Sunday, April 22, 2007

Impeachment. Status Confessionis?

At what point does opposition to a regime achieve status confessionis? In other words, when is the integrity of the gospel itself at risk if one fails to speak out against a regime? For the church in Germany during the rise of National Socialism, Barmen represented the recognition that opposition to the Hitler regime was required for the sake of the integrity of the gospel itself. One does not need to fall to the rhetorical depths of comparing the present American administration with Hitler to raise the question, "at what point would outspoken support for impeachment become necessary for the sake of the integrity of the gospel itself?"
When an administration engages in torture, under whatever Orwellian term of art it may employ, at what point must followers of the prince of peace move beyond opposition to torture into outspoken opposition to the administration that enables it? If we follow the Christ who said, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," at what point must we move from opposition to an open-ended war to opposition to those who prosecute it?
At what point does it become a matter of faith to press for impeachment of the president?
Oh, and this is not just a rhetorical question, as I may be asked in the next few days to speak directly to this issue in a very public way.


Johanna-Hypatia said...

I got your invitation to comment here. While waiting to hear Christian responses to the question--a very good question, glad you're asking, hope more people are too-- although I'm not able to address it in terms of the specifically Protestant theology, I can speak to equivalent questions in my own faith.

I made that decision a few years ago. Not only is this witnessing important to my faith-- it was religious action against the war that led directly to my present understanding of my faith, to a personal spiritual rebirth. It has everything to do with why I'm joining you in the NSP. I feel called to join in the spirit of the Barmen Declaration-- interfaith this time.

Enough is enough - but now, it's become: More than enough is too much. Throw the bums out before they make war on Iran for cryin out loud. Vermont has already taken the first step. We can do this. Let's make sure to get Cheney too. Kucinich is on that.

There have been only two impeachments, and both were nothing more than Republicans playing hardball politics against Democrats. Both were stupid. But the Constitution clearly intended impeachment for exactly a crisis like the present. Let's show how to do it right for a change.

Anonymous said...

In the case of Barman it was a group of people who couldn't take any more and so acted. While many of us have demonstrated against the war since before it started that is just free speech with no outcome predicted. Perhaps it is time - this never was a just war, our individual right, as stated in the Constitution have been violated and there is no end in sight. We live in the world, not aloof from what is happening to our country and the world.

Anonymous said...

At what point does it become a matter of faith to press for impeachment of the president? The simple answer to the literal question is “never,” since impeachment is, obviously enough, just a means to an end. And, as we saw during the Clilnton years, it’s a tool that is susceptible to abuse, especially when its misuse is motivated in large part by a “faith-based” brand of morality.

At what point does faith require that the faithful actively oppose the wrongdoing of their civic leader? I guess that depends on the nature of the faith professed. I don’t pretend to know what any particular variety of the Christian faith demands, but I’m certain that the numerous varieties would never agree to one answer. Therein lies the problem with any appeal to Christian faith.

In my book, opposition to the wrongdoing of a civic leader is first, last and always a civic obligation, and while allies motivated by faith are always welcome, they are well advised to ground their opposition in a secular sense of civic duty, one that is far more likely than any faith-based motivation to transcend religious differences and unite the masses. What we need is a peaceful combination of personal conviction and civic action motivated by a strong appeal to attentive, determined reason, not a faith-based call to action that inevitably appeals more to belief than to reason (no matter how reasonably conceived that call may be in the first instance). The risk inherent in such a summons is that its reasonable genesis will ultimately be consumed by faithful invocations that may, in the end, prove more divisive than useful to the civic cause. Appeals to faith inevitably invite the subversion of reason, and this we can ill afford, especially when the object of this particular civic exercise is a chief executive who, in his distorted world view, is as “faith-based” as they come. And he has lots of faith-based friends who may sleep through civic opposition but who love nothing more than a good faith-based fight (what crusader doesn’t?).

Make it a religious battle and lose. Make it a civic cause and win. Are you Machiavellian enough?

Johanna-Hypatia said...

"the numerous varieties would never agree to one answer. Therein lies the problem with any appeal to Christian faith."

Dear Anonymous, that's true of any major religion with a billion-plus people.

I think what works is the appeal to the conscience of the individual as informed by the spiritual and ethical principles they hold deep down.

Christ asked an excellent question, were people made for the Sabbath or was the Sabbath made for people? I extrapolate this to: Is religion the fundamental value, or humanity? I believe the latter, with religion as a means to live a fuller, truer humanity, not the end in itself. Guess that makes me a humanist.

This is why I feel a need for caution concerning multidenominational and doctrinal questions -- I see these matters as more superficial, often obscuring the core values of humanity that all religions share. It's the latter that calls to me, why David's Christian truth awakens a response in my non-Christian heart. Same reason my heart responded to Rabbi Lerner's progressive Judaic values.

I think we should respond based on the honest truth we find in our hearts, not according to what our particular denomination teaches, but that's easy for me to say, being in a faith with no definition of doctrine. I see the point of your criticism, since David's question concerns a specific denominational doctrine. But then following one's conscience even in opposition to the magisterium is the great contribution that Martin Luther gave to the world's religious heritage, and that brings us back to definitions of Protestant theology. I just skip the parts I don't understand and focus on the real question, how do we save humanity from these dangerous madmen. We have to do something.

I agree with you that as Americans we have to ground this action in secular civic principles. It is a secular matter of civics after all. The value of religion is to keep one's conscience in healthy working order, because conscience is the force that drives our action.