice a reality for all peoples in church and society;
8. Calls upon the Office for Church in Society, Commission for Racial Justice, Coordinating Center for Women, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, other national bodies and all other settings to engage in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice, in particular as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities in the United States and throughout the world; and that these bodies seek new creative opportunities toexperience the multiracial and multicultural realities of our world;
9. Calls upon all settings of the United Church of Christ to support the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the UCC and where appropriate tofacilitate the translation of all official church documents such as the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, Statement of Faith and Statement of Mission into languages that are being spoken fluently in UCC local churches;
10. Calls upon the Executive Council and all settings of the United Church of Christ to reaffirm a commitment to accomplish the affirmative action goals and objectives that have been adopted by the General Synod; and to conduct a church-wide affirmative action audit to ascertain the current status of affirmative action within the life of the UCC;
11. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, the Stewardship Council, associations and conferences, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to develop, support and implement new programmatic strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities across the nation, particularly in those areas undergoing rapid demographic changes with increased populations of communities of color;
12. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to prepare and make available Christian Education resources and materials relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the United Church of Christ;
13. Calls upon the colleges and seminaries related to the United Church of Christ to expand curriculum development and educational programs to include awareness and knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of our multiracial and multicultural world;
14. Calls upon the Stewardship Council, Commission on Development, United Church Foundation, Pension Boards and other national bodies of the United Church of Christ to plan and implement a strategy to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the UCC in regard to the empowerment of all local churches and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society;
15. Calls upon the Office of Communication to communicate the United Church of Christ's multiracial and multicultural diversity policy and the multiracial and multicultural realities of the United Church of Christ and to promote the transition of the United Church of Christ into a truly multiracial and multicultural church; and
16. Calls upon the President of the United Church of Christ, the Secretary, the Director of Finance and Treasurer, the Executive Council, Council of Conference Ministers, Council of Instrumentality Executives, pastors and lay leaders of local congregations of the United Church of Christ to provide leadership, nurture and support towards the fulfillment of the Pronouncement and the implementation of this Proposal for Action Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church.
The Nineteenth General Synod directs the Commission for Racial Justice and the Office for Church in Society to coconvene an Implementation Committee which will coordinate the implementation of this Proposal for Action and requests a report to be made to all subsequent General Synods. The Office of the President, the Commission for Racial Justice, the Office for Church in Society. Stewardship Council, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, the Office for Church Life and Leadership, Coordinating Center for Women, Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries and the Council of Conference Ministers are to have representatives on the Implementation Committee.
Subject to the availability of funds.
We seem suddenly to be living in extraordinarily anxious times. Terrorists invade our cities, people die of anthrax from opening their mail, the economy is very unstable, and snipers pick off random citizens doing their ordinary tasks of shopping and getting gas. Israel/Palestine is in flames. The so-called war on terrorism is amorphous and difficult to define. Public enemy #1 only a year ago, Osama bin Laden, disappears from the public screen and is interchangeably replaced with Saddam Hussein. Then bin Laden reappears, perhaps, and issues vague and yet horrifying threats. Apparently the recent tragedy at a Chicago nightclub was precipitated by people panicking because they thought pepper spray was a terrorist attack. Are we at code yellow, code orange, code red? And what does that mean? Exactly how anxious are we supposed to be? Debates on CNN-- shall we attack Iraq or not? Will it increase world threat or decrease it? How to begin to decide? How strange these days seems and how frightening.
The pluralistic religious factor in all this anxiety is also new. Threat and counter threat are couched in the language of religion against religion, of god against god. Words not heard dominating in the political sphere for centuries, crusade and jihad, seem to give the new world struggles a transcendent frame. Are we struggling for good and is the enemy evil? Is the struggle about freedom? About oil? About markets? About who is God?
As we turn to our text in Exodus, we can see how anxiety can provoke people to violence In Exodus 17 the people of Israel have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Sometimes God seems to be on their side and they have been fed by manna, but now thereÍs a big crisis; now there is no water. No water in a desert climate is a profound threat. They will all die without water. And they turn on Moses-they are ready to kill him. Their anxiety causes them to leap to anger and then to threaten violence. Of all the ways I have read this text over the years, I had never before considered this text as showing how threat and anxiety move people to blame and to violence. But when you re-read it from our times, you can see how the anxiety of the people of Israel moves them to want to just lash out and kill Moses.
Last Friday I had this same thought. So much was in the news about Iraq and about possible threats from terrorists and quite seriously the thought popped into my head, ñI wish weÍd just attack Iraq and get it over with.î Even though IÍm opposed to doing just that, I felt within myself an overwhelming desire to lash out in violence just to get rid of the anxiety.
