Facing the Burden of History

by Mark Chmiel

Dorothee Sölle, The Arms Race Kills even without War

This is a short collection of talks (rallies, radio programs) mostly given to German audiences in the days when West Germany still existed. The context for much of these—early 80s—is NATO, the Reagan arms build-up, and the re-activated European (and American—“there are two Americas” is a refrain) peace movement. Later on, her work would peer into the abyss that was Central America, compliments of the Reagan administration.

The following are worth my attention—

How to be a Christian is something you do not learn from books or information packets, but primarily from other human beings. 39

Nothing brings my own aging home to me as clearly as the impossibility of passing on to my children the meaning of Auschwitz for my generation. 14

To pray means to collect ourselves, to reflect, to gain clarity about our direction in life, about our goals for living. It means to remember and in that to achieve  a likeness with God, to envision what we seek for ourselves and for our children, to give voice to that vision loudly and softly, together and alone, and thus to become more and more the people we were intended to be. 23

The Holy Spirit … whets our hunger for truth. It inspires in us what Hegel once called the “audacity to insist on truth.” 27  [She had to mention Hegel!]

Our historical task is the fight for peace and against militarism. That is how we may participate in the liberation struggles of the Third World. 54 [Example: Steve Kelly, S.J.]

The preparation of nuclear holocaust is a crime according to international law and even according to the fundamental constitutional law of the German Federal Republic. 7

Perhaps we need to practice how to say no, the major and the many minor refusals in the hospital, in the barracks, at work, and school. 76

At least three traditional determinants of God as all-knowing, omni-present, and all-powerful should be blown away because they cannot be reconciled with lovingkindness, mercy, and compassion. 17

Does not the burden of history force us to alter our ways of speaking about God, making impossible all superficial theism…? 17

Competitive thinking is practiced in every classroom; the grading system objectifies inequality, making it universally accessible and significant, so that finally inequality is viewed as a natural circumstance. 32

The only way to change anything is to begin with yourself. 84

In religious faith, whatever you may know about others and their relation to God is of no interest: it is up to you! 7

Regarding Vietnam: At first I would not believe that our allies, our liberators, the Americans, would plan and carry out programs which were total annihilation sweeps. I felt as did so many good Germans during the Nazi period. “The Führer does not know about this!” But the Pentagon knew. 21

Is that other America still alive, that America which did, after all, contribute significantly to bringing genocide in Vietnam to an end? 59 … who spoke  a clear “no” to the genocide in southeast Asia with courage and shrewdness, with imagination and “civil valor,” with resistance and civil disobedience. 63

I collect signs of hope, alternative stories, reports of the healing of the blind. 111

—2012

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