This is no small story. The leaders of Germany today are a generation or two removed from the cloud of 1933 dictatorship and allegiance to one man or institution but not ignorant of the dangers of autocracies. Yes, you can have religious or political autocracies – or even more dangerous, when they are one and the same. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some perhaps sincerely well-intentioned. Unchecked individual power as a form of religious or political leadership has proven to be vulnerable to unfathomable evil in the name of good intentions.
German churches (priest) are standing up against church doctrine. They are not silent as some were in 1933. Not this time: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57055162. This little story in the BBC is not so little. Consider that “Germany is no stranger to schism: 500 years ago, Martin Luther launched the Reformation here.” This story has wings and several news agencies recognize the magnitude of this story: https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/toledo/ap-top-news/2021/05/10/german-catholics-to-bless-gay-unions-despite-vatican-ban.
The article above does point out that Pope Francis has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as a “synodal path.” The movement though has the supports of German lay people and many priest. “In Berlin, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese preparing adults for baptism and helps out at the St. Canisius congregation, will lead blessings for queer couples at a worship service May 16.”
No Nazi gas chambers and LGBTQ recognition and acceptance are not equitable on the surface. They are very far apart on the continuum of intolerance, persecution, and genocide. But they share the being on the continuum. Anti-Jew sentiments were present decades prior to these sentiments were turned into denial of human rights to the Jewish people and the atrocities that followed:
“Though persecution of Jews has a history of at least two millennia, the late-19th
and early-20th century witnessed a high-water mark in hatred against Jews,
especially in western Christian societies. In essence, Hitler was handed a loaded gun ready to fire – and he did not hesitate to use it. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0192512104038166)
A steady drum beat of increasing micro-aggressions carried out by everyday people one day ignited by a Hitler wrapped in fabricated nationalism, enforced with promises of glory and fear of loss of life or liberty if you were not on board.
Hitler used philosophy and religious ideas to ferment loyalty. The Catholic Church stance on LGBTQ issues is and will be used against LGBTQ people no matter how nuanced the words are by the Congregation of The Faith writings or the Pope himself.
But what about church teaching today? No disciple of the Catholic Church would argue that our institution of faith has been fast or evenly timely to adjusting Church teachings when it was so clearly necessary. The history of church Synods proves that the life of Jesus Christ and what Christ’s teaching meant was never a static interpretation. Heroes and villain’s are everywhere in Christian history – sometimes the villain’s of yesterday are later proven to be the heroes of today. This is not an anomaly specific to Christianity.
Are the participating German priest heroes or villains? From afar I think they are heroes assuming they are standing up for accepting LGQTQ individuals as whole and equal human beings in the eyes of God and mankind. They are breaking ground for an institution that is not ready for this radical acceptance of individuals that differ radically from accepted Christian thought on gender identity and expression.
Scott T. Allison wrote an article called “Heroic Lag: The Time It Takes Society To Catch Up With Its Heroes.” He describes the long history of how heroes were once villains for their ideas – only recognizance later in life, or more commonly, post-humorously. Society needed time to catch up to their radical ideas – in the meantime they were anathema! His article finishes with the following condemning line of the American system: The American two-party system creates an in-group versus out group mentality in which ones party affiliation often determines one’s position on the issues. Tribal deliberations are rarely a good route to resolve ambiguity. Such delineations only increase heroic lag and prolong cultural suffering.”
The idea of cultural suffering is too watered down for me. Tribal deliberations on “ambiguous topics” are often used as weapons to oppress, demonize, and persecute people. And for most Christians understanding gender identity, gender expressions, science of anatomy and genes, and even the history of early Christian writings and the origins of Christian thought in this area is very ambiguous minus a few comforting catch phrases or scripture phrases taken out of context.
Imagine Germany, the home to one of the largest genocides in history, a nation know for its commitment to law and order, being ahead of America in embracing and standing up for radical change? Don’t imagine – it is real in this instance.
Uncomfortable questions if you accustomed to blindly accepting religious or political ideology of a faith or party that you inherited based solely – for the most part, on where you were born and what circumstances you inherited.
Like science and philosophy, Religion is not immune to development and necessary correction. We are not the same people Christ visited 2000 years ago. We have evolved, painfully slowly, and so to must our spiritual understanding of Christ and humanity. And we continue to take steps backwards.
Germany has come along way: “Human rights in Germany enjoy a high level of protection, both in theory and in practice, and are enshrined in the Grundgesetz. The country has ratified most international human rights treaties. Reports from independent organizations such as Amnesty International certify a high level of compliance with human rights, while still pointing out several issues, in particular police brutality and mistreatment of refugees. The 2008 Freedom in the World report by US-funded Freedom House gives Germany a score of “1” (the best possible) for both political rights and civil liberties.”
“Human Rights watch gives us Americans a bad grade and recent lost ground under Trump: In 2019, the United States continued to move backwards on rights. The Trump administration rolled out inhumane immigration policies and promoted false narratives that perpetuate racism and discrimination; did not do nearly enough to address mass incarceration; undermined the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; further weakened the ability of Americans to obtain adequate health care; and deregulated industries that put people’s health and safety at risk.”
I am wondering how our great cathedrals and churches cast their shadows on secular society. As people walk outside them everyday they cannot see the beautiful light of suns rays through the artisan glass on the insides of these large cavernous buildings. The light, the art, the symbolism of aiming for a higher spiritual plane are out of reach – even for many of those that enter the church doors by accident or with spiritual intention.
It is too confusing for some. No church has successfully presented itself as spiritually coherent – despite centuries of trying, they seem to only become increasingly debilitated by edifices of grand words and rhetorical argument.
Within the blizzard of theological writings, under the rays of the colored glass, in the quiet spaces there are answers for individuals and for nations – if only we can listen and have the courage to express radical love when it is needed. The nation states and religious institutions will not change unless the few brave being the voice of the unpopular.
Perhaps acts of spiritual or political dissent can be the highest form of faith or patriotism – when well informed and acted on for the greater good for all. You know the real thing when you see it. That person radiates light and quiet confidence. They are not seeking your approval or validation. They are not seeking their own glory or fighting for their own cause. They simply are doing what is intrinsically the right thing to do.
You may not know their name today. History may remember them more kindly. They do not care. Somehow they have reached a plateau where they know their actions, whether successful or not, will contribute to the spiritual arch that is man’s destiny – beyond the greatest distances that sound, light, or our imaginations can travel, to a place with no flags.