martes, 27 de julio de 2010

Nordic Cultures (I)

Following is an "Open Letter" to a Costa Rican Church with services in German.
Nevertheless, if you read this carefully, you can see that its real subject consists in showing some positive, valuable, aspects of some cultures in Northern Europe, independent of any religious beliefs. I think this may be a useful instrument in making persons from these countries aware of how important are their cultures, and thus the big responsibility thet have in sharing these values to the entire world:

Open Letter to the Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche

Daniel Montero

April 19-21, 2006 AD

Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche

Dear friends:

Shalom! Hope this finds you well. The purpose of this letter is to greet the Church in this impor-tant anniversary. Congratulations! I will also like to explain you, dear members of the Church, from my own perspective, why do I consider your Church so important, and how relevant I think it is, not only in terms of its past, but also for its present… and its future! This relevance is what attracted me to your Church.

I. Introduction

The purpose of my life is to grow as an individual in the commitment to human rights and dig-nity. This commitment made me analyse different cultures and diverse religious options. My con-clusion was that Lutheranism contains a great amount of external and inner sources of strength for a life oriented to goodness. This has guided me to choose Lutheranism as the basis of my identity, because it contains the essential elements with which to build a life (and an identity) committed to human rights and dignity. So I will really like to join your Church.

One might think that G-d’s latest revelation is contained in that Latin American Theology that was born in the 1960’s and that has greatly improved in the last years. The core of this Theology is this: human rights, including the PACIFIC struggle for social justice and for a world where people will no longer perish due to under nourishment or other tortures. Latin American Theology is committed to change not only the symptoms of what is wrong in the world, but the roots of in-justice in itself. These roots are those international structures that determine that a few people “enjoy” a shallow life of consumism in superabundance, thanks to an unprecedented wealth con-quered by the exploitation and oppression of those millions of poor people who live in the whole world.

There are cherished persons who think that Latin America is the best place in the world to live for human dignity-oriented persons. Here they find persons and institutions with whom to cooperate and struggle together for justice. No other place of the world has so many entities and persons committed to righteousness.

The contribution of Latin American Theology is so great that it has moved a good number of hu-man dignity-oriented persons, who were born in the First World, to choose Latin America as their residence, and to contribute from there to this cause, joining those Latin Americans who are committed to justice. I have met a great person from overseas committed to human dignity who lives here. He told me that he sees no purpose in being a European Protestant resident in Latin America that chooses to build a life around a Church that has services in that European language and keeps alive Protestant European culture, refusing a complete integration in Latin America, and whose children are risen in this Church that does not integrate itself in Latin America’s lan-guage and culture.

If Latin American Theology is so important, if it represents G-d’s Word (revelation) for today’s world, then one might ask: Is it important (for example) for a Nortehern Lutheran to remain been a member of the Evengelisch Lutherische Kirche and not to choose to become member of a Spanish-speaking Latin American Church even if this Church is Protestant? We are grateful to the Evangelisch-Lutherisch Kirche but, is there not a duty to decide that it must not celebrate its one-hundred anniversary? Is there any reason for this German-speaking Church to continue alive? Should it not be just a transitional Church, a first step for Lutheran Nordic in their process of as-similating themselves in Latin American Evangelical Church? My innermost conviction is that the Evangelisch-Lutherisch Kirche of Rohrmoser should continue alive for ever, and that Lutherans from Northern Europe who live in Latin American have the ethical duty to remain faithful and committed members of the Lutheran Churches –to those who are committed to human rights- that keep alive Northern cultures. So I think your Church is important and has a vital responsibil-ity.

II. Paradox

In order to explain the importance of your Church, it is necessary to analyse what seems to be a paradox and a critique to the historical role of Lutheranism. These are contained in Dukheim’s book “On Suicide”. There he shows those reasons that explain why do Protestant countries from Europe have a suicide rate (beyond explanations such as geography and climate) that is several times greater than that one existing in Roman Catholic nations. He shows that the most signifi-cant cause of this bigger suicide rate is not geography or weather, but that anomy caused by Protestantism. In fact, Protestantism is instrumental in the generation of that anomy that charac-terises Northern European countries. And this anomy is the greatest cause of suicide. “Anomy” means absence of norms, criteria or standards.

