Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.
Can Dietrich Bonhoeffer make a difference in twenty-first century preachers and preaching?
Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.
By Dick Andersen
For the Herald/Review
With the last Christian being driven out of Mosul, Afghanistan, by the vengeful ISISsect this week, and innumerable other incidents of discrimination against Christians in Africa, Asia and even the Americas plaguing the planet, one wonders if being a Christian is worthwhile?
Wouldn’t it be better to be nothing than to be tracked down and slaughtered as has happened to Christians recently in Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, India and Pakistan?
The answer is a decided, NO!
While respect for Christianity has diminished in large measure due to pedofile clergy, immoral televangelists and other scoundrels occupying some prominent pulpits, the Gospel is still needed for this century and all the others following it. It has declined because families find other pleasures more attractive than teaching their children Christian values. TVand movie comedians may mock us, atheists may seek to dull our witness by banning crosses and creches, and novelists may fling every indescribable insult in our direction they wish, but Christianity is God’s empowered force for good — therefore cannot be so casually dismissed as inconsequential.
The Jews have suffered for their faith for centuries, yet their strength remains in those who remained faithful to it despite pogroms and the Holocaust … often at the hands of Christians regrettably.
Where would institutions of mercy … hospitals, children’s homes, homes for the aging and many similar caring facilities have originated … if it had not been for the Church centuries ago? Schools, from kindergartens to universities, were made available to the poor as well as the rich under the sponsorship of the Church. Many agencies that provide assistance to the disadvantaged got their start led by Christian men and women who originated such ministries. And the Jews, too, have provided similar care for their people and others, while often cooperating with Christians and financially supporting their institutions to alleviate human suffering.
Many of America’s refugees came to these shores due to the ministry of Christians and Jews. After World War II, the United States gained an exceptional benefit from those fleeing what was left in battle-worn Europe. After Vietnam’s war, the same thing happened. So, yes, it is still a worthy goal to be a follower of Jesus no matter what naysayers tell us.
But then being a modern day disciple of the Lord Christ is not simply for assisting others in their dilemmas. That’s a prime target in the attempt to love others. There is, however, a very important personal element that comes first. There needs to be a living relationship with God, a common walk with Him in order to love one another and to sense the love that is returned. Besides, our earthly life is not the end of the journey. It is merely the prelude. Eternity is worthy of our devotion and faith now. It’s not “pie in the sky bye and bye,” but a promise made by Him to those who believe. Here and now we take the first steps to accepting the life without end.
On Aug. 4, some people will observe the 102nd birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede renowned for his rescue of up to 120,000 Hungarian Jews from the Final Solution being promulgated by Adolf Eichmann. Raoul was a Christian. He went to Budapest in the last months of World War II to rescue as many Jews remaining in the last corner of European Judaism. He served the Swedish king as a special ambassador, and was financed generously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt … two Christian leaders who cared enough to send the very best to facilitate the rescue.
Wallenberg died at the hands of the Russians in one of Moscow’s notorious prisons, but before that he fooled the Nazis by inventing, printing and distributing false passports identifying the Jewish recipients as being under the protection of King Gustav V of neutral Sweden.
His girlfriend: while Raoul studied architecture at the University of Michigan, Berniece Ringman, was a friend of mine, who toured Scandinavia and Russia with me during one of my Christian heritage tours. While in Stockholm, she met with Raoul’s sister. In Moscow, she visited with the American ambassador about getting Raoul released from the Gulag where he was thought to be imprisoned. It was not known until later that he had died in Moscow near the war’s end.
At any rate, Wallenberg put his life on the line for people he didn’t know. He knew, however, they were children created by God. His obligation was to God, as well as to his king, to save as many as he could. He provided safe houses for them who lived under his patronage, even a hospital, and collected very scarce provisions to feed them in a very difficult time. Why? Because he believed it was not just his duty, but his privilege.
He was an ambassador for Christ. He did not preach. It was not his intention to convert, but it was his prerogative to serve his Lord by saving lives.
There were many Christians who lived out their faith in the face of Nazism’s threats. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, a businessman, were among them. They stood up against the Nazis for their inhumanity toward Jews and others, and lost their lives by order of Hitler just a week or two before the war’s end. A new book, “No Ordinary Men,” was recently published by the New York Review of Books to underscore their mission.
Meanwhile, thousands of evangelical Christians flocked to Washington, D.C., for a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit earlier this week. “When you turn against Israel you have lost your moral compass,” founder John Hagee told the gathered crowd. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (in a recorded video message) and Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer also addressed the summit. With nearly 1.75 million members, CUFI claims to be the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States.
Such events in the Middle East and in America raise typical and vital questions. Does Israel possess a “divine right” to the Promised Land? What is the “Promised Land,” anyway? The interminable Israeli–Palestinian conflict has always been freighted with biblical significance; Israel, after all, didn’t dub a former anti-Hamas campaign “Operation Pillar of Cloud” for nothing.
