Friday, 3 May 2013

Buy a book against the luxury of hopelessness

So one of the joys of Germany are the bookshops, and one of the joys of the Kirchentag is the huge bookshop. I love this poster – Faith needs books! Fortunately even with a large suitcase I cannot buy everything I would like, nor should I. But the thing I love about wandering around tables of books I’m not going to buy are the thoughts that just the titles set off, they tend not to be particularly profound.
Yesterday evening I did buy books for my faith, (more about them soon) but I stopped myself buying yet more Dorothee Sölle, though I sense I would love to have her complete poetic works ... (hint it is my 50th birthday later this year) But one title of hers really struck a chord with me “Against the luxury of hopelessness”. How dare we live without hope. Is it the affliction of the well-off to live without hope? Maybe. Perhaps affluent societies, particularly those built on the ethic of competition, with work for many being a desperate experience of social-darwinism. Yet how does telling those who cry out their hopelessness that their cries are a luxury, help them or make help progress. I have neither bought nor read the book ( I feel I ought in honesty to add – yet …) I thought of the hopeless situation in Syria. I thought of my own battles in recent years with a sense of personal hopelessness. Had that tearful and painful battle been a luxury?
Walking away from the temptations of the bookshop, I wondered about the luxury of being hopeless and thought back to that time when I had felt hopelessness so acutely and realised that in many ways I had throughout that time continued to be hope-filled and to continue to hold out hope for others – at least in my preaching. Perhaps some of what I expressed at that time was self-indulgent. 
The Kirchentag theme is “as much as you need” Soviel du brauchst ... perhaps when we indulge in hopelessness then it is a luxury. Many in the world living in truly hopeless situations are busy - getting angry, saving their children, their neighbours, protecting themselves, fleeing and looking for enough food and water to make it through the day. they do not have the luxury of hopelessness.
I suppose the cynical me wonders about the false hope sometimes marketed to us like a commodity. I don't need much of that at all thanks. Enough I am looking forward I sense to another trip to the book tables before leaving Hamburg ... luxuriating in the commodity of buy books about luxury. enough for now.

Remembering feisty lives of those history almost forgot

I'm at the German Protestant Kirchentag in Hamburg. It is as always, brilliant, stimulating, prayerful.
And this is the way it goes, I receive insight from others ...
Dr B attends a Bible study given by Margot Kässmann on the parable of the unjust judge and the widow in Luke 18. Later he tells me about it, brings me the text, telling me not only about the Dorothee Sölle poetry Kässmann interwove into the study, but also talking about the example of Elisabeth Schmitz, who during the years of National Socialism tried repeatedly to convince Karl Barth and others leading the Confessing Church of the need to take up the cause of non-arians in Germany. In 1935 she wrote and published a pamphlet anonymously Zur Lage der deutschen Nichtarier. It was a lucid and sadly prophetic description of what was likely to happen to Jews and others under the National Socilist regime. She sent it to many of the leaders in the Confessing Church. You can read more about her in the German entry on wikipedia and I've quoted in full the passage from Kässmann's Bible study which mentions her at the end of this post.
What moved and shocked me was this - I should know about Elisabeth Schmitz. Decades ago I wrote a dissertation about the Confessing Church and Anti-Semitism. I got a special mention from the jury for what I wrote. Of course that is because at that time my academic adjudicators were as ignorant as I was, few people had heard of Elisabeth Schmitz, copies of what she wrote were just coming to light but were being wrongly attributed to another feisty women of that generation, Marga Meusel. When Schmitz died in 1977, just seven people attended her funeral ...

The witness of so many feisty women and men is lost.
I'm not going to say more, there is no moral to draw from this story, but I am thankful for the researcher's who have brought her writing and action back to us. That speaks to me of resurrection.

Here is the quote from Kässmann's Bible Study yesterday. Perhaps I should add that Bible study in this Kirchentag context was for 7,000 people.
Vor 80 Jahren ergriffen die Nationalsozialisten unter Adolf Hitler die Macht in Deutschland. Eine beispiellose Vernichtung aller Errungenschaften von Humanität und Aufklärung, von Menschenrechten und Religionsfreiheit sollte folgen. Wenige gab es, die das früh erkannten. Ein Beispiel ist für mich Elisabeth Schmitz.
Von 1933 bis 1936 korrespondierte sie mit Karl Barth und versuchte, ihn zu einer Stellungnahme zur so genannten „Judenfrage“ zu bewegen, was dieser aber ablehnte. Im September 1935 verfasste sie ein Memorandum, in dem sie forderte, dass die Bekennende Kirche sich für die entrechteten Juden einsetzen sollte. Sie schrieb unter anderem: „In einer kleinen Stadt werden den jüdischen Kindern von den anderen immer wieder die Hefte zerrissen, wird ihnen das Frühstücksbrot weggenommen und in den Schmutz getreten! Es sind christliche Kinder, die das tun, und christliche Eltern, Lehrer und Pfarrer, die das geschehen lassen!“
Sie wollte den Text auf der dritten Synode der Bekennenden Kirche 1935 vorlegen, aber die Synode beschäftige sich nicht mit der „Judenfrage“. Als Elisabeth Schmitz 1977 verstarb, waren sieben
Menschen bei ihrer Beerdigung ...
Offenbar hat auch diese Frau genervt. Die Kirchen als Institutionen haben in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus versagt, als es darum ging, die Verfolgten, zuallererst die Juden, aber ebenso Kommunisten, Homosexuelle, Zwangsarbeiter, Zeugen Jehovas und viele andere zu schützen. Selbst die Bekennende Kirche. In ökumenischer Gemeinsamkeit aber haben viele Christinnen und Christen Widerstand geleistet gegen Willkür und Unrecht. Das ist ermutigend. Nicht nachlassen. Weiter beten! Und weiter denken!