martes, 27 de julio de 2010

Nordic Cultures (II)

from guilt. Lutheranism has been instrumental in the process of bringing persons to a true re-pentance and a true reception of forgiveness, liberating us from guilt so we can really do good deeds by loving others, treating them as ends in themselves.

Protestant persons from Northern Europe have a much better basis for performing good deeds if they choose to be human dignity-oriented persons.


V. Universal Priesthood

Luther’s teaching concerning the universal priesthood of G-d’s children is extremely important in the process of giving purpose and meaning (in Viktor Frankl’s terms) to the vocation every per-son has. In this way, Lutheranism has enabled persons to see their daily work as one they com-mit themselves to with a primary motivation; that is, they work because that work has meaning and importance by itself. It is sad when persons work on their jobs only with a secondary motiva-tion, that is, just because it is useful for something else that is desirable to them, and not be-cause that task is relevant in itself. We spend so many hours at work that we really need to do it with a primary motivation; this is instrumental in the process of bringing fulfilment to our lives. Persons with certain disabilities like myself have great difficulties in doing things only by a sec-ond-rank motivation. We can only maintain a job if we can work in it moved by a primary motiva-tion. So this Lutheran teaching means the world to us. We do our job because it is a service to G-d, because it is the work of a priest. All jobs are to be done in a priestly service. Universal priest-hood is also important because it makes of each individual a human dignity-oriented law-giver, exercising ecclesiastical magisterium.


VI. That human dignity present in a crisis of faith

As I have shown in other text, many Northern persons have worked in the human dignity-oriented task of elaborating new understandings of G-d that make sense even for persons who live amongst a crisis of faith or who think they have lost all faith. It is so because a person-in-herself, alone, in anomy, is a person in a crisis of faith, detached from all beliefs or traditions that may label a person, and so she is a person that is not member of any group, including religious collectives. A person which has no Church a priori (that is, in a scale of values that places the Church above human dignity) is a person-abandoned-in-herself, thus a person that the only thing she has is human dignity, nothing more. So thanks to anomy Northern individuals oriented to human dignity have made an instrumental contribution in the road to human dignity.

This state of being axiologically detached of any a priori faith or group is the basis for an authen-tically human dignity-oriented life and thus for an authentic faith and commitment to a Church. Our individual commitment to human dignity can only be meaningful if we individually choose to commit our-selves to human rights; that is, an authentic commitment to human dignity is based not in an a priori structure, but in an authentic choice that comes from our deep selves. We choose human dignity NOT because we are (a priori) part of a righteous group, but because we choose to open ourselves to receive G-d’s forgiveness and grace (the modern explanation for this openness to G-d’s grace is openness to be ruled and guided in our lives by the commitment to human rights).

There are only really two branches in Judaeo-Christianity: fundamentalist Judaeo-Christianity (integrated by those for whom there are things which are more important than human rights and dignity –the “will of G-d, the Bible or whatever) and that Judaeo-Christianity for whom there is nothing more important than human rights and dignity.

In order to make an authentic commitment to human rights, we need to base our lives in an axiological anomy, that is, by considering ourselves as essentially separated of any idea, faith, group or Church. The commitment to worldwide human dignity must be the only basis of our life. Inside this essential loneliness (separation from ideas and groups) Christ is born in us, that is, in our evaluative detachment from everything that is not human dignity.

Erich Fromm (also a German-speaking person who worked in an understanding of G-d meaning-ful for those that consider themselves Atheists) explained the concept of G-d of Exodus 3 in these detachment terms. He adduced that the Biblical concept of G-d means basically the opposition to “idolatry”. “Idolatry” here amounts to whatever violates human rights, or whatever legitimizes this violation. G-d is born in this separation from idolatry. This detachment is the place of human dignity.

Inside this loneliness we have talked about is born -out of a personal choice for grace- an au-thentic commitment to human rights. Human rights are chosen as the basis of our life because they are meaningful in themselves, because we decide that nothing is more important than hu-man dignity. This commitment is the basis of our life, and what moves us to build an identity.


