Dorothee Soelle’s Radical Political Evensong Credo

Dorothee Soelle’s Radical Political Evensong Credo October 16, 2019

CREDO (from Political Evensong)

I believe in God
who created the world not ready made
like a thing that must forever stay what it is
who does not govern according to eternal laws
that have perpetual validity
nor according to natural orders
of poor and rich,
experts and ignoramuses,
people who dominate and people subjected.
I believe in God
who desires the counter-argument of the living
and the alteration of every condition
through our work
through our politics.

I believe in Jesus Christ
who was right when he
“as an individual who can’t do anything”
just like us
worked to alter every condition
and came to grief in so doing
Looking to him I discern
how our intelligence is crippled,
our imagination suffocates,
and our exertion is in vain
because we do not live as he did

Every day I am afraid
that he died for nothing
because he is buried in our churches,
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to and fear
of the authorities.
I believe in Jesus Christ
who is resurrected into our life
so that we shall be free
from prejudice and presumptuousness
from fear and hate
and push his revolution onward
and toward his reign

I believe in the Spirit
who came into the world with Jesus,
in the communion of all peoples
and our responsibility for what will become of our earth:
a valley of tears, hunger, and violence
or the city of God.
I believe in the just peace
that can be created,
in the possibility of meaningful life
for all humankind,
in the future of this world of God. Amen

As I’ve been preparing the second installment here in a series on political theology, I’ve been reading about Dorothee Soelle’s Political Evensong movement in Cologne’s St Anthony’s Church in the 60s and 70s. This credo is from that period.

These services packed the church. 1000s would attend. However, her leadership and her poetry came at professional cost. In 1972 her professorship at the University of Mainz was not renewed. Many excuses were offered, including a declaration that this credo was “heretical.”

Even the theologian Ernst Käsemann, more to the left and sympathetic of her views, even at one point asked (although he tried to protect her professorship): “Does she really have to make a public statement on every injustice, mobilizing people to action everywhere she goes?”

And then there was this statement, broadcast on the German television network Südwestfunk:

“Frau Soelle reminds us of the task assigned to us by the Gospel that Christiasn are to be advocates of those human beings who cannot speak themselves or assert themselves: because they are handcuffed by the pressures of work, because they are afraid of losing their job, because the coercion to achieve and produce robs them of their humanity, of their imagination. Frau Soelle shows us that Christians must take sides with the lowly, with ordinary people. The real reasons for Frau Soelle’s termination are being suppressed. They are political: Frau Soelle is too leftist. They are theological: Frau Soelle is critical of the perception of God in which God lords it over human beings, beats and chastises them. She says that is a god the powerful wish for. I find her rejection [from her faculty position] scandalous. What must be said here loudly and clearly is being obstructed–but not by the students. It is conservative professors who are doing this.”

Last two quotes excerpted from Renate Wind’s biography, Dorothee Soelle: Mystic and Rebel.

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