The Background: Ten years ago John Piper, then pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25–32 titled “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.” In it, he offered seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of “the Land”:
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ’s people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.
Why It Matters: Regardless of where you land theologically or politically, the events of the past two weeks mark yet another distressing development in the Israeli–Palestinian saga. This is a prime opportunity to pray. Pray for the Israelis, image-bearers of God, that they’d search the Scriptures and find life in the Savior (John 5:39–40, 46). May they discover that the meeting point between God and man is no longer a place—whether reconstructed temple or geographical acreage—but a risen and reigning and soon returning Person (John 4:21–26).
Pray too for the Palestinians, image-bearers of God, that they’d turn in droves to Jesus the King.
A new biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, implies that the German theologian experienced same-sex attraction toward Eberhard Bethge, his friend and confidante who later wrote a biography of Bonhoeffer and oversaw the collection of his works.
The response to the biography has been interesting. In his typically understated manner, Frank Schaeffer wrote an article, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Was Flamingly Gay — Deal With It,” in which he predicted evangelicals would be up in arms about such an explosive claim.
In contrast, Sarah Pulliam Bailey reported on how different Bonhoeffer scholars and evangelical leaders have responded. Christianity Today gave a positive review of the biography, as did The Gospel Coalition, though the reviewers saw the biographer’s focus on Bonhoeffer’s sexuality as distracting.
The facts in the case of Bonhoeffer are clear: he was engaged at the time of his execution, and he wrote about the fact he would die as a virgin. No biographer or scholar claims that Bonhoeffer engaged in a sexual relationship with anyone, male or female, whatever his attractions may have been.
I believe the conversation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality tells us more about life in the sexualized culture of the 21st century than it does about Bonhoeffer. In fact, if we pay attention, we will see how Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy directly challenges several commonly held assumptions today.
Bonhoeffer lived faithfully – emphasis on fully – as a virgin. One should not miss the countercultural reality on display in his life.
Post Sexual Revolution, people often define themselves by their sexual identity. For this reason, many people see any restriction or moral restraint on how sexuality is expressed as oppressive, a dagger to the heart of a person’s life and dreams.
For the Christian, such an exaggerated view of sexuality is a pernicious lie. It feeds the falsehood that, without sexual fulfillment, it is impossible for someone to live a full and engaging life. In contrast, Christians believe celibacy is not a pitiable choice but a beautiful calling.
Bonhoeffer’s witness (along with evangelical heroes like John Stott, not to mention Jesus Himself) testifies against the assumption that self-actualization must include sexual relationships. His life challenges a culture that says you are your sexuality.
Sam Allberry, a pastor in the UK who experiences same-sex attraction yet believes homosexual behavior to be sinful, is familiar with the accusation often made against evangelicals, that adhering to Christianity’s sexual ethic contributes to teenage angst and suicide. His response is spot on:
“No, the problem is a culture that says your entire identity and sense of who you are is bound up with fulfilling your sexual desires. You are the ones who have raised the stakes that high. So that the moment you don’t fulfill your desires, you have nothing left to live for.”
Society’s view of a Forty-Year-Old Virgin is Steve Carrell. Christianity’s view of a forty-year-old virgin should be Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
History is replete with examples of robust male friendships that are full of affection and expressions of love and yet are not sexual.
Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has made it more difficult to imagine passionate philos apart from eros. That’s why revisionist historians read romantic notions into Teddy Roosevelt’s affectionate letters to his closest friends. People wonder out loud about Abraham Lincoln’s sharing a bed with his friend, Joshua Speed. It’s hard for our society to understand how King David could weep so terribly over the lost love of Jonathan unless there was some sort of romance between them. And now, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge is put under the microscope of 21st century assumptions.
In fairness to the biographer, it is certainly possible that Bonhoeffer was attracted to Bethge, even though acting on such a notion was always out of the question. But it’s also possible, even likely, that Bonhoeffer’s friendship was, like many male friendships of the time, strong and affectionate, with a passion that did not include sexual desire.
The speculation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality distracts us from the greater loss of slowly disappearing same-sex friendships, the kind of love we see in literature between Sam and Frodo, relationships that many today can hardly conceive of, apart from some sort of sexual longing.
Because our society has adopted the notion that sexual expression is wrapped up in our identity, some may think that getting to the root of Bonhoeffer’s sexuality is the only way to truly understand the man he was. But I suspect Bonhoeffer himself would dispute such a notion, and so would most people throughout history.
When we assume sexual orientation is fixed from birth and unchangeable, the question of identity naturally comes to the forefront: “Was he gay or not?” But Christianity rejects such a reductionist view of sex and identity. Everyone is warped in sexual attraction, at least to some degree. We are all sexual sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God. We are marked by our need for grace, not our longing for sex.