VII. Towards a Northern Identity

How to build a life committed to human dignity? We can illustrate this by drawing a scale that develops the process of building an identity committed to human dignity. We can enumerate these steps beginning with the most important ones:

1- Human dignity as the core of the individual’s life. We do NOT belong a priori to any commu-nity, tradition or faith. Thus we have, from an axiological point of view, no sense of belonging, and so axiologically we also live in anomy, without being part of any religion or culture. Using the example of the German Vaihinger’s as-if philosophy, we live as-if we had no sense of belonging, as-if we were not part of any society, faith nor culture. So we do not support unconditionally any faith, nation, culture, organization or faith. Nothing is deemed more important than justice.

2- We take from each culture what is relevant in order to lead a life committed to human dignity. In this sense we are multicultural, inspired by that text of Isaiah 6:3 that tells us that all the earth if full of G-d’s glory. This means that in any part of the world we may find things that are valuable to human dignity. Being multicultural does not mean that we belong to an international culture nor use a language just because it is the international language. If the Spanish Phillip II -of detested Pagan memory- would have triumphed in his attempt to conquer Britain, probably today’s international language would be Spanish. Nevertheless, this would not mean that we had the duty to use the international language of Spanish, nor to feel we are part of Spanish culture. We belong to, we are part of, human dignity, not of any international faith, language nor culture.

3- From the whole cultural ensemble, from all the sources of inner-tools for a life committed to human rights, in order to work in our identity, we give priority to that single culture through which we can make a better contribution to worldwide human dignity. This culture that has prior-ity should be the source of most of the individual’s identity. Nordic persons can find (and so many of them must find their priority culture in Lutheranism and in the positive aspects of North-ern cultures).

Professor and Rabbi Eugene Borowitz’s thought might be interpreted as if he had worked in an understanding of the Biblical Covenant that shapes a worldview where the daughter or son of a Jewish woman sees herself as a person who is a priori member of the Jewish people, and who thus has the duty to give her personal contribution to the world through his commitment to the Jewish people. We have already explained why we reject such a misunderstanding of Borowitz’s thought. There is nothing more important than human rights, and we are loyal to them even if that loyalty may eventually command us to do righteous things that may endanger Jewish sur-vival. For example, if in the times of the Macabees the majority of the Jewish people would have turned to Paganism and used violence to force those people loyal to human rights to abandon their commitment to the only one G-d, and if the only way out (in order to protect freedom to choose G-d’s message) would be a civil war, then we would have had to fight, even if this civil war would have endangered the much-cherished Jewish survival. It is a violation of human dig-nity to see ourselves as a priori members of a group, just as so many people do: they choose to be American or European before (with preference to) the commitment to human rights. I think that Rabbi Borowitz would share our understanding of human rights if he could read this text. What Rabbi Borowitz would have had emphasized then is something very important for a life committed to human dignity: He would have probably said that, in order to live a fulfilled life committed to justice, human beings have the need not only of being persons committed in ab-stract to the cause of human dignity, but humans also need to be active members of a single culture committed to human rights. This culture will provide individual and social resilience-sources that will enable the person to build a committed life despite all the unfair pain that is in the world. Through this involvement in a human dignity-oriented culture, we can find healing for our inner-wounds, strength for continuing forward in the years-long process of the struggle for human dignity, meaning & purpose for life (in Viktor Frankl’s terms) and peace. (How can we find inner-healing in a culture committed to human rights? Persons find inner-healing through art; “art” should be understood here in its broad sense, which includes participation in meaningful services in which its core is love to the neighbour. By immersing herself plainly in a work of art -such as a righteous religious service: G.ttesdienst- the person finds inner-healing and strength: resilience. Art is the typical element of a culture). This choosing of a culture to which we attach a priority does not imply any patriotism or chauvinism, nor closing ourselves to the lessons and resources that the other cultures have to give us in order to enable us to build a life committed to righteousness. This single important culture is the vessel from which our contribution to worldwide human dignity will flow like a river of healing waters.

