THE ABUSIVE FATHER OF HYPOCRISY
FROM THE TERRORIST ALMIGHTY
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
In his 1529 missive, ‘On War Against the Turk’, Dr. Martin Luther declared that “to fight against the Turk is the same thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” He said the pope and his court were “all in all, and through all, like God in the world.” They wanted to be the best Christians in the world too; therefore the pope had urged war against the Turks. But these so-called Christians would “endure no evil, suffer neither compulsion nor wrong. I opposed them with this saying of Christ that Christians shall not resist evil, but suffer all things and let all things go.” He said the pope was using the Turkish war as a “conjurer’s hat” to suit his personal agenda. Luther was displeased “that the Christians and the princes were driven, urged, and irritated into attacking the Turk and making war on him, before they amended their own ways and lived like Christians…. If I were a soldier and saw in the field a priests’ banner, or banner of the cross, even though it were a crucifix I should run as though the devil were chasing me.” (Works of Martin Luther, Castle Press 1931)
Luther wanted radical reform of the would-be totalitarian Church, and to that end he fervently advocated the heretical hypocrisies of the protesting cult; for instance: Separate Words from Works, or Church from State, that there be no confusion of office and duties between Church and State.
Carrying self-contradictions to the theological absurdity of God’s mysteries, Luther, personally representing the Almighty, did not forbid Christians to bear arms, and said the Turks would not be so powerful if all soldiers were Christians; yet war with the Turks “is against His doctrine, because He says Christians shall not resist evil, shall not fight or quarrel, not take revenge or insist on rights. It is against His name, because in such an army there are scarcely five Christians, and perhaps worse people in the eyes of God than are the Turks; and yet they would all bear the name of Christ. This is the greatest of all sins and one that no Turk commits, for Christ’s name is used for sin and shame and thus dishonored.”
Now young Luther had been “chastised” or beaten daily by his mother and father and teachers. In effect Luther’s god of love is the author of hate, a god who condones evil by commanding those whom he has made in his image to resist not evil. But a man who ignores evil is good for nothing. Therefore a good Christian man disobeys Christ, who Himself came with sword to sever the members of social bodies such as the family asunder. At least a good man somehow keeps his sword sheathed until he is suitably reformed; and then, bearing the cross of Jesus on his shield, he self-righteously fights fire with fire, evil with evil, until the world is awash in blood and the victors revel in the stench of death. Of course in time of war the war-god’s ministers of hate-based group love will decry the bloodshed.
Notwithstanding the doctrine of love purportedly embodied by Jesus of Christ’s brief visit to planet Earth at the center of the Universe, Luther’s god is a mystery not to be found on Earth except in the terror of his arbitrariness and ambiguity; thus is this god unseen in heaven while the status quo remains on Earth.
At least the time was not meet for a Kingdom of God in his day, so he urged the princes to “stab and kill” his erstwhile supporters, the peasants who marched under the Rainbow Banner, hence 100,000 brethren were slaughtered by well-armed professional soldiers.
So Christians are and are not to bear arms. In either case they will no doubt suffer; and that is as it should be, for the Lord has ordained that He is on high yet is nearest to the broken and crushed. Now the crushed might argue that the Lord is the highest god of the poor oppressed, therefore He should stab and kill the rich, but that is not what Luther had in mind – an exception might be made for rich and powerful Catholics conspiring against Protestants. Be that as it may, Luther suffered his day and his hypocrisy as we suffer our time and our hypocrisy albeit in a different manner – as long as there is a difference between the idea and the real, we will shall be hypocrites. Times do change; one might hope religion would change accordingly and that its role model would be someone besides the Almighty Abusive Father and Terrorist.
Before defending his anti-war position, Luther, whose incitements helped plunge Europe into war for many years, and thus made himself the legendary hero of such Germans as Adolph Hitler, foretold the problem of reliance on his formula for change: “But it is not fair to forget how things stood in the world, and what my grounds and reasons were, and still keep my words and apply them to another situation where those grounds and reasons do not exist. With this kind of art, who could not make the Gospel a pack of lies or pretend that it contradicted itself?”
Indeed! And why not admit that the old good news is as ambiguous, arbitrary, and contradictory as its authors were? Well, the holy fathers have admitted as much, attributed the absurdities to our own ignorance, and praised paradox as “mystery.” Just recently Pope Benedict XVI, Luther’s fellow German and highly regarded theologian, wrote in his book, Jesus of Nazareth that his omnipotent and loving god, to whom faithful adoration was more important than ending hunger and starvation, allows humankind to suffer because “This is the mystery of God and man which we find so inscrutable.”
The great Augustine, the North African whom modern scholars have called “the father of Western intellectualism,” set forth in his ‘Second Discourse on Psalm 33’ (34): “V.19: The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart, and He will save the humble of spirit. God is supreme; let a Christian be humble. If he would have God on high become his neighbor, he, for his part, must be lowly. Brethren, these are great mysteries. God is above all; you exalt yourself and do not get near Him; you humble yourself, and He comes down to you.V.20: Many are the afflictions of the just. Does the Psalmist say: “Let Christians be just and listen to my works, and then they will suffer no affliction”? No, this is not his promise; he says: “Many are the afflictions of the just. The truth is, if men are unjust, they suffer fewer afflictions; if they are just, they suffer many. But after a few afflictions or none at all, the former reach everlasting affliction, from which they will never be delivered: whereas after many afflictions the just received everlasting peace, where they will never suffer any evil. Many are the afflictions of the just, but out of them all will the Lord deliver them.”
