Sunday, January 14, 2007

Paul Tillich's Take On It

Forgive the long quote, but this passage from Paul Tillich's series of sermons entitled The Eternal Now published in 1963 just seems so apropos. (Or a propos if yer a stickler...) This is from the sermon called Salvation.

In the ancient world, great political leaders were called saviours. They liberated nations and groups within them from misery, enslavement, and war. This is another kind of healing, reminiscent of the words of the last book of the Bible, which says in poetic language that "the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations." How can nations be healed? One may say: They can be liberated from external conquerors or internal oppressors. But can they be healed? Can they be saved? The prophets give the answer: Nations are saved if there is a small minority, a group of people, who represent what the nation is called to be. They may be defeated, but their spirit will be a power of resistance against the evil spirits who are detrimental to the nation. The question of saving power in the nation is the question of whether there is a minority, even a small one, which is willing to resist the anxiety produced by propaganda, the conformity enforced by threat, the hatred stimulated by ignorance. The future of this country and its spiritual values is not dependent as much on atomic defense as on the influence such groups will have on the spirit in which the nation will think and act.

And this is true of mankind as a whole. Its future will be dependent on a saving group, embodied in one nation or crossing through all nations. There is saving power in mankind, but there is also the hidden will to self-destruction. It depends on every one of us which side will prevail. There is no divine promise that humanity will survive this or the next year. But it may depend on the saving power effective in you or me, whether it will survive. (It may depend on the amount of healing and liberating grace which works through any of us with respect to social justice, racial equality, and political wisdom.) Unless many of say to ourselves: Through the saving power working in me, mankind may be saved or lost -- it will be lost.

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