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Was Bonhoeffer a Conspirator?

It is a foregone conclusion among many scholars, and certainly the wider public, that by the late 30′s Dietrich Bonhoeffer had changed his view on violence. While earlier in the 30′s he had articulated a perspective on violence that could be characterized as pacifism rooted in his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount captured clearly in Discipleship, the realities of Nazi German had caused him to see the necessity of violence in the face of such evil. This interpretation of Bonhoeffer finds its plausibility in his later letters from prison and his unfinished Ethics that was later published by Eberhard Bethge.

But a new book robustly challenges this assumption. And it is quite convincing. The thesis of  Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking is that this widely held belief is flat wrong. When one looks carefully at Bonhoeffer’s life and his writings one finds that Bonhoeffer was consistent throughout his life on the question of violence. His work in the Abwehr, which is often pointed to as evidence of his involvement in the conspiracies, does not necessitate his participation in the plot(s) to assassinate Hitler. According to the argument of the book, Bonhoeffer’s decision to join the German Intelligence agency was his way of avoiding service in the military. Further, there is no evidence of his involvement in these plots.

Bonhoeffer was a conscientious objector, but not a conspirator.

Let me summarize the five key arguments (summarized in the conclusion) in this well-argued and well-written protest:

1. It is highly unlikely that Bonhoeffer was involved in any assassination attempts. There is no evidence that during his time in the Abwehr connecting Bonhoeffer to the five assassination attempts on Hitler from 1938-44.

2. Bonhoeffer claimed that he had become a Christian pacifist. He believed it was “self-evident” in light of the Sermon of the Mount. There is no evidence to suggest that he recanted that statement.

For the rest of the post…

The culture wars will always be with us. Most recently, Phil Robertson, the godly patriarch of the Robertson clan on the very popular Duck Dynasty show on A & E, was suspended by the network because of his anti-gay comments.  Soon after, the Robertson family issued statement indicating the show probably could not continue without Phil. I would hate to see the show end because it really quacks me up. I also love the show because of its focus on Christian values and family. Plus, I have guns and am a hunter!

This will not be the last battle in the culture wars in our country.  Thus, it is important that those who claim to follow Jesus need to act like Jesus especially in the heat of the battle. I have been a Baptist pastor for 30 years, and I am dedicated to the Word of God which is the Bible. If the Bible is not true, then I have wasted my life, along with thirteen years of higher education.

There are Biblical principles that the followers of Jesus need to remember when it comes to the culture wars…

  • We are to love all people! Jesus made this crystal clear in Matthew 22:37-38: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our “neighbor” is everyone around us. It does not matter how different our neighbor is from us, we are to love that person. We are even to love those people who hate us: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Jesus in Matthew 5:44).
  • We are to honor everyone! 1 Peter 2:17 commands us this: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” As Christians we are honor and respect our political leaders and everyone else. It does not matter if the person disagrees with us when it comes to politics, favorite sport’s team (Go Huskers, Red Sox, Steelers and Blue Jays Basketball!), religion (or lack of it), sexual orientation or anything else. We are to honor and respect and love all people. This is the way of Jesus.
  • We are to exhibit the character of Jesus. Our country needs to see authentic Christians in action. When people think of an “evangelical Christian”, they often think of someone who is angry and is against stuff. Most Christians that I know are not angry and busy signing petitions. But there are just enough angry followers of Jesus out there to give the impression that the mission of the church is to protest and fight for the rights of Christians.

That is why I am against boycotts. How many people have turned to Jesus for salvation because of a boycott that originated with Christians? I doubt any have. What should the Christian look like? Well, according to Galatians 5:22-23, Christians are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  In other words, we are to be like Jesus.

Now, Jesus, the most loving and joyful person who ever lived, was against sin. That is why, as the eternal son of God, he came into our world nearly 200o years ago. His God-ordained mission in life was to go to the cross as the perfect Lamb of God to die for our sins and to absorb the wrath of God on our behalf. His death and resurrection broke the power of sin and death and Satan.

Yet, Jesus loved all people. Let us do the same!

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