Pastoral Letter on “Silence in the Face of Evil”

Dear Church Family,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Bonhoeffer was a Christian pastor, theologian and seminary professor in Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II.  He was a leader of the minority of churches and Christians who stood up to Hitler and Nazism. They issued the “Barmen Declaration” in 1934 as part of their stand.

This is an example of what our congregation has resolved to do in our Future Directions Vision statement: “We intend to be a force, not just a presence, responding to wrongs, threats and destructive forces in the world and effecting positive social change, connecting religion to issues of peace, justice and the care of God’s creation.”

We are seeing extremely powerful individuals and institutions at work in our nation and world right now that are responsible for “wrongs, threats and destructive forces” against “peace, justice and the care of God’s creation.”

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

These wrongs, threats and destructive forces are increasing, and the damage they are causing is already beyond the crisis threshold, with our nation, human civilization and the survival of all living species at stake, and yet many churches and Christians are saying nothing and doing nothing, while many others actively approve the wrongs, repeat the threats and support the destructive forces.

In the face of this situation, so similar to what was happening in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, a leading group of faithful people has issued “Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration.”  I urge you to read it and reflect on how you will respond.

Here is some of what it says:

“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….

“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:

  • Love and compassion
  • Healing of division
  • Promotion and protection of human dignity
  • Stewardship of creation….

“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….

“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.”

You can read the full declaration and sign on if you wish by clicking here.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Thank you for doing your part to help establish the realm of God on earth, including nations that “serve all people and all of creation with the Divine love to which all are entitled.”  I hope we will continue to reflect in the months ahead how our congregation can be “a force, not merely a presence, effecting positive social change for peace, justice and the care of God’s Creation.”  (from our Future Directions Vision as a Unison Reading)

Grace and peace,

Pastor Tom Kinder




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