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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was many things — poet, scholar, teacher, spy and more.
The German Lutheran pastor was hanged at Sachsenhausen concentration camp April 9, 1945. At just 39, he had published a considerable and diverse body of work.
Many have learned Bonhoeffer was a conspirator who plotted to kill Adolph Hitler in July 1944.
That’s untrue, according to “Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking,” by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist and Daniel P. Umbel.
“There is not a shred of evidence that Bonhoeffer was linked in any way to … attempts on Hitler’s life,” they write.
It’s a persistent fiction nonetheless.
Bonhoeffer could have been fodder for Nazi propaganda: He was attractive, smart, hardworking, personable and came from an influential, well-known family. Instead, he believed the Aryan nationalism that swept through post World War I Germany was offensive.
No, he was not but read on…
In the 1970s, Latter-day Saint leaders began to quote C.S. Lewis in the semi-annual General Conference talks.
Earlier this month, Mormon Apostle D. Todd Cristofferson made a rather striking reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a discussion of marriage.
Cristofferson quoted at length from a May 19, 1943 sermon that Bonhoeffer wrote while incarcerated in a high-security Gestapo prison:
Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. … So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.
What a beautiful message. One can readily see why Cristofferson appropriated it for his discussion of the significance of marriage for Latter-day Saints. For Mormons, marriage a divine institution, an ordinance connected with with the exaltation of men and women to become kings and queens unto God. Marriage is the crowning ordinance that exalts human beings back into the presence of a Father they had once known prior to their mortality. It binds together the generations.
As one would expect, there are many things in Bonhoeffer’s understanding of marriage that do not accord with Cristofferson’s. Most obviously, for Bonhoeffer, it is marriage until death, probably not eternity. Nor does Bonhoeffer connect marriage with salvation or exaltation.
Earlier this month, I post that on June 17, 1940 (the day France surrendered to Germany), Dietrich Bonhoeffer was with his close friend Eberhard Bethge “in the Baltic village of Memel. They were relaxing in an “open-air café when suddenly a special announcement came over the loudspeaker that France had surrendered. Bethge wrote:
The people around the tables could hardly contain themselves; they jumped up, and some even climbed on the chairs. With outstretched arms, they sang “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles” and the Horse Wessel song. We stood up, too Bonhoeffer raised his arm in the regulation Hitler salute, while I stood there dazed. “Raise your arm! Are you crazy?” he whispered to me, and later: “We shall have to run risks for very different things now, but not for that salute!”
This was a turning point for DB! Bethge “asserts that Bonhoeffer’s ‘double life’ truly began. This Confessing Church pastor and theologian became deeply involved in the resistance movement against Hitler and the Nazis.”
Wow! I have had numerous discussions with people over the years about why a Christian like Bonhoeffer could take an active role in the resistance. Many are troubled because Jesus said to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43).
I have struggled other it was well. Yet, we were not there. DB was! And somehow, he joined the resistance to stop a mad-man from murdering innocent people. Somehow, DB reconciled being a disciple of Jesus and plotting to kill Hitler.
Author: Frederick Meekins
Bio: Frederick Meekins
Date: August 30, 2015
|Topic category: Religion & Philosophy in the News
In a column regarding Dietrich Bonhoeffer, shouldn’t Cal Thomas have been a bit more reserved in his praise of the theologian executed by the Nazis?
Bonhoeffer should be honored for his stand against tyranny and for modeling many of the values Christians strive to incorporate into their own lives such as standing up for what they believe to be right even when it is not the popular thing to do.
But in terms of belief and doctrine, Bonhoeffer is far from being the ideal Christian many of our religious leaders uplift him to be.
According to Biblical Discernment Ministries, Bonehoffer undermined the sinlessness of Jesus, downplayed individual salvation (instead equating that eternal state with church membership), and suggested that Christ’s Resurrection was not so much an historical event but rather a mythological one (a fancy way of saying that the event is probably just a story from which we can draw inspiration but not likely one that actually transpired).
In the Christian life, one’s profession of faith must be backed by more than mere words.
From the beginning, then, I was associated with Bonhoeffer’s training of ministers for the Confessing church. A close friendship resulted, and I accompanied him wherever he lived and worked. In 1940 I followed him him to Berlin, where I often stayed at his parents’ house, and in 1943 I married Renate Schleicher, the daughter of Bonhoeffer’s sister Ursula, who lived next door. Finally, he and I conducted an illegal correspondence that began after Bonhoeffer had survived the first dangerous series of interrogations in Tegel military prison. Eventually, this correspondence led to worldwide discussion. I also saw him several times in Tegel prison, until our contact was finally broken off as a result of my own arrest in October 1944. The Gestapo explored my relation with the Schleicher family, but neglected to investigate my ties to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Thus, I survived!