The concept Just War was born in just such an anxious time, the time of Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century, where the Holy Roman empire was suddenly under attack from barbarian hordes of which little was known, but much suspected. The parallels to our own time are rather striking.
From the first to the fourth centuries after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christian community lived under siege, often subject to persecution by the Romans. Christians could not serve in the military; were excommunicated for doing so, and the tiny Christian minority was pacifist.
But what happened? The persecution ended because the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 400. What a miracle this seemed to the Christians of the time. Not only were they no longer persecuted, but also Christianity triumphed and became the official religion of the empire. And then what? From the north and the east, barbarians, pagans, and Arian heretics such as Goths began to invade this newly Christianized empire. In 410 came the terrible trauma of AlaricÍs conquest of Rome. And so Augustine, a bishop and a Roman citizen, considered whether the Christian could ever, in all conscience, kill in war.
There is no such thing as exact historical parallels, but it is interesting to note that those Christians who as pilgrims fled Europe and founded this country as ñthe City on the Hillî or ñthe New Jerusalemî did so to escape religious persecution. What a miracle a new society must have seemed to them. The religious interpretation of this countryÍs founding and reason for being (and for westward expansion) has always been its overarching sense of having been blessed by the Creator with this land and blessed as a nation. Americans therefore see themselves as an ideal nation, a standard to which the rest of the world should aspire. Democratic and free, we are one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all. And how we have been blessed, at least by the standards of materialism.
Of course this is a fiction, like the Holy Roman Empire was a fiction. But it is a prevailing fiction, our national psychic narrative. The sense of ourselves as good, as an ideal, makes the attack on us as a nation by some who profess, in religious rhetoric, to hate us and see us as evil, come as the same sort of jolt as the barbarian invasions must have seemed to Augustine. Has the order of the world turned upside down?
In some respects I think it has. And when we are this anxious, this confused and so filled with emotion that the simmering anxiety just below the surface of our lives causes people to leap into panic, now more than ever we need our ancestors in the faith for guidance. Some would argue today that Just War theory is irrelevant, old hat, doesnÍt apply. I think just because the times are so frightening and confusing and emotionally enraging, that we need to realize we are not the first people in history ever to have faced such turmoil. If weÍre going to try to act like the moral people our founding vision claims we are, we have to try to engage in moral reasoning if we propose to engage in violence.
For Augustine, the intent of both the nation and the individuals in war have much to do with evaluating whether a war can be justified. ñ[F]or it makes a great difference by which causes and under which authorities men undertake the wars that must be waged.î (Against Faustus the Manichean, 222) ñThe real evils in war are love of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power, and such likeî (City of God, book 22) for ñthe natural order which seeks peaceî (Ibid) to be upset, it must be that the reason for undertaking war is to restore human affairs to peace. (Ibid). ñFor peace is not sought in order to kindle war, but war is waged in order that peace may be obtained.î (Letter 189) Even in war, soldiers must conduct themselves as peacemakers, targeting the enemy and not engaging in wholesale slaughter. The innocent must be protected, not killed as combatants.
The virulent, revengeful cruelty and the lust for power that Augustine so feared as the worst moral evils in war are our biggest risk. Are we just lashing out in emotional desire for revenge and to just get out from under this anxiety? For even more dispassion and reason in considering the use of violence, look at the development of Just War theory in the work of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th to 14th centuries.
AquinasÍ time was far different from the cosmic struggles of AugustineÍs. In the high Middle Ages the divinely run society seemed finally to have arrived, at least for the elites. Influenced by the reintroduction of AristotleÍs writings into the West via the Muslim world, Aquinas posited a seamless, great chain of being from God as first cause to the last spec of secondary causality in the material world. Whereas Augustine was preoccupied with intentionality and the corruptions of the lust for power, Aquinas, as a rationally deductive thinker, took AugustineÍs question ñWhat is the moral evil in war?î (Book 22) and sanitized it to the question ñWhen is a war just?î His answer is not an exploration of the corruptions of the will to power, but a straightforward list: ñFor a war to be just three conditions are necessary.î (Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae.23-46) The list is not unhelpful. There needs to be a right authority to declare war, a just cause and finally a right intention on the part of the belligerents, i.e. achieving some good or avoiding some evil. This list is subsequently expanded to eight.
So, it all really comes down to whether we have a Just Cause or not. Are we defending ourselves from attack (and that only came in with Aquinas; Augustine didnÍt include self-defense in his original writings on Just War), are we defending someone else from attack? No and no. We are proposing to act pre-emptively; to strike first because some suppose this will prevent a future attack. 100 Christian Ethicists this fall published a rejection of a pre-emptive war with Iraq based on Just War criteria. The major protestant denominations, the American Catholic church and the National Council of Churches all have issued statements questioning the proposed war with Iraq and have often referred to Just War theory. To have a just cause, you have to be defending yourself (or defending someone else from attack).