Bonhoeffer’s identity was not defined by sexual attraction, but by his costly discipleship following in the footsteps of his King. Going beyond letters and writings and personal correspondence to speculate on the unspoken sexual longings of a figure from the past says more about us and our own preoccupations than about the person under scrutiny.
We need to pray for the Christians in Iraq…
Originally posted on Gregory C. Cochran:
Maybe you have seen this little wine-cup looking symbol on your friend’s Facebook page and wondered what it means. It means Christians are being targeted for death in Mosul, Iraq. I am so thankful that someone thought to create symbol sent through Social Media to call attention to the plight of Christians suffering genocide in Iraq.
The symbol apparently started circulating in Lebanon and has caught on around the world. The symbol is actually an Arabic “n,” which is what ISIS soldiers in Mosul have used to abbreviate Nazara, a term for Christians in the Middle East. Basically, those whose homes are thus marked are subject to death, unless they (a) convert to Islam or (b) pay an oppressive tax to stay alive (all explained here). Here is how one report details the horror:
On Monday, which was normally pay day for municipal workers in Mosul, state workers…
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Jungle Theater’s influential founder and artistic director for 25 years is retiring in 2015.
Bain Boehlke, a fixture in the Twin Cities theater scene for more than 50 years, will retire as artistic director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis next June. Although he is stepping down, Boehlke will remain active in the Jungle by directing one or two shows a year as emeritus artistic director.
Photo: Jerry Holt • email@example.com
Saying “all things are possible for the young at heart,” Bain Boehlke, 75, announced Monday that he will retire next year from the Jungle Theater.
Boehlke founded and has led the Minneapolis theater for 25 years. Including his years at Children’s Theatre Company, he’s been a fixture in the Twin Cities theater scene for more than half a century.
Although he will retire as artistic director next June, he is not heading for his rocking chair.
“It feels perfect, like I’m riding a surfboard onto the beach and now I’m going out to catch the next wave,” said Boehlke, whom many still remember for his decades-ago role as the stepmother in “Cinderella” at Children’s Theatre.
He hinted at several possible futures and did not shut out the possibility of starting yet another theater company.
Boehlke will become emeritus artistic director at the Jungle and direct one or two shows a year.
His departure from the day-to-day operation of the Jungle (managing director Margo Gisselman will stay on) marks an important milestone. Boehlke founded the theater in a south Minneapolis storefront in 1991. In 2000, the Jungle constructed a 150-seat jewel box theater at the same intersection of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S. The theater found success, financially and critically. It also triggered a neighborhood renaissance.
“The Jungle’s contributions have long supported healthy community development along Lake Street,” said McKnight Foundation President Kate Wofford when the organization honored Boehlke as its distinguished artist in 2009.
The Jungle is frequently mentioned in national assessments of the Twin Cities scene, and the company has received many Ivey Awards for excellence. Boehlke received the Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, recognizing a career that reaches back to 1960. Boehlke, Wendy Lehr, John Clark Donahue and other artists launched Children’s Theatre Company to national prominence in the 1960s and ’70s.
The Jungle mixes theater classics with contemporary work — a good example being recent productions of the edgy 2010 comic drama “Detroit” and the 1948 parlor drama “The Heiress.”
Boehlke, eccentric and voluble, is a true theatrical auteur — creating his own set designs and implementing comprehensive visions for his productions. His modern-day “Hamlet” used video technology and iPads. “Shirley Valentine” featured a set reminiscent of cartoon drawings. In “Speed-the-Plow” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Boehlke drew full, rich performances from actors — even if his rehearsals could be frustrating.
“Everybody had said, ‘He’ll drive you crazy,’ ” said Michelle Barber, who played Martha in “Virginia Woolf” several years ago. “And then on my first line of the play, he had me say it about 15 times over and I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ ” But Barber came to respect the results and worked again with Boehlke in “Hamlet.”
As an actor at the Jungle, Boehlke has played the lead in “The House of Blue Leaves” at least twice, and he and Lehr acted in “The Gin Game” in 2008.
“I’m on top of my game, and I feel really good leaving when the theater is so successful,” Boehlke said. “We always talk about the whole notion of succession, and we felt the 25-year mark was a good time to move on.
“The neighborhood is thriving; we just renewed the lobby, put in new seats, and we’ll put up a new marquee by the end of summer. We need a bigger parking lot, but that will be someone else’s job.”
In addition to stage work, Boehlke produced the 1982 documentary “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Memories and Perspectives…
“Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink’ (Romans 12:20). In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?”
“Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries. We desire to secure our lives with earthly goods; we want our worrying to make us worry-free, but the truth is the opposite. The chains which bind us to earthly goods, the clutches which hold the goods tight, are themselves worries.”