A Word from Barth to Our Political Situation
Today, however, I feel compelled to fudge things just a little bit. This post isn’t about politics per se, but it is about what Christians – or, at least, one Christian (Barth) – could say about political reality. For my own part, it seems to me like our contemporary political reality is a particularly striking demonstration of the keenness of Barth’s insight. So, without further ado…
Church Dogmatics 4.1, 446-7:
To live as a man means in effect to be at some point on the long road from the passionate search for a standard by which to judge our own human affairs and those of others, to the discovery of such a standard, its affirmation in the conviction that it is right, the first attempt to apply it to ourselves and to those around, the first successes and failures of this attempt, the hardening of the certainty that this and this alone is the real standard, the more or less happy or bitter experience of the unavoidable conflicts with others and the standards that they have discovered and applied, perhaps the partial triumph of our own law, perhaps partial or total defeat in the attempt to put into it effect, perhaps a final tolerable satisfaction with what has been achieved, perhaps a more or less noble resignation or a more or less conscious skepticism, but always the question whether it has really been worth while, whether we can really and seriously be satisfied with ourselves as the judge of ourselves and others that we willed to be and have been. Again, human life in society, whether on a small scare or a large, means the emergence and conflict, the more or less tolerable harmony and conjunction, of the different judges with their different rights, the battle of the ideas formed and the principles affirmed and the standpoints adopted and the various universal or individual systems, in which at bottom no one understands the language of the others because he is too much convinced of the soundness of his own seriously to want to understand the others, in which, therefore, what will be right as thought and spoken by one will be wrong as received by the others. The battle is between what is supposed to be good and what is supposed to be evil, but in this battle all parties – how can it be otherwise? – think that they are the friends of what is good and the enemies of what is evil. Therefore, quite contrary to the purpose and intention of those who take part in it, the more seriously this battle is waged, the more certainly it will lead to pain and tears and crying, so that at the end we have to ask seriously whether the upshot of it all is not a fresh triumph, not for a supposed evil, but for one which is very real.Sorry for the length, but it is worth it. I tried to highlight some of the more critical sections, but found that more was highlighted than not – which, of course, defeated the purpose.