Joseph C. Sprague, Bishop of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, wrote a long letter to the editor of The Chicago Tribune in late October arguing, ñWe must say ïnoÍ to war with Iraq.î ñDeclaring war on Iraq is morally indefensible. There is no way to read the criteria of the ñJust War Theoryî that could justify this foolhardy adventure. This is not an act of self-defense. All other options have not been exhausted. The devastation envisioned is in no way proportional to the perceived original aggression of Saddam Hussein. Innocent civilians-particularly women and children-will not be protected.î
It is useful, in anxious and unstable times, to turn to a tradition of moral reasoning that has been providing insight (as well as wholesale self-justification) for more than1500 years.
But sometimes it is more useful to take a look at the New Testament.
In the text in John, Jesus is tired. He sits down by a well and along comes a woman of Samaria. Notice the ñcliff notesî in the text: verse 9b ñFor Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.î These two people are enemies. Who would they be today? Fred Herzog, my teacher, re translated this text in the early 70Ís civil rights movement as an encounter of the white and black races. Today, letÍs say, now a Jew and a Palestinian; an American and an Iraqi. Jesus asks for a drink and the enemy woman argues with him. Forget even the racial conflict between these two people, women just didnÍt argue with men in this culture. Jesus does not lash back, he does not threaten, he just engages her again. Jesus offers living water and she argues with him again. You donÍt even have a dipper to draw from the well, Jewish man, how are you going to give me any water? If you can begin to hear some attitude here. Now this is not the usual reading of this text either. But it is very instructive on how you deal with enemies.
Our most fundamental moral problem in all that is happening in our anxious times may be the way in which our anxiety over threats both real and imaged is causing us to see the stranger as a threat; to reject people and cultures different from ourselves and just write them off as strangers and enemies. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave his life in resistance to Hitler, once said, ñSecurity is based on distrust; peace is based on trust.î In these strange times, the strange, the other, the one who does not look like us, is a source of threat. We reject their otherness. It makes it a lot easier to kill. Think of all the times in the New Testament, though, when Jesus meets and talks to people who are the sworn enemies of his own race, outcasts, polluted people and in that conversation finds a way to welcome their strangeness. The stranger the better for Jesus. We are a long way from there.
Augustine finally helps us the most, I think, with his deep repugnance for the ñlove of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power.î The enmity at work in the world today is fierce and implacable and tragic. Terrorist attacks are wild resistance and they move us to lust for revenge, to lash out and vent our emotion through violence. Our revenge response is fierce and implacable. And above all is the lust for power that underlies both globalization and worldwide militarism.
Do Augustine and Aquinas and even the biblical texts answer all our questions about what to do today? No they donÍt. Augustine and Aquinas warn of the temptation to just lash out irrationally and take revenge without sober, critical thought. But more than that, the life and teachings of Jesus reminds us forcefully that thereÍs always another way to deal with enemies. That is the absolute standard and the one to which we are held accountable.
Martin Luther King, Jr. captures this spirit of Jesus when he says, ñReturning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.î (Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 594.) Amen.
An exchange between brothers on military intervention in the Sino-Japanese conflict of the early thirties; non-involvement vs. involvement, as debated by two famous brothers, both at that time professors of Christian ethics. H. Richard Niebuhr at Yale Theological Seminary and Reinhold Niebuhr at Union College Theological Seminary.
Editor: The Christian Century
Sir: Since you have given me leave to fire one more shot in the fraternal war between my brother and me over the question of pacifism, I shall attempt to place it as well as I can, not for the purpose of demolishing my opponent's position- which our thirty years have shown me to be impossible—but for the sake of pointing as accurately as I can to the exact locus of the issue between us. It does not lie in the question of activity or inactivity, to which my too journalistic approach to the problem directed attention; we are speaking after all of two kinds of activity. The fundamental question seems to me to be whether "the history of mankind is a perennial tragedy" which can derive meaning only from a goal which lies beyond history, as my brother maintains, or whether the "eschatological" faith, to which I seek to adhere, is justifiable. In that faith tragedy is only the prelude to fulfillment, and a prelude which is necessary because of human nature; the kingdom of God comes inevitably, though whether we shall see it or not, depends on our recognition of its presence and our acceptance of the only kind of life which will enable us to enter it, the life of repentance and forgiveness.
