To confront is to stand up to another, to " meet (someone) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent." Confrontation places the parties on the verge of (but doesn't necessarily provoke) physical conflict. The intent can be hostile or merely argumentative. My advice is try to keep it argumentative. On a train in Portland this week, it cost two people their lives when they confronted and provoked an unruly white supremacist.
Before confronting others, the Ten Key Values tells us that we need to confront our own prejudices. Furthermore, before we take on society at large, we need to be willing to challenge our own family members and associates over any discrimination. Confronting society at large before attending to these more familiar relationships would be hypocritical. After all, upsetting a stranger, though their attitude toward certain groups may stink, is easier to live with (or die from) than upsetting an associate or family member in similar need of correction.
Personal confrontation is one thing, but taking on an institution, either from within or without, requires many more resources. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a huge movement against long-standing racist policies and norms. The campaign consumed, and ultimately cost him, his life. It was admiration for another Martin Luther that inspired King's father, also a preacher, to adopt the name for himself.
Martin Luther was not only an outstanding clergyman, but also a defender of his countrymen against the oppressions of the Holy Roman Empire and the Vatican. The Reformation was not a theological dispute divorced from secular concerns. In An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate, 1520, the celebrated monk wrote:
I believe that Germany now gives much more to the pope at Rome than it gave in former times to the emperors. Indeed, some estimate that every year more than three hundred thousand gulden find their way from Germany to Rome, quite uselessly and fruitlessly; we get nothing for it but scorn and contempt. And yet we wonder that princes, nobles, cities, endowments, land and people are impoverished! We should rather wonder that we still have anything to eat! Since we here come to the heart of the matter, we will pause a little...The letter goes on to call for separating the German church from the church in Rome. Will Durant apprises the letter by noting, "Luther now planted his standard of revolt not in theological deserts, but in the rich soil of the German national spirit. Wherever Protestantism won, nationalism carried the flag." Without the support of popular opinion in favor of reformation, Luther would have been burned at the stake and remembered as just another religious extremist.
Both of these movements, the Reformation and civil rights, were righteous causes with massive active support by those whose lives had been degraded. Both were led by virtuous men who persisted in making non-violence a core value of their movements. They were not hellraisers, but icons of social justice under the mantle of divine appointment. No preacher in America today stands out as a challenger to our creeping fascism, but does not the Christian world have such a leader today in Rome who could inspire and enable a needed revolution? This new social justice revolution may not begin in America, but, like the Reformation, it could sweep over the whole continent.
|Photo by Gary A.K.|