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In June 1943 (Manfred) Roeder decided to look into “Operation 7“. Here Bonhoeffer had to be especially careful to avoid unintentionally contradicting testimony by Dohnanyi or Canaris…What Roeder was actually looking for was evidence that this was a rescue operation to get around the SS deportations of Jews. Therefore the accused had to show the Military Intelligence had actually begun working on it long before the beginning of the deportations, and here Bonhoeffer, who had not seen this at first, had to retract a statement he had made. He therefore wrote to Roeder correcting his testimony that he had asked Schmidhuber in the spring of 1942 to speak with Koechin; he had now remembered that it must have been soon after August 1941.

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 331)

During the early weeks of the interrogations Roeder had given order Bonhoeffer could write his one letter to his parents every ten days, but otherwise could have no contact with the outside world. Since at this time the guards were still mistreating him, it was hard to bear.

But Bonhoeffer did not give any hint of this in his letters home, not only to spare his parents, but because in his family one did not whine or complain over one’s hard lot. Instead he wrote, “I am now learning daily how good my life with you has always been, and besides, I now have to practise myself what I have told others in my sermons and books.” This sentence both conceals the disgust he felt at the conditions in Tegel during the phase of interrogations, and says to his parents, but most to himself, that the time in prison was going to be a trial of his faith.

Everything he had said previously about the Church, about life as a disciple of Jesus and the reality of God, was now being put to the test. He recognized this at the beginning of his imprisonment and it guided his life all the way until 9  April 1945. In this way he became the “witness to Jesus Christ among his brothers”…

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 328-329)

Understanding Social Media

Article ID: JAF2333

By: Douglas Groothuis

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 33, number 03 (2010). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:


Social media are growing explosively and are changing the way people around the globe think of friendship and community. While media such as Facebook offer us unique opportunities, they also present real dangers. Christians should realize that not all forms of culture are advantageous to human flourishing and that every medium has it limitations. We are shaped in profound ways by every medium of communication. Yet, for all its immediacy and possibilities, the computer world of social media cannot replace the significance of embodied interactions. Friendship, fellowship, and community cannot be duplicated at the deepest levels in social media. Nevertheless, if we resist gossip and gullibility, and are careful not to overexpose ourselves in these media, we can engage these forms of communication wisely and usefully. The following principles can help guide our involvement with social media: (1) Monitor yourself for unhealthy behavior. (2) Restrict late evening and early morning for other activities. (3) Avoid narcissism and present one’s true self. (4) Pay special attention to specific Facebook friends each month. (5) Be skeptical of how others present themselves on Facebook. (6) Periodically abstain from Facebook. (7) Develop a philosophy of what a Facebook friend should mean to you. For me, this means presenting thoughtful material to as many people as possible, which includes apologetic engagement.

With the meteoric rise of social media such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and others, we should ask how these modes of computer-mediated social interaction are affecting individuals, groups, and culture at large. One may have hundreds of Facebook “friends,” but what kind of friends are they? And what kind of “community” is Facebook and related social media outlets? What are the beneficial elements of social media and what are its dangers? Consider two episodes that highlight the strengths and weakness of this new medium.

In May of 2006, a woman left her expensive cell phone in a New York City cab. Rather than giving it up for lost, she used various social media to trigger a massive campaign for her cell phone to be returned. The person who found the woman’s cell phone initially communicated his refusal to return it by sending a nasty e-mail message, but he was eventually pressured to give it back when the case was made widely known. The recovery of the woman’s phone would have been impossible apart from the connections available through social media. This highlights new forms of social association and action that would have been impossible previously. Political demonstrations in repressive regimes have been organized in this way as well.1

On another occasion, a man decides to use a Facebook post to vent his pent-up frustrations against someone he knows. He attacks the person’s character and issues false charges. Although both he and the person he vilifies are Christians, he fails to communicate first with that person about his complaints (see Matt. 18:15–20). Instead, he issues a broadside in a media environment where all his “friends” can read the post. This takes gossip to a whole new (social media) level. Feelings are hurt, lies are broadcast, and no one is the better for it.