For my brother, God is outside the historical processes, so much so that he charges me with faith in a miracle working deity which interferes occasionally, sometimes brutally, some times redemptively in this history. But God, I believe, is always in history; he is the structure in things, the source of all meaning the "am that I am," that which is that it is. He is the rock against which we beat in vain, that which bruises and overwhelms us when we seek to impose our wishes, contrary to his, upon him. That structure of the universe, that creative will, can no more be said to interfere brutally in history than the violated laws of my organism can be said to interfere brutally with my life if they make me pay the cost of my violation. That structure of the universe, that will of God, does bring war and depression upon us when we bring it upon ourselves, for we live in the kind of world which visits our inequities upon us and our children, no matter how much we pray and desire that it be otherwise.
Self-interest acts destructively in this world; it calls forth counter-assistance, nationalism breeds nationalism, class assertion summons up counter-assertion on the part of exploited classes. The result is war, economic, military, verbal; and it is judgment. But this same structure in things which is our enemy is our redeemer; "it means intensely and it means good" not the good which we desire, but the good which we would desire if we were good and really wise. History is not a perennial tragedy but a road to fulfillment and that fulfillment requires the tragic outcome of every self-assertion, for it is fulfillment which can only be designed as "love." It has created fellowship in atoms and organism, at bitter cost to electrons and cells; and it is creating something better than human selfhood but at bitter cost to that selfhood. This is not a faith in progress, for evil grows as well as good, and every self-assertion must be eliminated somewhere and somehow —by innocence suffering for guilt, it seems.
If, however, history is no more than tragedy, if there is no fulfillment in it, then my brother is right. Then we must rest content, with the clash of self-interested individuals, personal or social. But in that case, I see no reason why we should qualify the clash of competition with a homeopathic dose of Christian "love."
The only harmony which can possibly result from the clash of interests is the harmony imposed by the rule of the strong or a parallelogram of social forces, whether we think of the interclass structure or the international world. To import any pacifism into this struggle is only to weaken the weaker self-assertions (India, China or the proletariat) or to provide the strong with a fa?de of "service" behind which they can operate with a salved conscience. (Pacifism, on the other hand, as a method of self-assertion is not pacifism at all but a different kind of war.)
The method which my brother recommends, that of qualifying the social struggle by means of some Christian love, seems to me to be only the old method of making Christian love an ambulance drive in the wars of interested and clashing parties. If it is more than that, it is a weakening of the forces whose success we thing necessary for a juster social order. For me the question is one of "either-or"; either the Christian method, which is not the method of love but of repentance and forgiveness, or the method of self-assertion; either nationalism or Christianity, either capitalism-communism or Christianity. The attempt to qualify the one method by the other is hopeless compromise.
I think that to apply the terms "Christian perfectionism" or "Christian ideal" to my approach is rather misleading. I rather think that Dewey is quite right in his war on ideals; they always seem irrelevant to our situation and betray us into a dualistic morality. The society of love is an impossible human ideal, as the fellowship of the organism is an impossible ideal for the cell. It is not and ideal toward which we can strive, but an "emergent," a potentiality in our situation which remains unrealized so long as we try to impose our pattern, our wishes upon the divine creative process.
Man's task is not that of building utopias, but that of eliminating weeds and tilling the soil so that the kingdom of God can grow. His method is not one of striving for perfection or of acting perfectly, but of clearing the road by repentance and forgiveness. That this approach is valid for societies as well as for individuals and that the opposite approach will always involve us in the same one ceaseless cycle of assertion and counter-assertion is what I am concerned to emphasize.
An exchange between brothers on military intervention in the Sino-Japanese conflict of the early thirties; non-involvement vs. involvement, as debated by two famous brothers, both at that time professors of Christian ethics. H. Richard Niebuhr at Yale Theological Seminary and Reinhold Niebuhr at Union College Theological Seminary.
A critique of H. Richard Niebuhr's article, "The Grace of Doing Nothing," in the March 23 issue of The Christian Century.
There is much in my brother's article, "The Grace of Doing Nothing," with which I agree. Except for the invitation of the editors of The Christian Century I would have preferred to defer voicing any disagreement with some of his final conclusions to some future occasion; for a casual article on a specific problem created by the contemporary international situation hardly does justice to his general position. I believe the problem upon which he is working—the problem of disassociating a rigorous gospel ethic of disinterestedness and love from the sentimental dilutions of that ethic which are current in liberal Christianity—is a tremendously important one. I owe so much to the penetrating thought which he has been giving this subject that I may be able to do some justice to his general position even though I do not share his conviction that a pure love ethic can ever be made the basis of a civilization.
