Politics befitting a Christian?By Kathleen Kern Christian Peacemaker Teams
After reading about Mennonite pastor Arnoldo Wiens’ run for the presidency of Paraguay last spring — and the Paraguayan Senate’s “coupish” replacement of its democratically elected president at the end of June — I imagined our Anabaptist forebears who wrote the Schleitheim Confession in 1527 paying Mennonites a visit in 2012.
I’m guessing they’d be pleased their movement continued. After learning about the countries in which Anabaptists lived, they’d probably take a particular interest in the places where these believers face persecution.
I imagine myself stammering as I describe and apologize for all the ways I have assimilated to mainstream U.S. society. But it’s when I get to describing the echelons of power that descendants of the Anabaptist movement in Paraguay have attained that I hear our brothers and sisters who were at Schleitheim saying, “See? Articles 4 and 6. What did we tell you?”
Wiens was a candidate for the Paraguayan presidency, as a member of the Colorado Party, until March. Then he abruptly dropped out of the race and threw his support behind fellow party member Horacio Cartes. A confidential State Department cable published by WikiLeaks identified Cartes and his Banco Amambay as being responsible for 80 percent of the money laundering in Paraguay on behalf of drug traffickers.
Cartes was also a ringleader of the Paraguayan Senate’s removal of President Fernando Lugo. The Senate charged Lugo with an inability to govern because of his response to a forced eviction on June 15 of some 100 families from the land of Blas Riquelme — also a member of the Colorado Party. (He had been unsuccessfully sued by farmers who said he had acquired the land illegally in 1975 during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner.) Witnesses said snipers opened fire on the peasants as their leaders were negotiating with the area police commander.
Lugo’s call for an investigation into the massacre was proof, according to Cartes and other members of the Senate, of his being soft on crime. Refusing to give him or his lawyers time to mount a defense, both houses of the Paraguayan Congress brought charges and impeached him within the space of 30 hours.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his government would cut off fuel sales to Paraguay. The South American trade bloc, Mercosur, suspended Paraguay and barred it from taking part in an early July gathering. Argentina, calling the removal of Lugo a coup, recalled its ambassador from Paraguay, as did Brazil, which condemned Lugo’s removal because he was not given a chance to defend himself, “compromising a fundamental pillar of democracy.”
I would be interested in seeing a debate between Wiens and the Anabaptists at Schleitheim over whether Christians can ever seek and then use political power appropriately.
Every election in which I vote, I wrestle with Article 6 of the Schleitheim Confession: “It does not befit a Christian to be a magistrate: The rule of the government is according to the flesh, that of the Christian according to the spirit … Their citizenship is in this world; that of the Christians is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). The weapons of their battle and warfare are carnal and only against the flesh, but the weapons of Christians are spiritual, against the fortification of the devil.”
Kathleen Kern, of Rochester, N.Y., serves with Christian Peacemaker Teams.
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