My personal conviction is that Northern Europe persons committed to human dignity do have the ethical duty of choosing Nordic cultures as this single important culture to which they must give priority. My innermost conviction is that Northern persons do have the ethical duty to remain or become persons committed to a Protestantism oriented to human rights, and thus to the Protes-tant faith. Only by been loyal to a Protestantism oriented to justice are Northern persons able to give their best contribution to the world. So, please, dear reader, please become an active Prot-estant!

Rabbi Borowitz makes the mistake of thinking that the non-Jew (Noakhide) does not have the ethical duty of considering himself a person that has a priority of making a contribution to that single culture through which his contribution to worldwide human dignity can be more effective. Rabbi Borowitz, by error, forgot Gentiles. Rabbi Shaul (“Saint Paul”) rightly understood that Gen-tiles committed to justice are actually members of G-d’s people, a covenanted people. Neverthe-less, Borowitz’s legacy to Northern persons is great, and would be even greater if he were to write addressing Northern particular circumstances and responsibilities to the world.

Kaplan has taught us that an effective commitment to justice is a commitment shared by a group of people who decide to work together. (In our perspective we say that the commitment to hu-man dignity is a radically individual commitment, but one that at the same time to moves us to share this commitment with others, making thus this commitment also a collective one). This collective commitment is not suddenly born, but is the process of an intergenerational working process. The fact that we enjoy today a greater respect for human rights than the ones before (for example, Nietzsche explained what Paganism is really like: the culture of oppression, and thus he begged for a return to those tyrannical days) is not something that just happened by a sudden revelation. On the contrary, it has been a long process that began several millennia with what latter became the Jewish people.

Countries in Northern Europe do have a fuller respect for human dignity. In fact, our understand-ing of it is rooted in Martin Luther. Northern cultures enjoy half a millennium of life inspired by this understanding of human dignity. So this commitment has shaped & configured Northern cultures much more than other cultures, for example, Latin American cultures. If human dignity is to survive, it does need that Nordic persons remain loyal to their culture and to Protestantism. Without Northern cultures, the world would loose the greatest witness of human dignity, and so it would loose a key ingredient for the advancement of human rights. Persons who have been raised in Northern countries do have the duty of remaining loyal to Nordic cultures and to Protes-tantism. For these persons it really makes sense to live in countries in Northern Europe no matter the positive qualities Latin America has (that is, been Latin America a place where a great num-ber of persons and institutions committed to human dignity may be found). There are persons and institutions committed to human rights, including many Churches.

In fact, Protestantism is the culture of human dignity. This does not mean to deny the fact that most of those who call themselves Protestants are not really Protestants, and even those who are really Lutherans have to struggle against that evil that lives inside each person, and they do often sin, that is, deviate from the commitment to human rights. What I am trying to say is that there is a minority of Protestants who are committed to justice, and this minority is what makes cul-tures of Northern Europe be different from the other cultures of the world, because in this sense Northern cultures can do much for Protestantism, which is the culture of human dignity.

I am using the term “culture”, but we could also say “religion”. I chose the former concept be-cause “religion” should be understood in a sense that is different of the one that is usually used. “Religion” is not a creed, nor a group of ideas about the afterlife. In fact, you can be truly reli-gious and not believe in an afterlife as did most of the people in the time of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Let us remember Erich Fromm’s concept of G-d as that that is opposed to violations of human rights. If we understand G-d in this way, then “religion” becomes what it truly is, that is, the commitment to human dignity. “Religion” as we have just explained is not something we do in chapels, but it incorporates the whole of our lives and all our decisions: from the moment we wake up in the morning until what we do before falling asleep. “Religion” con-tains the morals of human rights, but also includes what we do at work and in our free time, because everything we do must be oriented to lead a life committed to justice. So I think that the term “culture of human dignity” is useful for describing what religion is really like. Kaplan used the term “religious civilization” in a somewhat similar sense we are referring here to “culture”.