St. Augustine was perhaps the first to deliver Christ’s sword to the temporal authority; Luther and young Calvin followed suit. Since Augustine laid down the doctrine with his interpretation of the “sheathing of the sword” scene, many Christians have fought even against each other in the name of the same god, who, it was presumed, deliberately determined which side was just: it is a mystery how that god of just wars differs from the god of chance. Now Solomon advised us not to count on our riches for success in war, yet the rich and powerful do tend to win battles if not the ongoing War. Not to worry: St. Augustine reminds us of the story of poor Lazarus who died in miserable circumstances yet was taken up into Abraham’s bosom; on the other hand, witness the fate of the rich man after his luxurious life:
“What sort of death did this rich man die? What sort of death would a man die in purple and fine linen? How sumptuous, how stately! What magnificent rites were celebrated! With what quantities of spices was that dead body interred! And yet when, tormented in hell, he begged for a drop of water to be let fall upon his burning tongue from the finger of that despises pauper, even this boon he could not obtain. Realize then what The death of the wicked is very evil means; and do not interrogate the couches spread with costly coverlets, and the flesh swathed in all manner of rich wrappings… But ask the Gospel, and it will reveal to your faith the rich man’s soul burning in torments….”
Therefore, in this world, have faith and do not rely on works; do not sacrifice an ox and share it with the oppressed after the Lord and the divines have their portion; no, offer the Lord a virtual sacrifice of a crushed heart, and let the needy feast on the sickly sweet incense of your kind thoughts and prayers. As for the downtrodden: be broken and crushed knowing the Lord is nigh unto you while the ministers of your favorite salvation religion hold out the promise of deliverance in the other world or in the next life or lives as you obediently ascend the chain of being to the Foremost Cause of all this suffering – the First Cause is indeed nigh unto its effects.
That is the good news of old-time religion. It served its organizational purpose in barbarous times; therefore fear the Lord! We creatures of habit are understandably afraid to let go even if custom is killing us. We suppose that if we deny the crude and barbaric god, then no god can exist now or in the future; having accepted authority as necessary for our security, we are unwilling to admit they do not know what they are talking about – or whom, if their god is personal.
The authority of authors, if truth be alive and reasonable instead of dead-letter law, must be progressive good news. Nonetheless, the past is our lesson book; the “church” is still under construction. We must not write Luther off as just another forked tongue. Consider this: if soldiers camp about the holy office to defend the faithful pacifist circle within, then that circle may grow until all are faithful and drink of the same loving cup and eat of the same loaf of bread. In that Age of Love, when the ideal is united with the real, the history of war shall end – some say the end of war will be the death of mankind, the martyrdom of humanity.
But the Last Day may not be upon us any time soon – god only knows the appointed time. In the interim, it appears Luther’s god still reigns over Earth, and we cannot help but to sympathize with the Gnostics who say that god is Satan in disguise. Let the congregation turn to Luther’s mysterious interpretation of Psalm 51 and learn that his god is not the kind of god who wants to frighten the frightened or break the broken even more, but is one who loves the broken, afflicted, and humble…
“Hearts cannot grasp this spiritual wisdom, but when they are crushed by bitterness and sadness, they do not even dare to pray… I have learned now and again how difficult it is in this battle to say, “Lord, help me!” A heart that feels the wrath of God does not see or know anything with which it can comfort or strengthen itself, so absorbed is it in its despair. Therefore I exhort and admonish you, who will one day be the teachers of the church. When minds are in extreme despair, teach them in such a way that they will lift themselves up and dare to hope, because it is written here that hearts which are contrite and humble this way are a most pleasing sacrifice to God, which He prefers to all acts of worship. He expects this worship from all, and for the sake of obtaining this worship he sends pestilences, famine, the sword, and all dangers, so that in our affliction we may hope for divine help. He strikes in order to convert, but we receive the striking in such a way as we turn away from Him… This is what Isaiah says (Is. 9:13): ‘The people did not turn to Him who smote them.’”
Luther does seem to be describing an abusive father or terrorist, the Almighty Abusive Father of Terrorism. The Psalm itself is a beautiful expression of contrition wherein the exiled psalmist seeks a pure heart free of bloodguilt; of course his lord requires no blood or cooked meat during the hard exile; but once the heart is purified, the temple will be restored and the animal sacrifices will be resumed. Naturally, Luther would not have real sacrifices resumed by Christians since he divorces faith (words) from works (food offerings) and embraces faith alone.
No doubt prehistoric man would shake his head over such an insane repudiation of the vital cooking ritual outlined by the cooks around the campfire shortly after fire was harnessed and a table raised up for the lord. The difference between life and death was a frequent topic among the cooks while hunters and warriors were in the field. The so-called primitive man would hardly grasp a symbology which causes one to doubt the real meaning of the food-sharing instructions in the sacred cookbook. He was not a Jew, a Hindu, a Pythagorean quite yet, but he felt some primordial guilt over shedding the blood of animals including the blood of the divine animal – man. The ultimate power over life and death usurped by man must be appeased with the best parts of the kill. The rest is shared to keep the peace. In that context let us examine the Tanakh – Ps. 51:16-21.
“Save me from bloodguilt O God, God, my deliverer, that I may sing forth Your beneficence. O Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth declare Your praise. You do not want me to bring sacrifices; You do not desire burnt offerings; True sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God, You will not despise a contrite and crushed heart. May it please you to make Zion prosper; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will want sacrifices offered in righteousness, burnt and whole offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.”
Finally, since Luther cites Isaiah, we follow suit by quoting verses from Chapter 57, which is pertinent to our discussion of broken and crushed or contrite people: “For thus said he who high aloft Forever dwells, whose name is holy: I dwell on high, in holiness: Yet with contrite and lowly in spirit – Reviving the spirits of the lowly, Reviving the hearts of the contrite. For I will not always contend, I will not be angry forever: Nay, I who make spirits flag, Also create the breath of life. For their sinful greed I was angry; I struck them and turned away in My wrath.”