He could not have done better than to choose the Sino-Japanese conflict, and the reactions of the world to it, in order to prove the difficulty, if not the futility, of dealing redemptively with a sinful nation or individual if we cannot exorcise the same sin from our own hearts. It is true that pacifists are in danger of stirring up hatred against Japan in their effort to stem the tide of Japanese imperialism. It is true that the very impotence of an individual who deals with a social situation which goes beyond his own powers temps him to hide his sense of futility behind his display of violent emotion. It is true that we have helped to create the Japan which expresses itself in terms of materialistic imperialism. The insult we offered her in our immigration laws was a sin of spiritual aggression. The white world has notoriously taught her the ways of imperialism, but has pre-empted enough of the yellow man's side of the world to justify Japan's imperialism as a vent for pent-up national energies.
It is also true that American concern over Japanese aggression is not wholly disinterested. It is national interest which desires us to desire stronger action against Japan than France and England are willing to take. It is true, in other words, that every social sin is, at least partially, the fruit and consequence of the sins of those who judge and condemn it, and that the effort to eliminate it involves the critics and judges in new social sin, the assertion of self-interest and the expression of moral conceit and hypocrisy. If anyone would raise the objection to such an analysis that it finds every social action falling short only because it measures the action against an impossible ideal of disinterestedness, my brother could answer that while the ideal may seem to be impossible the actual social situation proves it to be necessary. It is literally true that every recalcitrant nation like every antisocial individual, is created by the society which condemns it, and that redemptive efforts which betray strong ulterior motives are always bound to be less than fully redemptive.
My brother draws the conclusion from this logic that it is better not to act at all than to act from motives which are less than pure, and with the use of methods which are less than critical (coercion). He believes in taking literally the words of Jesus, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." He believes, of course, that this kind of inaction would not really be inaction, it would be, rather, the action of repentance. It would give every one involved in social sin the chance to recognize how much he is involved in it and how necessary it is to restrain his own greed, pride, hatred and lust for power before the social sin is eliminated.
This is an important emphasis particularly for modern Christianity with its lack of appreciation of the tragic character of life and with its easy assumption that the world will be saved by a little more adequate educational technique. Hypocrisy is an inevitable by-product of moral aspiration, and it is the business of true religion to destroy man's moral conceit, a task which modern religion has not been performing in any large degree. Its sentimentalities have tended to increase rather than to diminish moral conceit. A truly religious man ought to distinguish himself from the moral man by recognizing the fact that his is not moral, that he remains a sinner to the end. The sense of sin is more central to religion than is any other attitude.
All this does not prove, however, that we ought to apply the words Jesus, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," literally. If we do we will never be able to act. There will never by a wholly disinterested nation. Pure disinterestedness is an ideal which even individuals cannot fully achieve, and human groups are bound always to express themselves in lower ethical forms than individuals. It follows that no nation can ever be good enough to save another nation purely by the power of love. The relation of nations and of economic groups can never be brought into terms of pure love. Justice is probably the highest ideal toward which human groups can aspire. And justice, with its goal of adjustment of right to right, inevitably involves the assertion of right against right and interests against interest until some kind of harmony is achieved. If a measure of humility and of love does not enter this conflict of interest it will of course degenerate into violence. A rational society will be able to develop a measure of the kind of imagination which knows who to appreciate the virtues of an opponent's position and the weakness in one's own. But the ethical and spiritual note of love and repentance can do no more than qualify the social struggle in history. It will never abolish it.
The hope of attaining an ethical goal for society by purely ethical means, that is, without coercion, and without the assertion of the interests of the underprivileged against the interests of the privileged, is an illusion which was spread chiefly among the comfortable classes of the past century. My brother does not make the mistake of assuming that this is possible in social terms. He is acutely aware of the fact that it is not possible to get a sufficient degree of pure disinterestedness and love among privileged classes and powerful nations to resolve the conflicts of history in that way. He understands the stubborn inertia which the ethical ideal meets in history. At this point his realistic interpretation of the facts of history comes in full conflict with his insistence upon a pure gospel ethic, upon a religiously inspired moral perfectionism, and he resolves the conflict by leaving the field of social theory entirely and resorting to eschatology. The Christian will try to achieve humility and disinterestedness not because enough Christians will be able to do so to change the course of history, but because this kind of spiritual attitude is a prayer to God for the coming of his kingdom.