Although there are other forms of social media, we will concentrate on the strengths and weaknesses of Facebook, given its size and influence. The ascent of Facebook has been remarkable. During the first quarter of 2009, five million people joined Facebook every week. From August 2008 to March 2009, its membership doubled from one hundred million to two hundred million and the vast majority of its members (140 million) have joined since February of 2007.2 Facebook has rapidly generated a spontaneous ordering of human communication that is unique in history.

Internet technologies have swiftly changed cultures around the world through their speed, availability, and new contexts for information exchange, whether through text, audio, still images, or video. The rise of social networking has raised significant questions about the meaning and experience of community in the digital domain. Christians believe in authoritative principles for human flourishing designed by God. Therefore, they should be especially concerned with how these new and nearly ubiquitous technologies are shaping ourselves and our society. If the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39), then it behooves us to discern the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies and “hold on to the good” while avoiding “every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21–22).3 The place to start is at the beginning—the beginning of humanity. Only this framework is large enough to give us discernment regarding the wise use of these media.

Human beings, as image-bearers of God, are social creatures. We were designed by a loving God to demonstrate love for God and for others. In this context, we are to develop God’s good creation for human flourishing and God’s pleasure. The first man, even before the Fall, would have been lonely and incomplete without another image-bearer of God who was fitted to be his partner and lover. Although put into a garden of goodness with unrestricted fellowship with God (Gen. 1–2), our first parents listened to the lie of the serpent, opting to go their own way by doing the one thing that God had forbidden: eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3).

Despite our wounded, fractured, and fragile existence in a world east of Eden, God has not abandoned us to our own devices and despair. Rather, He pursues errant mortals by revealing Himself in creation and in conscience (Ps. 19:1–6; Rom. 1–2), through prophets, miracles, and supremely through sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1). God commissions His people to disciple nations according to His teaching, since He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18–20). As agents of God’s Kingdom, Christians should discern the results of the Fall and advance redemptive strategies to lead people to Christ and to encourage social interaction that furthers God’s shalom (peace and flourishing for the creation under God). As Jesus said:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:13–16).

To be salt and light requires an understanding of culture and its effects on us all. We should be like the tribe of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32).

Human culture is multifaceted, variable, complex, and often invisible. Put simply, culture is the mark that humans make on nature and on each other (see Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8). However, that mark may be blended into our lives in ways that we hardly notice. Competent cultural criticism brings the cultural background into the foreground, as Marshall McLuhan observed. This allows us to discern what is typically out of view.

The unique human touch takes manifold forms— involving the sartorial, the architectural, the orchestral, the automotive, and so on—and extends to various discursive communicative media such as spoken language, smoke signals, forms of signage, and written language. More recently, it has included electronically mediated communications, such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, and Internet. The latter has afforded us, in a very short time, a plethora of possibilities for communication, from e-mail to text messaging to blogs to what is now called “social networking,” a phenomenon that occurs on the Internet by broadening the kinds of computer-mediated social contact offered by e-mail, blogs, or Web pages. This creates a digital agora, but with no one there in the flesh. Bodies are absent, but interaction is very present in this new electronic forum.

In his insightful book, The Church of Facebook, Jesse Rice repeatedly emphasizes that new technologies produce unforeseen and unique effects. Radical new patterns of association emerge. He sets forth three principles at work with social networking technologies and structures the book around them. (1) There is a force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, thereby creating spontaneous order. (2) This spontaneous order can generate outcomes that are entirely new and unpredictable. (3) These unpredictable outcomes require the affected population to adapt their behavior to more adequately live within the new spontaneously generated order.4

To put this in Neil Postman’s terms, technological change produces “ecological” effects that go beyond minor adjustments in a culture.5 For example, television changed American culture economically, politically, and intellectually. It was not merely another medium added to newspapers, the telegraph, and radio. Thus, political debates in American politics went from being intellectually robust exchanges, often lasting for hours, to televised events in which the one with the best looks and one-liners wins.6 In fact, Postman claims that the sensibilities fostered by television affect our very sense of truth and falsity. This observation could be extended to say that all forms of electronic communication shape our ways of approaching and understanding the world. It therefore seems important to explore some basic cautions in navigating this new world before giving some specific principles for engagement.

