procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Monday, June 23, 2008

an important quote about a man you don't know.

Barmen helped the church seek to be a faithful community of witness and service, but it did not require it to develop a prophetic, "watchman" or public theological role, shaping the moral and spiritual architecture of civilisation. [...] it distanced itself equally from all social theories and political systems. In asserting that the gospel stands far beyond all forms of human wisdom, Barmen limited the church's capacity to develop modes of discourse and social convictions necessary for creative participation in society.*
you may not know who Barmen is. in fact, it's maybe better if you don't. the question is one of relevance. what is the church? what does it seek? from what does it distance itself from? from what does it shirk from discussing, interacting with?

at my old church, i was really excited at the 'untouchable' series we did every year, as we do exactly what the quote above maintains of Barmen. it was a great testimony to God as we saw many people from the community drawn not to an irrelevant piece of architecture from another age, but to a church that speaks the truth in love.

* quote from Revisiting the church in socialism. Max L. Stackhouse, in Christian Century, 115 no 25 S 23-30 1998. p867

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you may not know who [sic] Barmen is. in fact, it's maybe better if you don't."

I know where Barmen is, and I know a few things that happened there.
However, I have no idea who it is named for (I assume that's what you meant).

10:11 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

thanks for writing anon.

i'm actually quite embarassed now - you actually picked up on what i missed, although i now see Barmen isn't so much a who, nor a where, but a what!

that's what happens when you skim-read read 20 articles one after another, and then you find an interesting quote like the one i posted.

so it seems Barmen (spellt Barman once in the article!) was a document written during the rise of the NSPD, "opposing Hitler's violation of the Church's autonomy [yet] had nothing to say regarding his violation of human rights, the persecution of the Jews, the philosophy of the German superiority and the preparation for a world war."

it appears it was a governing statement written by or for the church, in thinking how it was to relate to the church. the whole context of the article is really hard to grasp, although it does seem that Bonhoeffer was either working from it, or helped write it, or something like that.

i did think it was an interesting quote, as it tries to state how the church may behave under certain circumstances (in Barmen's case, under an increasingly totalitarian rule), the compromises it makes, the role it holds and maintains for itself. i thus wonder whether in the far less scary circumstances we find ourselves in today, whether "the church" likewise limit our areas of engagement, thus forfeiting our call to be the prophetic watchman.

so, anon - can you fill me in on this mischievous Barmen? does my more thorough reading make sense of what Barmen might indeed be?

(i'd really appreciate your input!)

12:14 am  

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