I will not quarrel with this apocalyptic note, as such, though, I suspect many Christian Century readers will. I believe that a proper eschatology is necessary to a vigorous ethic, that the simple idea of progress is inimical to the highest ethic. The compound of pessimism and optimism which a vigorous ethical attitude requires can be expressed only in terms of religious eschatology. What makes my brother's eschatology impossible for me is that he identifies everything that is occurring in history (the drift toward disaster, another world war and possibly a revolution) with the counsels of God, and then suddenly, by a leap of faith, comes to the conclusion that the same God uses brutalities and forces, against which man must maintain conscientious scruples, will finally establish an ideal society in which pure love will reign.
I have more than one difficulty with such a faith. I do not see how a revolution in which the disinterested express their anger and resentment, and assert their interests, can be an instrument of God, and yet at the same time an instrument which religious scruples, forbid a man to use. I should think that it would be better to come to ethical terms with the forces of nature in history, and try to use ethically directed coercion in order that violence may be avoided. The hope that a kingdom of pure love will emerge out of the catastrophes of history is even less plausible than the Communist faith that an equalitarian society will eventually emerge from them. There is some warrant in history for the latter assumption, but very little for the former.
I find it impossible to envisage a society of pure love as long as man remains man. His natural limitations of reason and imagination will prevent him, even should he achieve a purely disinterested motive, from fully envisaging the needs of his fellow men or from determining his actions upon the basis of their interests. Inevitably these limitations of individuals will achieve cumulative effect in the life and actions of national, racial and economic groups. It is possible to envisage a more ethical society than we now have. It is possible to believe that such a society will be achieved partly by evolutionary process and partly by catastrophe in which an old order, which offers a too stubborn resistance to new forces, is finally destroyed.
It is plausible also to interpret both the evolutionary and the catastrophic elements in history in religious terms and to see the counsels of God in them. But it is hardly plausible to expect divine intervention to introduce something into history which is irrelevant to anything we find in history now. We may envisage a society in which human cooperation is possible with a minimum amount of coercion at all—unless, of course, human beings become quite different from what they now are. We may hope for a society in which self-interest is qualified by rigorous self-analysis and a stronger social impulse, but we cannot imagine a society totally without the assertion of self-interest and therefore without the conflict of opposing interests.
I realize quite well that my brother's position both in its ethical perfectionism and in its apocalyptic note is closer to the gospel than mine. In confessing that, I am forced to admit that I am unable to construct an adequate social ethic out of a pure love ethic. I cannot abandon the pure love ideal because anything which falls short of it is less than the ideal. But I cannot use it fully if I want to assume a responsible attitude towards the problems of society. Religious perfectionism drives either the asceticism or apocalypticism. In the one case the problems of society is given up entirely; in the other individual perfection is regarded as the force which will release the redemptive powers of God for society. I think the second alternative is better than the first, and that both elements which must be retained for any adequate social ethic, lest it become lost in the relativities of expediency. But as long as the world of man remains a place where nature and God, the real and the ideal, meet, human progress will depend upon the judicious use of the forces of nature in the service of the ideal.
In practical, specific and contemporary terms, this means that we must try to dissuade Japan from her military venture, but must use coercion to frustrate her designs if necessary, must reduce coercion to frustrate her designs if necessary, must reduce coercion to a minimum and prevent it from issuing in violence, must engage in constant self-analysis in order to reduce the moral conceit of Japan's critics and judges to a minimum, and must try in every social situation to maximize the ethical forces and yet not sacrifice the possibility of achieving an ethical goal because we are afraid to use any but purely ethical means.
To say all this is really to confess that the history of mankind is a personal tragedy; for the highest ideals which the individual may project are ideals which he can never realize in social and collective terms. If there is a law in our members which wars against the law that is in our minds as individuals, this is even more true when we think of society. Individuals set the goal for society but society itself must achieve the goals, and society is and will always remain sub-human. The goal which a sensitive individual sets for society must therefore always be something which is a little outside and beyond history. Love may qualify the social struggle of history but it will never abolish it, and those who make the attempt to bring society under the dominion of perfect love will die on the cross. And those who behold the cross are quire right in seeing it as a revelation of the divine, of what man ought to be cannot be, at least not so long as he is enmeshed in the processes of history.
Perhaps that is why it is inevitable that religious imagination should set goals beyond history. "Man's reach is beyond his grasp, or what's a heaven for." My brother does not like these goals above and beyond history. He wants religion and social idealism to deal with history. In that case he must not state his goal in absolute terms. There can be nothing absolute in history, no matter how frequently God may intervene in it. Man cannot live without a sense of the absolute, but neither can he achieve the absolute. He may resolve the tragic character of that fact by religious faith, by the experience of grace in which the unattainable is experienced in anticipatory terms, but he can never resolve in purely ethical terms the conflict between what is and what ought to be.