For the rest of the article…


Why Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus

The Rev. Edward Casaubon had a handsome, intelligent wife, but squandered his marriage—along with his health and his life—in a futile attempt to write his masterwork,The Key to All Mythologies. When she wrote Middlemarch, George Eliot probably intended for readers to scoff at the dusty and deluded scholar-cleric trying to unlock the secrets of ancient myth. But I can relate to the good reverend. Like other film and comic book geeks, I’ve wasted hours trying to find the key to some modern folk mythology when I could have enjoyed time with my bright, beautiful bride.

But unlike Casaubon, I have actually found a key. Not to all mythologies, of course, but to one of the most intriguing—Christopher Nolan’s series of Batman films.

The interpretative key to the Batman films is obvious once you notice what is missing.

Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus

Of course, you might say, Jesus is absent from almost all mainstream films. True, but not wholly true. While direct acknowledgement of Jesus is rare in movies today, there are few epic trilogies set in modern times in which allusions to Christ do not appear at all. Yet during the entire 456 minutes of the Batman series, thousands of characters appear in a diverse urban landscape, and not a single image or symbol alludes to an awareness of Jesus. There are no priests or nuns, no Bibles or churches. In the one funeral scene in the film, the reading is not from Scripture but from . . . Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

Nolan has scrubbed all references to Jesus—intentionally I believe—in order to present a pre-Christian pagan universe, a world in which Christ’s earthly ministry has not yet begun.

For the rest of the post…

JOE LAGUARDIA: Engage in politics with love, understanding, respect

It was Paul who wrote to churches in the heart of the Roman empire that they were to “Be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God” (Romans 13:1). Ever since then, Christians have struggled with their role — and the church’s proper place — in government.

When I think of the various ideas surrounding the church’s relationship to the state, my first thought goes to German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose dissertation on how to find Christ in community in the late 1920s gained global reputation. As his own nation was caught in the aftermath of the First World War and economic depression, he also caught the attention of Nazis who were set on taking over every aspect of German culture including Lutheran churches.

Bonhoeffer’s wrestling match with the state forced him to teach in an underground seminary. There, Christians opposed Hitler, sought to free the Jews, and prophetically called the German Reich Church to repentance.

At the time, Bonhoeffer was not the only one wondering how the church interacted with the state. Churches throughout Germany were divided: some supported Hitler, some stayed out of the fray altogether, and the “confessing churches” sought to jam the spokes of the wheels when the state’s wheel turned towards injustice.

But how does one reconcile jamming the spokes of the state when the Bible, Romans in particular, declared that disobeying the government was akin to disobeying God? The answer for Bonhoeffer was found in participating in government by means of agape, or unconditional, love.

Agape love motivated Bonhoeffer to protest against the state and side with people that the state marginalized, brutalized, and extinguished. This ethic led to his arrest in 1943 and execution one year later, just three weeks shy of Hitler’s own suicide.

For the rest of the post…


Stereotyping Ourselves to Deaf

Back in seminary, one theologian that my professors and my fellow students, often quote is the WWII pastor-martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His classic, “Life Together” continues to bring home new insights with regards to Christians living together. One of the most striking things Bonhoeffer has written is how Christians demonstrate love by listening to one another. He writes,

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, New York: Harper & Row, 1954, 97)

By bringing together listening and loving, one is essentially practicing ministry at its best. In the Hebrew shemah, the word “Hear” can be used synonymously with the word obedience. It is one and the same word. Being obedient and listening well are the two sides of the same coin of love. In my years of facilitating discussion groups, there is something which I find disturbing when it comes to trying to listen well. Stereotyping.

Whenever stereotyping occurs, there is danger in not listening well.

