No Comment, Quotation — April 23, 2011, 9:23 am

Barth – Standing with the Downtrodden

beggar

In diesem Zusammenhang wird es nun wichtig, daß als das Volk, dem Gott sich in seiner Gerechtigkeit als Helfer und Retter zuwendet, im Alten Testament durchweg das bedrängte, unterdrückte, recht- und hilfslose, das ohne ihn der Übergewalt seiner Feinde preisgegebene, das aus eigener Kraft ohnmächtige Israel sichtbar wird und innerhalb Israels im Besonderen: die Armen, die Witwen und Waisen, die Schwachen und Rechtlosen. Der Sproß aus der Wurzel Isai «wird Wohlgefallen haben an der Furcht des Herrn. Er wird nicht richten nach dem, was seine Augen sehen, noch Recht sprechen nach dem, was seine Ohren hören», d. h. offenbar: er wird nicht dem Recht geben, der nach menschlicher Meinung schon Recht hat, sondern: «Er wird die Armen richten mit Gerechtigkeit und dem Elenden im Lande Recht sprechen mit Billigkeit. Er wird den Tyrannen schlagen mit dem Stabe seines Mundes und den Gottlosen töten mit dem Hauche seiner Lippen». Und so wird «Gerechtigkeit der Gürtel seiner Lenden und Treue der Gurt seiner Hüften sein» ( Jes. 11, 3 f.). Darum hat denn auch die von Gott geforderte, die im Gehorsam hergestellte menschliche Gerechtigkeit – jene Gerechtigkeit, die nach Amos 5, 24 in Israel strömen soll wie ein unversieglicher Bach, notwendig den Charakter der Herstellung des Rechtes zugunsten der bedrohten Unschuldigen, der unterdrückten Armen, Witwen, Waisen und Fremdlinge, darum steht Gott innerhalb der Verhältnisse und des Geschehens in seinem Volk jederzeit unbedingt und leidenschaftlich auf dieser und nur auf dieser Seite: immer gegen die Hohen, immer für die Niedrigen, immer gegen die, die ihr Recht schon haben, immer für die, denen es geraubt und entzogen ist. Was bedeutet das? Man erklärt das wirklich damit nicht, daß man in abstracto von dem politischen Zug und speziell von dem Rechtscharakter der alttestamentlichen und überhaupt der biblischen Botschaft redet. In der Tat hat sie diesen Charakter und kann man sie nicht hören, kann man ihr nicht glauben, ohne in der angedeuteten Richtung zur Verantwortung gezogen zu werden.

In this connection it is important that the people, who turn to God in his justice as helper and savior, appear in the Old Testament in the form of an Israel weakened by its own right, threatened, repressed, lacking rights and helpless, which without Him would be surrendered to the power of its enemies; and within the nation of Israel, particularly the poor, the widows and orphans, the weak and the disenfranchised. The shoot from the root of Jesse “shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears,” i.e., reveal: he will not pronounce the justice which is common to human experience, but rather “with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the tyrants.” And in this way “righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11, 3ff.) For this reason also the human justice which God demands and which is crafted in obedience to him–the justice which according to Amos 5:24 is to pour down like an endless stream–necessarily takes the form of giving justice to the persecuted innocents, the downtrodden poor, widows, orphans and the outsiders, for this reason God always stands, without precondition and passionately, on this and only on this side, no matter the circumstances and deeds of his people: always against the powerful, always for the lowly, always against those who already have their share, always for those from whom it has been robbed or withdrawn. What does that mean? This cannot be explained abstractly through the political nature and particularly from the concept of justice in the Old Testament, nor more generally of a biblical message. In fact it has this character and one cannot hear it, cannot believe it, without being drawn to accountability in the direction to which it points.

Karl Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik, vol. 2, part 1, p. 434 (1932)(S.H. transl.)(h/t George Hunsinger).

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.

One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.

Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today