An exchange between brothers on military intervention in the Sino-Japanese conflict of the early thirties; non-involvement vs. involvement, as debated by two famous brothers, both at that time professors of Christian ethics. H. Richard Niebuhr at Yale Theological Seminary and Reinhold Niebuhr at Union College Theological Seminary.
It may be that the greatest moral problems of the individual or of a society arise when there is nothing to be done. When we have begun a certain line of action or engaged in a conflict we cannot pause too long to decide which of various possible courses we ought to choose for the sake of the worthier result. Time rushes on and we must choose as best we can, entrusting the issue to the future. It is when we stand aside from the conflict, before we know what our relations to it really are, when we seem to be condemned to doing nothing, that our moral problems become greatest. How shall we do nothing?
The issue is brought home to us by the fighting in the East. We are chafing at the bit, we are eager to do something constructive; but there is nothing constructive, it seems, that we can do. We pass resolution, aware that we are doing nothing; we summon up righteous indignation and still do nothing; we write letters to congressmen and secretaries, asking others to act while we do nothing. Yet is it really true that we are doing nothing? There are, after all, various ways of being inactive, and some kinds of inactivity, if not all, may be highly productive. It is not really possible to stand aside, to sit by the fire, in this world of moving times; even Peter was doing something in the courtyard of the high-priest's house—if it was only something he was doing to himself. When we do nothing we are also affecting the course of history. The problem we face is often that of choice between various kinds of inactivity rather than of choice between action and inaction.
Our inactivity may be that of the pessimist who watches a world go to pieces. It is a meaningful inactivity for himself and for the world. His world, at all events, will go to pieces the more rapidly because of the inactivity. Or it may be the inactivity of the conservative believer in things as they are. He does nothing in the international crisis because he believes that the way of Japan is the way of all nations, that self-interest is the first and only law of life, and that out of the clash of national, out of that of individual, self-interests the greater good will result. His inactivity is one of watchful waiting for the opportunity when, in precisely similar manner, though with less loss of life and fortune, if possible, he may rush to the protection of his own interests or promote them by taking advantage of the situation created by the strife of his competitors. This way of doing nothing is not unproductive. It encourages the self-asserters and it fills them with fear of the moment when the new competition will begin. It may be that they have been driven into their present conflict by the knowledge or suspicion that the watchful waiter is looking for his opportunity, perhaps unconsciously, and that they must be prepared for him.
The inactivity of frustration and moral indignation is of another order. It is the way of those who have renounced all violent methods of setting conflicts and have no other means at hand by which to deal with the situation. It is an angry inactivity like that of a man who is watching a neighborhood fight and is waiting for the police to arrive—for police who never come. He has renounced for himself the method of forcible interference, which would only increase the flow of blood and the hatred, but; he knows of nothing else that he can do. He is forced to remain content on the sidelines, but with mounting anger he regards the bully who is beating the neighbor, and his wrath issues in words of exasperation and condemnation. Having tied his own hands he fights with his tongue and believes that he is fighting because he inflicts only mental wounds. The bully is for him an outlaw, a person not to be trusted, unfair, selfish, one who cannot be redeemed save by restraint. The righteous indignation mounts and mounts, and must issue at last—as the police fail to arrive—either in his own forcible entry into the conflict, despite his scruples, or in apoplexy.
The diatribes against Japan which are appearing in the secular and religious press today have a distressing similarity to the righteously indignant utterances which preceded our conflicts with Spain and with Germany. China is Cuba and Belgium over again; it is the Negro race beaten by Simon Legree. And the pacifists who have no other program than that of abstention from the unrighteousness of war are likely to be placed in the same quandary in which their fellows were placed in 1860, 1898 and 1915, and —unless human attitudes have been regenerated in the interim —they are likely to share the same fate, which was not usually incarceration. Here is a situation which they did not foresee when they made their vow; may it not be necessary to have one more war to end all war? Righteous indignation not allowed to issue in action is a dangerous thing—as dangerous as any great emotion nurtured and repressed at the same time. It is the source of sudden explosions or the ground of long, bitter and ugly hatreds.
If this way of doing nothing must be rejected the Communists' way offers more hope. Theirs is the inactivity of those who see that there is indeed nothing constructive to be done in the present situation, but that, rightly understood, this situation is after all preliminary to a radical change which will eliminate the conditions of which the conflict is a product. It is the activity of a cynicism which expects no good from the present, evil world of capitalism, but also the inactivity of a boundless faith in the future. The Communists know that war and revolution are closely akin, that war breeds discontent and misery, and that out of misery and discontent new worlds may be born. This is an opportunity, then, not for direct entrance into conflict, not for the watchful waiting of those who seek their self-interest, but for the slow laborious process of building-up within the fighting groups those cells of communism which will be ready to inherit the new world and be able to build a classless international commonwealth on the ruins of capitalism and nationalism. Here is inactivity with a long vision, a steadfast hope and a realistic program on non-interfering action.