For the rest of the article…

 Of course the books brought to Bonhoeffer from home had another use as well. He had known and loved German literature since his schooldays, and now it helped him escape from Tegel into another and better world. At no other time of his life did he read so many novels, stories and plays as in the first months of his imprisonment. 

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 326-327)

Christians Upset Over LifeWay’s Removal of ‘The Blind Side’

New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas is among the Christians upset over the decision by LifeWay Christian Stores to remove “The Blind Side” from its shelves because it contained profanity and racial slurs. He says objections over the language miss the point of the film and such reactions make it hard for Christians to be taken seriously in cultural discussions.

Metaxas, a rising evangelical voice who is best known for his biographies on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, expressed his disapproval of LifeWay’s move to pull “The Blind Side” in a commentary for BreakPoint radio this week.

“I’m kind of upset. A great movie was pulled from the shelves of a Christian bookstore chain,” he said on the July 5 program. “Look, I’m as concerned about cultural messages as anyone. I’m a father. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this – and the wrong way definitely includes the permanent state of umbrage that many Christians seem to exhibit. They seem to have confused being salt and light with being curmudgeons.”

LifeWay Christian Stores, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, made the call to remove copies of the inspirational movie from its shelves last month after a Florida pastor within the denomination complained over the language used in the film.

For the rest of the article…

The Dark Night in Denver — Groping for Answers

Friday, July 20, 2012

The news hit the airwaves like a sudden onslaught, and the truth began to sink in. It has happened again. This time, 50 people shot while attending the midnight premier of the last in the Batman sequence, “The Dark Knight Rises.” According to press reports, a 24-year-old man burst into the crowded theater, wearing a gas mask and carrying an arsenal. After deploying what is believed to be tear gas, he opened fire with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns. At least 12 people are dead, and dozens are injured, many critically.

Over 100 police officers responded to the scene in Aurora, just a few miles from Columbine High School, where in 1999 two high school students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher in a rampage that also injured 21 other students. That school massacre became a milestone in the nation’s legacy of violence. Now, yet another Denver suburb joins that tragic list.

The inevitable media swarm focuses on the data first — the who, what, when, and where questions. Then they, along with the public at large, begin to ask the why question. That is always the hard one.

The same vexing but inescapable question comes every time a Columbine happens or an Anders Behring Breivik attempts to justify his mass homicide. How could such a thing happen? How could a human being do such a thing?

There is no easy answer to this question. The easy answers are never satisfying, and they are often based in the confused moral calculus of popular culture. We assume there must have been a political motivation, a psychiatric disturbance, a sociological pressure . . . anything that will offer a satisfying explanation that will assure us. Wave after wave of analysis is offered, and sometimes some horrifying clues emerge. But the moral madness of mass homicide can never be truly explained.

Christians are driven by instinct to think in biblical and theological terms. But, how should that instinct be guided?

The Reality of Human Evil

First, Christians know that the human heart is capable of great evil. Human history includes a catalog of human horrors. The twentieth century, described by historian Eric Hobsbawm as the century of “megadeath,” included a list of names such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Charles Manson. But those murderers did their killing from a distance, at least usually. Those who carry out the murders themselves are even more haunting to us. The young man arrested in this case, 24-year-old James Holmes, looks disarmingly normal.

The Fall released human moral evil into the cosmos, and every single human being is a sinner, tempted by a full range of sinfulness. When someone does something as seemingly unthinkable as this, we often question how anyone could do such a thing. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to this when he lamented, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]

Human beings are capable of unspeakable moral evil. We are shocked by such atrocities, but only because we have some distance from the last one. We cannot afford to be shocked when humans commit grotesque moral evil. It tells us the truth about unbridled human sin.

For the rest of the post…

…there were at least three who were anti-Nazi and who, he soon found, were honest through and through. They were prepared to help him in any way. It was they who made possible his “illegal correspondence” with Eberhard Bethge, containing new theological reflections while in Tegel, and carried news back and forth between him and his family, although they were putting themselves in danger by doing so.

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 326)

July 2012


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