In general terms we could say that the mainstream tendency before Protestantism was that the worldview of the persons had its roots in the assumption that they were a priori members of a community (the Christian Church and the Christian Empire), and this group was the source, not only of the personal sense of belonging, but at the same time of the values, laws purpose and meaning (in Viktor Frankl’s terms; by the way, Frankl was Austrian) of their lives. Luther’s teach-ing made the Germanic peoples of Northern European countries realize that they were not a pri-ori members of the Church. Persons are individuals, that is, human beings who are a priori mem-bers of Christ, not of the community. (Luther wanted to reform that Church and not create a new one, but when Roman Catholicism rejected his doctrines, he did not submit to the Church, but broke with it and established new congregations who were not Roman Catholic, thus showing that for him individual duties toward G-d prevailed over the needs of the community). The mean-ing in life, the purpose, values and morals did not come from the group, but from the personal relationship of the individual with G-d. This personal relationship has its ground in the assiduous reading of Scripture, which is the source of moral, values and criteria that orient our lives. Biblical interpretation is an individual task, not a responsibility of the community (as before with ecclesi-astical magisterium). Each person is a priest with the responsibility of determining what is right or wrong for her life, and with the individual duty to orient her life by choosing a job, a vocation where to find fulfilment in free time, a partner in life, and assuming all sorts of choices by him-self.

Meaning and purpose in life are extremely important for a person as Viktor Frankl explained. They ground our lives, heal our inner-wounds, and provide us with the strength for continuing to live our existence despite all the unfair pain every person faces (resilience). Before Luther, the community was the purpose of life, the source of the person’s meaning in life. After Luther, the individual is left in her own, and had to develop by himself what gives purpose and meaning in life. This is the source of anomy. The individual is axiologically detached from the community, and looses the purpose and meaning in life that the community provided before for him, and is left without the values, TRADITIONS, rules and criteria for orienting life (that is, for choosing a job, vocation, etc.) Now the person is left on her own, and out of her individual relationship with G-d he should develop purpose and meaning in life, as well as morals, choosing of partners & friends, the basis for electing what to do in her free time, and criteria for taking all the decisions we have to take in life.

This anomy has caused not only that individualism typical of Northern European countries, but also innermost solitude for them, detachment… and thus the source of suicide as Durkheim ex-plained.

III. The birth of the individual committed to human dignity and the Bible as the
only source of conduct

This might seem a devastating critique of Lutheranism, and a paradox: a liberation from Rome that causes death. Nevertheless, this anomy is an extremely valuable legacy Luther made to the world. The person has the ethical duty of filling her life with that meaning that will keep him free from suicide, and this same anomy is the source of the recognition of some aspects of human dignity that were not present in Medieval times.

Durkheim has explained the reason why Protestant nations have advanced much more than Ro-man Catholic countries in popular education. Because the ground of the Protestant life is the rela-tionship with G-d by means of the Bible, then the teaching of reading and writing to the multi-tudes in order to enable individuals to read the Bible by themselves -and build a life around what the person has learned from the Bible-, is a great priority. This did not happen in Roman coun-tries, where the person had to rely on the community for grounding his life.

The greatest enemy of Christianity accepted that the individual as such (that is, axiologically de-tached from the herd) is a very recent creation. It may have its precedents in the Renaissance recovery of the Antiquity, but definitively Protestantism, as explained before, is the cradle of the individual. And not only an individual was born from Lutheranism, but an individual committed to human rights and dignity. This is why Nietzsche hates Protestantism, because Nietzsche is the enemy of human rights.

Luther was instrumental in the birth of the individual as such, and an individual committed to her personal relationship with G-d through Christ. If we were to translate in modern terms the mean-ing of this relationship, we could say that this is a relationship with human rights and dignity, because the core of the Bible is human rights and dignity, and thus this must be the basis of our lives.

Human dignity, as we understand it today, is inseparable from the discovery of this individual as such: axiologically detached from the herd. Thanks to Luther, we understand today that human dignity means that we have the right (and responsibility) of deciding which is the right faith, which is the correct moral, which is the meaning in life we take upon us, which traditions we choose, what do we do in our free time, which Church we commit ourselves to, and which are the criteria that will orient all the decisions we take in our lives.

This is the reason why it was precisely a Lutheran the person who developed the best explana-tion of human dignity. I am talking of the Lutheran Immanuel Kant, specially of his book “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals”. There he shows that human dignity is the commit-ment to treat each person as an end in herself and NOT as a means or instrument to another end, no matter how sacred, holy, hallowed, important, patriotic, or whatever this other end may be. This is the basis of the correct understanding of human rights, and the criteria for harmoniz-ing different human rights when one human right opposes another.

Lutheranism is indispensable for human rights.

IV. Justification by faith

This is a very important Lutheran teaching and has a profound meaning for today’s individuals, even for those who think they have lost all faith but really are individuals committed to human rights. This doctrine tells us that deeds are NOT enough for building a life committed to human dignity. We do also need mental structures (that is, faith) that determine which deeds must be done because they are really oriented to human dignity, and how to find external & inner-strength and resources that will motivate and enable us to do those deeds. Thus a Rabbi has taught us that study (faith) is the most important of all, because it moves us to do good deeds.

Less Parrott III has shown that guilt is the secret enemy of love-to-the-neighbour. Guilt does not let us love authentically other persons. If are really committed to love others, we need to be free

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