BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Little Flower Roman Catholic Church of Berkeley Heights and Faith Lutheran Church of New Providence hosted a program at Little Flower regarding the extraordinary and dynamic life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Sunday.
Dr. Katie Day, author and professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, presented the program of Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident. Day teaches special classes and seminars at schools of higher learning throughout the country regarding the multiple experiences of Bonhoeffer’s productive life. She had the full attention of the audience throughout her presentation.
Bonhoeffer was a key founder of the Confessing Church and its most prominent voice. The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism during Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.
“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.”
“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.”
“Jesus’ followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war.”
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer mit Schülern im Frühjahr 1932.” On this day in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was sent to the camp where he would be executed. What is his legacy today?Wikimedia Commons
The German pastor and theologian is famous for his rich, profound, provocative writings, and the challenge his own life presents as the pacifist who was killed for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
On this day, February 7, 1945, Bonhoeffer was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, where the Nazis tortured, experimented on and killed tens of thousands of its prisoners. Three months later Bonhoeffer was executed there, just days before the war ended and the Allies liberated the camp. The sombre anniversary provokes a reflection on the legacy of Bonhoeffer for the Church and the world.
As a hero who stood firm for his faith in a time of crisis, Bonhoeffer has often been used as a guide for the political present. Conservative evangelical writer Eric Metaxas authored the Bonhoeffer biography Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy but received criticism for his depiction of the theologian as a close ally of American conservative evangelicals. In the 2016 election, Metaxas implored Christians to vote for Donald Trump, calling the choice a ‘Bonhoeffer moment’ of grave moral significance, and likening Hilary Clinton to Adolf Hitler.
Metaxas was excoriated by Bonhoeffer scholar Charles Marsh, who explained why Metaxas’ appropriation of Bonhoeffer as a “white evangelical family values Republican” was inappropriate and delusional.
As experts on the man and his message, the International Bonhoeffer Society is well placed to explore the relevance of the German theologian to today. Last week the group issued a statement relating Bonhoeffer’s legacy to current political events in the United States. It emphasised that the best way to relate Bonhoeffer to today is not to draw direct political analogies, but to consider Bonfoeffer’s self-understanding “as a citizen in his own times” and draw on that.
Resistance to Trump
“We speak noting that Dietrich Bonhoeffer himself taught the profound relatedness of all human persons and, indeed, of peoples and nations. We therefore feel called to raise our voices in support of justice and peace, and in resistance to every form of unjust discrimination and aggressive nationalism,” the statement began.
“The United States has undergone an unusually contentious, bitter, and ugly election that has brought us to an equally contentious, bitter, and ugly beginning of the presidency of Donald J Trump.” The statement added that “we are gravely concerned by the rise in hateful rhetoric and violence, the deep divisions and distrust in our country, and the weakening in respectful public discourse” and warned: “Some of the institutions that have traditionally protected our freedoms are under threat.”
Life for others
The society highlight the maligning of minorities in America as a key concern: “This election has made the most vulnerable members of our society, including people of colour, members of the LGBTQ communities, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, the poor, and the marginally employed and the unemployed, feel even more vulnerable and disempowered.”
Agape Theatre is proud to announce an upcoming production of BONHOEFFER’S COST. Written by Mary Ruth Clarke with Time Gregory, BONHOEFFER’S COST tells the exciting and moving true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Agape’s production will be the play’s Texas Premiere.
BONHOEFFER’S COST finds Dietrich Bonhoeffer imprisoned in Berlin’s Tegel Prison during the darkest days of WWII. As the war rages around him and his faith is tested, Bonhoeffer deliberates the cost attached to acting from one’s convictions. In a blind race between the forces of good and evil, will Dietrich make it out alive?
A Lutheran pastor and theologian in Germany during WWII, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was extremely vocal in his resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including the Nazi persecution of Jewish people. Out of his resistance to the Nazi regime and their attempted control of the religious community, Bonhoeffer founded the underground Confessing Church. He was also a member of the Abwehr, a German military intelligence organization at the center of the anti-Hitler resistance. In addition to his political resistance, Bonhoeffer is known for writing countless books and essays on theology and Christianity, especially The Cost of Discipleship.
Agape’s production of BONHOEFFER’S COST will be staged in the Sanctuary at Palm Valley Lutheran Church in Round Rock. The beautiful historic landmark was built in 1896. The building’s Gothic style and incredible stained glass windows are sure to enhance the production.
“We are overjoyed to bring BONHOEFFER’S COST to our audience,” says Jeff Davis, Artistic Director of Agape Theatre and Director of BONHOEFFER’S COST. “While he’s well-known amongst Lutherans, Bonhoeffer is nearly forgotten in other circles. Regardless of your religious affiliation, Bonhoeffer’s heroism is undeniable. I know his story will inspire our patrons and keep them on the edge of their seats.”
Davis is also excited about the opportunity to produce the show inside a Lutheran Church. “We are beyond blessed to be staging this extraordinary play inside an equally extraordinary venue,” says Davis. “Palm Valley Lutheran Church is a treasure to our local community. Being able to stage a show about faith inside a church is a dream come true, as is Palm Valley’s passion and excitement for this project.”
Looking for some new reading material? Here are 10 books that have helped shape my spiritual life.
1. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala. The times are urgent. God is on the move. Now is the moment to ask God to ignite his fire in your soul. Cymbala believes Jesus wants to renew his people―to call us back from spiritual dead ends, apathy and lukewarm religion. Cymbala knows the difference firsthand. Thirty-five years ago, his own church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, was a struggling congregation of 20. Then they began to pray … God began to move … street-hardened lives by the hundreds were changed by the love of Christ … and today, they are more than 10,000 strong. The story of what happened to this broken-down church in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods points the way to new spiritual vitality in the church and in your own life. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire shows what the Holy Spirit can do when believers get serious about prayer and the gospel. As this compelling book reveals, God moves in life-changing ways when we set aside our own agendas, take Him at His word and listen for His voice.
2. A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards: This best-selling tale is based on the biblical figures of David, Saul and Absalom. For the many Christians who have experienced pain, loss and heartache at the hands of other believers, this compelling story offers comfort, healing and hope. Christian leaders and directors of religious movements throughout the world have recommended this simple, powerful and beautiful story to their members and staff. You will want to join the thousands who have been profoundly touched by this incomparable story.
3. Crazy Love, Francis Chan: Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not, we all know something’s wrong.
Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts—it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.
4. Running with Horses, Eugene H. Peterson: In Jeremiah 12:5 God says to the prophet, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”
We all long to live life at its best―to fuse freedom and spontaneity with purpose and meaning. Why then do we often find our lives so humdrum, so un-adventuresome, so routine? Or else so frantic, so full of activity, but still devoid of fulfillment? How do we learn to risk, to trust, to pursue wholeness and excellence―to run with the horses in the jungle of life? In a series of profound reflections on the life of Jeremiah the prophet, Peterson explores the heart of what it means to be fully and genuinely human. His writing is filled with humor and self-reflection, insight and wisdom, helping to set a course for others in the quest for life at its best.
5. Accidental Pharisees, Larry Osborne: Zealous faith can have a dangerous, dark side. While recent calls for radical Christians have challenged many to be more passionate about their faith, the downside can be a budding arrogance and self-righteousness that “accidentally” sneaks into our outlook. In Accidental Pharisees, bestselling author Larry Osborne diagnoses nine of the most common traps that can ensnare Christians on the road to a deeper life of faith. Rejecting attempts to turn the call to follow Christ into a new form of legalism, he shows readers how to avoid the temptations of pride, exclusivity, legalism and hypocrisy.
6. The High-Definition Leader, Derwin L. Gray:The High-Definition Leader is an invitation of grace for churches and their leaders to grasp the ancient call of the early New Testament Church that crossed ethnic and socioeconomic barriers to create heavenly colonies of love, reconciliation and unity on earth. In it, you will learn the theology and practices that will help you build a mission-shaped, multi-ethnic church.
7. The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer:The Pursuit of God is an inspirational book that aims to guide those who wish to follow Christ. It includes biblical teachings that emphasize the concept of pursuing God. The concept of seeking God should be evident in the context of obtaining a genuine relationship between the Creator and the creature. Man must consider God as not only a creator, but also the one who sustains life; hence, all creatures must depend solely on Him.
“Christmas comes even in the midst of rubble.” Those words were written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents on November 29, 1940. From his monastic haven in the Benedictine community at Ettal, Bonhoeffer was keenly aware of the “rubble” in which the Feast of the Incarnation was about to be celebrated. Inside the letter to his parents, Bonhoeffer included an Advent card with the nativity scene painted by Albrecht Altdorfer in 1511. It shows the Holy Family huddled together in a dilapidated house, which looks for all the world like a modern bomb shelter. Real bombs were then falling all over Europe, and the military success of the Nazi armies during the summer of 1940 promised that the war would not end quickly. There would yet be much more rubble before the nightmare was over.
Bonhoeffer will always be remembered for his role in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, an activity that led to his execution on April 9, 1945. But even in the shadowy work he did as a double agent for the Abwehr, Bonhoeffer never lost sight of the fact that he was an ordained Lutheran pastor. As the founding director of an illegal, underground seminary of the Confessing Church, Bonhoeffer had grown close to the students with whom he shared a unique “life together,” as he titled one of his shorter writings. In August 1937, Heinrich Himmler had issued a decree criminalizing such schools.
Still, Bonhoeffer continued to work with small groups of students that met in isolated, out-of-the-way places such as Sigurdshof in eastern Pomerania. In March 1940, the Gestapo discovered this place too and shut it down. How was “Bruder Bonhoeffer,” as the students called him, to stay in touch with his scattered flock? Beginning in May 1940 and continuing through November 1942, Bonhoeffer wrote a series of seven circular letters (Rundbriefe) to his dispersed students. Many of them had by then been drafted and sent to the front lines, and a number of them had fallen in battle. Bonhoeffer corresponded as best he could with his former students at the front. From Ettal, he sent greetings and Christmas presents to their wives and children at home.
The circular letters dealt with issues of pastoral and spiritual concern faced by the former seminarians now far removed from the life they had once shared as a close-knit community of love and learning. How does one maintain a daily order of prayer and Scripture reading, so essential to the Christian life, while carrying out the duties of a soldier? What purpose could God possibly have in permitting the deaths of so many young pastors? How could spiritual equilibrium be maintained in the midst of so much suffering and loss? These and other questions Bonhoeffer answered with compassion, insight, and pastoral sensitivity. The circular letter written from Ettal in December 1940 dealt with how to celebrate Christmas amidst the rubble.