But there is yet another way of doing nothing. It appears to be highly impracticable because it rests on the well-nigh-obsolete faith that there is a God—a real God. Those who follow this way share with communism the belief that the fact that men can do nothing constructive is no indication of the fact that nothing constructive is being done. Like the Communists they are assured that the actual processes of history will inevitable and really bring a different kind of world with lasting peace. They do not rely on human aspirations after ideals to accomplish this end, but on forces which eliminated slavery in spite of abolitionists. The forces may be as impersonal and as actual as matching production, rapid transportation, the physical mixtures of races, etc., but as parts of the real world they are as much a part of the total divine process as are human thoughts and prayers.
From this point of view, naively affirming the meaningfulness of reality, the history of the world is the judgment of the world and also its redemption, and a conflict like the present one is—again as in communism—only the prelude both to greater judgment and to a new era. The world being what it is, these results are brought forth when the seeds of national or individual self-interest are planted; the actual structure of things is such that our wishes for a different result do not in the least affect the outcome. As a man soweth so shall he reap. This God of things as they are is inevitable and quite merciless. His mercy lies beyond, not this side of, judgment. This inactive Christianity shares with communism also the belief in the inevitably good outcome of the mundane process and the realistic insight that good cannot be achieved be the slow accretion of better habits alone but more in consequence of revolutionary change which will involve considerable destruction. While it does nothing it knows that something is being done, something which is divine both in its threat and in its promise.
This inactivity is like that of the early Christians whose millenarian mythology it replaces with the contemporary mythology of social forces. (Mythology is after all not fiction but a deep philosophy.) Like early Christianity and like communism today radical Christianity knows that nothing constructive can be done by interference, but that something very constructive can be done in preparation for the future. It also can build cells of those within each nation who, divorcing themselves from the program of nationalism and of capitalism, unite in a higher loyalty which transcends national and class lines of division and prepare for the future. There is no such Christian international today because radical Christianity has not arrived as yet at a program and a philosophy of history, but such little cells are forming. The First Christian international of Rome has had its day; the Second Christian international of Stockholm is likely to go the way of the Second Socialist international. There is need and opportunity for a Third Christian international.
While the similarities of a radically Christian program with the Communist program are striking, there are also great dissimilarities. There is a new element in the inactivity of radical Christianity which is lacking in communism. the Christian reflects upon the fact that his inability do any thing constructive in the crisis is the inability of one whose own faults are so apparent and so similar to those of the offender that any action on his part is not only likely to be misinterpreted but is also likely—in the nature of the case—lto be really less than disinterested. he is like a father who, feeling a righteous indignation against a misbehaving child, remembers that this misbehavior is his fault as much as the child's and that indignation is the least helpful, the most dangerous of attitudes to take; it will solve nothing, though it may repress.
So the American Christian realizes that Japan is following the example of his own country and that it has little real ground for believing America to be a disinterested nation. He may see that his country, for which he bears his own responsibility as a citizen, is really not disinterested and that its righteous indignation is not wholly righteous. An inactivity then is demanded which will be profoundly active in rigid self-analysis. Such analysis is likely to reveal that there is an approach to the situation, indirect but far more effective than direct interference, for it is able to create the conditions under which a real reconstruction of habits is possible. It is the opposite approach from that of the irate father who believes that every false reaction on the part of his child may be cured by a verbal physical or economic spanking.
This way of doing nothing the old Christians call repentance, but the word has become so reminiscent of emotional debauches in the feeling of guilt that it may be better to abandon it for a while. What is suggested is that the only effective approach to the problem of china and Japan lies in the sphere of an American self analysis which is likely to result in some surprising discoveries as to the amount of this country and of individual Christians before anything effective can be done in the East.
The inactivity of radical Christianity is not the inactivity of those who call evil good: it is the inaction of those who do not judge their neighbors because they cannot fool themselves into a sense of superior righteousness. It is not the inactivity of a resigned patience, but of a patience that is full of hope and is based on faith. It is not the inactivity of the noncombatant, for it knows that there are no noncombatants, that everyone is involved, that China is being crucified (though the term is very inaccurate) by our sins and those of the whole world. It is not the inactivity of the merciless, for works of mercy must be performed though they are only palliates to ease present pain while the process of healing depends on deeper, more actual and urgent forces.
But if there is no God, of if God is up in heaven and not in time itself, it is a very foolish inactivity.