BARMEN TODAY: A CONTEMPORARY CONTEMPLATIVE DECLARATION
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“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Printed below is Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration. A statement of common purpose in a time of dire common need, Barmen Today expresses a resolute commitment to equality, dignity, and opportunity for each and every living being, no exceptions, offered in love and the belief that we humans are capable of more than we’ve achieved so far in fulfilling the spirit of each of our faith traditions as well as the American dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all.
We hope you will read Barmen Today and join us in support of it.
It is our hope that you and others will gently, thoughtfully, and contemplatively share Barmen Today with your friends, talk about it, post it in your office, write about it, discuss it in small groups, incorporate it in your daily meditation and/or prayer practices.... It is our hope that you will help us move, one soul at a time, from a place of division, hatred and discord to a place of greater awareness, understanding and dialogue; to a place loving and tolerant enough to include and transcend our many differences; to a place where we live united by our common humanity.
Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Cynthia Bourgeault, Lee Clasper-Torch, Leslye Colvin, Mary Ann Evans, James Finley, Roy Hoagland, Louise McClelland, Scott McClelland, David Morris, Enrique Otero, Donelle Poling, Richard Rohr, Wendy Shafer, Susan Stocker, Jan Taylor, Amari Verástegui
The signatories above are either faculty or students of the Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation.
“Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze, but as they sway, they connect at the roots.” – Rumi
A CONTEMPORARY CONTEMPLATIVE DECLARATION
History is filled with moments which demand words and actions to define fundamental values and commitments. Such moments require not only humble introspection consistent with contemplative practice but also the concurrent courage to speak prophetically, consistent with such practice.
In 1934 in Germany, at a time when humanity faced the threats of the tyrannical and evil power of Nazism, when the state church of Germany affirmed the actions and leadership of its nation to ensure its place of privilege in society, not all voices of opposition remained silent. Those signing the Barmen Declaration spoke out as an act of “divine obedience” in resistance to the church’s unconscionable moral compromise, proclaiming their allegiance to a Truth greater than temporal politics.
Time has revealed the Barmen Declaration to be a significant confessional document, a historical statement defining fundamental values and commitments.
In contemporary America, we face parallel threats and affirmations as prominent and privileged leaders of America’s Christian churches choose to closely and publicly support the policies and actions of our nation’s leadership – policies and actions irreconcilable with the pursuit of peace and justice. Many of these policies and actions demean people of color, support hate-filled speech from white supremacists, ostracize gender minorities, demonize refugees and immigrants, and ignore climate change realities. These policies and actions embolden others to act similarly; polarize people within and beyond this nation; falsely cloak nationalism, fascism, and racism in words of universal beliefs and values, distorting and undermining the very bases of many faiths, not the least of which is what it means to be Christ-affirming.
As contemplatives of diverse ancestries, traditions, and faiths, we hold in common our witness to:
o Love and compassion
o Healing of division
o Promotion and protection of human dignity
o Stewardship of creation
In so holding, we honor and cherish the inherent Divinity existing within all of creation.
Our intention is to stand in unanimity and non-violent resistance to the very real threats to that which we hold in common. Recognizing that actions of tribalism, fascism, isolationism, and similar divisive initiatives are now happening throughout this world, as citizens of this nation, together, we seek to provide a common message to reject and resist the policies and actions of our nation and its leaders when they run counter to our common holdings.
As contemplatives of diverse faiths, we may and must speak with one voice in this matter today. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” warned Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Precisely because we want to remain faithful to both the Divine which we seek to understand and the Love which we seek to live, we choose to not be silent. We choose to speak and act.
We have a common message in this time of common need:
o To the extent that our government affirms the basic dignity of all people and works deliberately to provide equal access to law, economic opportunity, education, healthcare, and a healthy environment, we will be loyal citizens. But to the extent it promotes factionalism, racism, fascism, unequal treatment in law enforcement, gender bias, or harm to the poor, the oppressed, the disadvantaged, the unwanted, the refugee, and the environment, we declare that we will non-violently reject and resist.
o Our security comes not from gun ownership or military might; it does not come from oppression of the many for the enrichment of the few; it does not come from degrading others who are unlike ourselves. As contemplatives of many faiths, we seek the welfare of all our brothers and sisters, including those of differing perspectives and opinions. But to the extent that current policies and actions demand allegiance to the tyranny of the privileged and the few, we declare we will non-violently reject and resist.
o We seek to speak the truth in love and to challenge the prevailing ideological and political convictions which do not align with the Divinity of love. We understand that free speech, pursuit of happy and healthy living, and freedom of religion lay in the Constitutional foundation of this nation’s history and in our hopes of securing and protecting the dignity of all humanity. We believe in the full and equal exercise of these rights by all people. To the degree that our leaders shun these rights and their equal exercise, we declare we will non-violently reject and resist.
o We embrace separation of the powers of Church and State and urge all to continue to embrace it. And while individuals may vote as their conscience dictates, it is blatantly false to proclaim that any elected or appointed leader of this nation, including the President, represents more than a person charged with the duty to serve all of the people of this nation; it is blatantly false to proclaim that he is anointed or especially chosen of God to lead this nation; it is blatantly false to conclude that he is somehow above the constraints of moral and legal scrutiny. To such positions, we declare we will non-violently reject and resist.
Therefore, the undersigned hereby commit to avail themselves of contemplative, non-violent action and ask spiritual and faith leaders and followers across the United States to join us in works of “divine obedience” in resistance against current and future policies and actions which marginalize any human being of any color, class, race, religion, disability, or gender; which threaten the stewardship of creation; which embrace evil rather than good and hate rather than love. We ask you to reject and resist the words, policies, and actions of exclusion, denigration, hatred, fascism, and nationalism.
We invite all who are able to support Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration to hold it in a circle of unity of faith, hope, and love, and to stand steadfast in non-violently rejecting and resisting until our nation chooses to serve all people and all of creation with the Divine love to which all are entitled.
Nothing has ever been more imperative.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE
We invite you to use Barmen Today as a way to engage in contemplative practice to increase compassion and decrease suffering, both for yourself and others. Contemplative practices come in many shapes and forms, all of which provide access to communion, connection, and increased awareness. Activist contemplative practices include bearing witness to social justice issues and generative practices include varieties of prayer. Tonglen is an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. To see a guided explanation of Tonglen, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM
HISTORY ON THE BARMEN DECLARATION
To learn more about the historical event of the signing of the original Barmen Declaration, in 1934, see the following.
The Theological Declaration of Barmen
This document, from the Confessions of the Presbyterian Church USA (October 2012) contains some history, analysis, and the entire Declaration.
5 Minutes in Church History: The Barmen Declaration
This November 2014 audio snapshot of the Barmen Declaration provides a short summary of the history and its content, including the role of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the prelude to the creation of the Declaration.
If you have any questions or wish to share any thoughts concerning Barmen Today, please email us: BarmenToday@gmail.com.
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