“Aggressive nationalism and ‘lily-white’ Americanism live on these powers.”

…millions of modern men have quite seriously accepted as a basis for social action…the idea of “blood and soil.” This idea serves as the basis for a “religion” that in effect considers biological and tribal-territorial powers to be divine and therefore decisive for social action. Aggressive nationalism and “lily-white” Americanism live on these powers.

JLA, “Theological Bases of Social Action,” Voluntary Associations


Power Of vs. Power Over

A distinction that cuts across the distinction between active and passive powers should be noted here. We may speak of “power of” as ability (for example, the ability to learn or the ability to express oneself) and of “power over” as the capacity to dominate. In the social arena, when “power over” increases in a group of people, “power of” diminishes among those who are dominated. When “power of” is possessed by the members of a group engaged in social action, they have power in the sense that they participate in the making of a group decision, though of course the decision itself may lead to the attempt to exercise “power over” another group.

JLA, “Theological Bases of Social Action,” Voluntary Associations

“Only by some such conversion can we be possessed by a love that will not let us go.”

“We liberals are largely an uncommitted and therefore a self-frustrating people. Our first task, then, is to restore to liberalism its own dynamic and its own prophetic genius. We need conversion within ourselves. Only by some such revolution can we be seized by a prophetic power that will enable us to proclaim both the judgment and the love of God. Only by some such conversion can we be possessed by a love that will not let us go. And when that has taken place, we shall know that it is not our wills alone that have acted; we shall know that the ever-living Creator and Re-creator has again been brooding over the face of the deep and out of the depths bringing forth new life.”

JLA, “Human Nature,” Voluntary Associations

5 Goals of Protest

“If we consider the ethical issues that have given rise to the forms of civil disobedience…we find that the specific goals of protest are few in number. It is true that in most of these forms of disobedience the protection of human dignity and the promotion of self-determination are involved, but the social and per­sonal values may be reduced to five, namely, equality, due process, the rejection of certain types of violence authorized by the state, the protection of private morality, and certain eccentric religious sensitivities.” — JLA, Civil Disobedience

“camouflage for egre­gious class or race interest or for jingoistic and destructive patriotism”

“A danger not taken into account…is the danger that the fabric of society at a given time may actually be too tightly woven as a consequence of demonic repression or the apathetic routinization of conscience. In this kind of situa­tion the civil disobedient holds that his protest is a public and not a secret protest against one law or policy and that by his remaining law-abiding in other regards and by his accepting punishment for his disobedience he shows his respect for law and helps to maintain the fabric, and yet that as a last resort his disobedience aims to improve the law and to rectify the fabric of society. The civil disobedient, and anyone else for that matter, may also rightly claim that what obtains under the rubric of law in the society often turns out to be only camouflage for egre­gious class or race interest or for jingoistic and destructive patriotism. He may also claim that, far from weakening the fabric of society, authentic civil disobedience is a means of reducing the demand for rebellious and violent protest against the law.” — JLA, Civil Disobedience

“The fundamental mandate is the renewal of covenant within the churches”

“We must overcome the moribund and routine conventions of activity in the parish and the denomination…The fundamental mandate is the renewal of covenant within the churches, the reaching down to the covenant of being itself where mutuality and sacrifice alone free us from the universal monstrosities, the reaching out to the promise making and promise keeping that constitute the substance of response to the covenant of being, the substance of faith and hope. And the greatest of these is love. The alternative is to batten on the grotesque. In short, the alternative is death, even though it be living death.
“The Grotesque and Our Future,” James Luther Adams

Churches, like other organizations, can dissipate their energies…

…by trying to do too many things. It is an axiom of theology as well as of psychology that both distortion and apathy are the children of lazy ambiguity, of ambiguity of purpose. The crucial question here is, What are the top priorities? The surest way I know to deal with the question is to respond to those who have the greatest need and to join those who are battling against rank injustice.

“The Grotesque and Our Future,” James Luther Adams

“We have all had some part in creating or appeasing Gestapos”

“We have liked to believe that we did not share (the faith of the Gestapo agents), yet we have all had some part in creating or appeasing Gestapos–and we could do it again. We have also had some part in stopping the Gestapo. In fact, the spirit, if not the brutality, of the Gestapo has to be stopped in ourselves every day, and we are not always successful, either because of our impotence or because of our lack of conviction. The faith of the unfree can raise its ugly head even in a ‘free’ country.
Recently this fact was impressed upon me in an unforgettably vivid way. During the Second World War it was at one time my task to lecture on the Nazi faith to a large group of U.S. Army officers who were preparing for service later in the occupation army in Germany. As I lectured I realized that together with a just resentment against the Nazis I was engendering in the students and orgy of self-righteousness. This self-righteousness, I decided, out somehow to be checked. Otherwise I might succeed only in strengthening the morale of a bumptious hundred-percent ‘Americanism’ and that was not the faith were were supposed to be fighting for.”

“A Faith for the Free,” James Luther Adams, The Prophethood of All Believers