NGO’s have recognized that what we do really need today is a culture of solidarity, that is, not only righteous deeds, but a whole culture that will make possible more and more of these deeds. Lutheranism is really this culture of solidarity.

Latin American Theology is really an application of that Christian Socialist movement born inside Protestantism in the XIXth Century. G-d’s last revelation is seen in all those groups committed to justice, not only in this Latin American Theology. This Theology is really a product of the Protes-tant commitment to social justice. So there is great meaning attached in the fact of living in Northern Europe. It is these countries where today’s commitment to human dignity was born. Nevertheless, it is not only in the past where we can find the strength of Lutheranism. The uni-versal commitment to human rights does need a Protestant revival in Northern Europe, and more and more people committed to human dignity and thus to the positive aspects of Northernc cul-tures, including Protestantism.

4- According to the cities or places where a person is able to live in, she should choose that local-ity where he can make a better contribution to worldwide human dignity according to the individ-ual’s characteristics, talents and needs. The person should evaluate the three different sources of meaning in life according to Frankl, and decide which is the place where these sources can be met in a better way in conformity to the cause of justice. This choice of a locality has also influ-ence in the individual’s identity. These same criteria are to be used in order to choose a local Church to join. If the person has influence in the decision concerning to which denomination should the local Church become affiliate, the denomination to be chosen should be that one through which the local congregation can make a better contribution to human dignity.


VIII. A Northern life in Latin America

Some Latin Americans think that the roots of evil are the international social structures that make possible a great wealth for some, and an indifference to the death of so many persons by under nourishment or other violations of human rights. However, the root of evil is not the whole of these unfair international structures of creation-and-distribution-of-wealth. Lutheran contribution is to emphasize that this root is what makes those structures possible, that is, the evil that re-sides in the heart of individuals, by choosing not to struggle against the human tendency to un-fairness, that is, to violate human dignity by treating others as means to our desires, and not as ends in themselves. This is what the Bible really calls “sin”. Lutheranism has shifted the emphasis and has placed it in the right place, and thus has found the authentic way for creating a fair world by freeing us from sin.

By the way, Costa Rica has an interesting role to develop in the scheme of things. It is a country with an interesting democratic and social justice-history. At the same time, it is a country that cannot escape from been in such an increasing way a home for so many aliens. In fact, the per-centage of foreigners in Costa Rica is enormous. As a country committed to liberty and social justice, it is a privileged experimental point for openness to aliens, a mirror in which First World countries may see their future in what concerns been a home for foreigners who share other cultures. Persons from Northern Europe who live in Latin America may unite two different streams of the commitment to human rights: individualistic human dignity, and social justice-oriented Theology.

From what we have previously explained in this document, we can say that the majority of the persons who live in Nortehern countries do have the moral duty of living in their countries in or-der to build a life in a congenial environment, that is, in a society with a culture shaped & config-ured by so many persons who have been committed to human dignity. However, it makes sense that a minority of persons from Northern Europe may move to places such as Latin America in order to join those Latin Americans who have recently came to experience the Lutheran contribu-tion to human dignity, as well as to cooperate with those committed to Latin American Theology. Those Latin Americans who have recently experienced Lutheranism, and those Latin Americans who live Latin American Theology do need as many help as possible in order to win other per-sons for the cause.

I am convinced that those Northern persons who live overseas do have the ethical duty of joining a congregation that keeps alive Northern culture and that is committed to human rights, if such a congregation exists in the country where they live. Thus the Nordic person will be able to share with others and keep alive in their own selves a key ingredient in their lives, that is, Nordic cul-ture, Protestantism.

This is the reason why I do believe that you, the members of the Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche of Rohrmoser, not only deserve to be praised on your Church’s anniversary, but should also be encouraged to remain faithful to it in the future. Your Church does deserve a future, and I will really like to join you!


Yours sincerely,



Daniel Montero

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