Friday, November 15, 2013

Bonhoeffer, Community and Quakerism

"Community" is one of the oft-cited Quaker testimonies.  This morning, in my daily Bonhoeffer ritual,  the writing was about community.  While I often try to adapt some of the language of Bonhoeffer to a less Trinitarian Christian message, this one is a stretch, so I'm going to leave it as is, relying that "Christ" for me means an unabiding love for and deep faith in the goodness of all, and the call to live in grace.  So, here goes:

"Because Christ stands between me and another, I must not long for unmediated community with that person.  As only Christ was able to speak to me in such a way that I was helped, so others too can only be helped by Christ alone.  However, this means that I must release others from my attempts to control, coerce, and dominate them with my love.  In their freedom from me, other persons want to be loved for who they are, as those for whom Christ became a human being, died, and rose again as those for whom Christ won the forgiveness of sins and prepared eternal live.  Because Christ has long since acted decisively for other Christians, before I could begin to act, I must allow them the freedom to be Christ's.  They should encounter me only as the persons they already are in Christ.  This is the meaning of the claim that we can encounter others only through the mediation of Christ.  Self-centered love constructs its own image of other persons, about what they are and what they should become.  It takes the life of the other person into its own hands.  Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person as seen from the perspective of Jesus Christ.  It is the image Jesus Christ has formed and wants to form in all people."  - from Life Together, pg. 43-44

So much of this resonates for what has long attracted me to Quakerism - the belief that there is that of God/innate goodness in all people.  It also reminds me of the Benedictine "radical hospitality" and the Franciscan spirit to sow love where there is anger and to seek to understand rather than be understood, both of which are vital aspects to my own faith and practice - or at least to my faith, and hopefully a part of my practice.

To live with this faith, we must challenge ourselves to resist our impulses to coerce others to see the folly of their ways - political, religious, social - but to instead believe that when we invite others into our lives as they are, and vice-versa allow ourselves to be as we are, we are living our faith.  I have certainly been on the receiving end of this, especially when I have been welcomed in places I did not expect - such as when I lived in the more conservative Wheaton, IL, or when I go to places like the Southeast White House where I am frequently in the minority with regards to my faith (more universalist than Trinitarian), stance on social issues, and sexual orientation.  It is times like this that I really get what Bonhoeffer is talking about here.  I only hope that I can be that I can always be better at doing this for others.

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