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I am currently reading William L Shirer’s classic book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960 ed.). Shirer makes it clear that Adolf Hitler wanted the churches in Germany to submit to his authority…

So far as the Protestants were concerned, Hitler was insistent that if the Nazi “German Christians” could not bring the evangelical churches into line under Reich Bishop Mueller then the government itself would have to take over the direction of the churches. He had a certain contempt for the Protestants (328-329).

Christian America and the Cruciform Church

January 9, 2014 By  

“Christian America” is that form of American Christianity that operates by way of seeking to show the importance of Christianity for culture at large in terms of its strength, sustainable solutions and resilience to gain and maintain control. But is this the way God in Christ always or even chiefly operates?

Perhaps we can learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s approach to German Christianity and the surrounding culture in the mid-twentieth century. Bonhoeffer wrote about being dead to the “God of the gaps” kind of Christianity. “God of the gaps” Christianity seeks to present Christianity as playing a strong savior role whereby it fills the gaps and provides the missing links for all of society’s questions and concerns. This entails the view of God riding into town and miraculously saving the day (deus ex machina). On this view, God delivers his people from their (and his) enemies—in Bonhoeffer’s case, the Nazis. In contrast, in Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer writes that God allows us to push him out of the world and onto the cross. For Bonhoeffer, at this stage in his journey, God is weak and powerless in the world. For Bonhoeffer, “man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world: God is thedeus ex machina. The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.”

For readers who don’t know it, Bonhoeffer’s story is what really makes the God-in the-gallows lesson come live.

For the rest of the article…

The control of the Church by German Christians was not all that disturbed men like Bonhoeffer. It was becoming clear that Hitler intended to bend the Church to his purposes, or cripple it if it to bend. Pastors were discouraged from speaking out against early Nazi abuses; the government abetted ecclesiastical authorities who were sympathetic with the nationalist fervor of the regime.

Eventually churchman like Pastor Schneider who voiced serious disapproval with the government were sent to prison camps or moved to rural parishes. 

(William Kuhns, In Pursuit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer48-49).

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