Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspires his biographer to speak out for religious freedom

Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014 6:00 am

By JO-ANN GREENE | Books Editor

Dietrich Bonhoeffer held that “silence in the face of evil is itself evil. … Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

The German theologian, martyred trying to stop Hitler, scorned “cheap grace” — faith that requires no sacrifice.

The ideals Bonhoeffer acted on profoundly impressed his biographer, a Yale-educated Manhattanite who attends an Episcopal church.

After researching Bonhoeffer’s life and times, “I found myself forced to speak out for religious freedom,” Eric Metaxas said in a telephone interview last week as he prepared for a March 12 Lancaster Literary Guild lecture.

Metaxas identifies two “hot-button issues” that he believes threaten one of this country’s most important founding principles.

One issue is the government requirement that employers pay for birth control under its new health care plan. (The Mennonite-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., East Earl, challenge to the Obamacare provision, which includes abortifacients, is scheduled for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing March 25.)

“The government doesn’t care what you think about contraception: You must pay,” Metaxas says he hears the administration telling those whose religious principles ban the practice.

“That’s very creepy to me,” he adds, calling it “a dangerous precedent.”

The other issue is government action legally redefining marriage to allow for same-sex unions.

Metaxas questions whether government will allow dissent by Orthodox Jews, Muslims and conservative Christians whose religions define marriage in the traditional way.

“From what I’ve read, it’s not encouraging,” he says.

Right out of ‘Bonhoeffer’

“It’s right out of ‘Bonhoeffer,’ ” Metaxas says, referring to his book published by Thomas Nelson and subtitled “Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” It is set in a time when “the church was bullied by the Nazis,” he notes.

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