You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘President Donald Trump’ tag.

How Would Bonhoeffer Vote?

LESS THAN A MONTH before the 2016 presidential election, evangelical journalist and biographer Eric Metaxas made the case in The Wall Street Journal that, though they might find his morals odious and his behavior unconscionable, American evangelicals had no choice but to vote for Donald Trump. Metaxas admitted that Trump’s lecherous Access Hollywood hot-mic audio comments, which the Washington Post had made public five days before, might be a deal-breaker for some religious voters. But Trump’s opponent, he argued, had “a whole deplorable basketful” of deal-breakers, and, purity be damned, Christians were obligated to stop her from reaching the Oval Office.

To make his point, Metaxas needed a weighty moral example, a name that had currency among churchgoers. Attentive observers of American Christianity could almost have predicted his choice. “The anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by,” Metaxas wrote, implying that pulling the lever for Trump was analogous to conspiring against Hitler’s regime, while voting for Hillary Clinton was roughly equivalent to joining the brownshirts. As everyone knows, evangelicals bought what Metaxas was selling.

This was far from the first time the Berlin theologian and pastor’s name was used to gain leverage in American politics. The Bonhoeffer of Metaxas’s 2010 best seller, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, had all the theological orthodoxy and manly grit an evangelical could want. Conversely, though Charles Marsh’s 2014 biography, Strange Glory, was exquisitely crafted and meticulously researched, his Bonhoeffer looked suspiciously like an American liberal Protestant with some inclination toward activism and progressive politics. He even spent the years he was incarcerated in the Nazi military prison at Tegel (1943–1945) suffering from unrequited love toward his best (male) friend, Eberhard Bethge, rather than pining for his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer.

More recently, both conservative and progressive journalists, pastors, and academics have entered the fray, claiming that either the Obergefell v. Hodges decision to legalize gay marriage (the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ronnie Floyd) or the election of Donald Trump (Sojourners magazine) constitutes a “Bonhoeffer moment,” one in which Christians must resist cultural or governmental authority in order to obey God. The debate about who has the right to claim Germany’s most famous resistance figure has become so fierce that last year Rhodes College professor Stephen Haynes penned The Battle for Bonhoeffer to address the United States’s recent reception of his theology.

With so many American Christians wielding his name in this cultural proxy war, one might assume Bonhoeffer’s political commitments were common knowledge among college-educated believers. One would be wrong. Books on Operation Valkyrie and Bonhoeffer’s association with the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler are a dime a dozen. English-language studies that touch on Bonhoeffer’s work on behalf of the Jews or his interest in the American Black church appear frequently enough. But if one sets out to peg Bonhoeffer as an ally of either American Democrats or Republicans, only a deep dive into current scholarship will offer any clarity.

That, of course, is because Bonhoeffer lived in a very different time and culture. He grew up among the Berlin Bildungsbürgertum — the city’s cultural elite — in the western suburb of Grunewald. Many academics lived in this upscale neighborhood. Dietrich’s childhood ambition to pursue a doctorate would not have seemed entirely abnormal in that environment. By his teenage years, his father, Karl Bonhoeffer, had become one of Germany’s most famous psychiatrists; the eminent church historians Ernst Troeltsch and Adolf von Harnack were regulars at neighborhood gatherings. However, these were hardly liberal, American-style academic circles. Most found themselves in agreement with their government’s bellicosity when war broke out in 1914. In fact, many were passionate advocates of imperialism; Harnack even acted as a speechwriter for Kaiser Wilhelm II.

A different political mood prevailed in the Bonhoeffer family. Dietrich’s older brother, Karl-Friedrich, joined the Social Democrats after a conversion to socialism during the war. The other siblings drifted toward the German People’s Party and similar parties. Theirs was a bourgeois politics sympathetic with the more open and liberal atmosphere of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, a stance that may help explain why so many in the Bonhoeffer family would later play active roles in the resistance.

Dietrich, however, stood mostly aloof from wranglings over political ideology. His friend Eberhard Bethge has written that in the 1932 elections Dietrich supported the moderate, lay Catholic Center Party because he thought their international ties — that is, partly ties to the Vatican — could provide “stability and independence” in a rather unstable time. This was an extraordinary step for a German Protestant minister, yet in one sense it fits Bonhoeffer perfectly. His foremost political concerns were never about economics, war and peace, or even the treatment of minorities, though obviously these things were not unimportant to him. Above all else, Bonhoeffer cared about the preservation of the gospel message and the freedom of the Christian church from political and cultural entanglements that might obscure its message. The intricacies of politics, he firmly believed, were not the business of the Protestant pastor or theologian.

“There is no doubt that the church of the Reformation is not encouraged to get involved directly in specific political actions of the state,” Bonhoeffer wrote in his 1933 essay “The Church and the Jewish Question.” “The church has neither to praise nor to censure the laws of the state. Instead, it has to affirm the state as God’s order of preservation in this godless world.” There were rare exceptions to this rule of nonintervention, of course, and the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany was clearly one of them. That was not, however, simply because the Nazi government was engaging in morally repugnant deeds and implementing unjust laws, but because those deeds and laws had driven the church into a status confessionis, a situation where the very truth of the gospel was at stake.

Republicans more anxious about safeguarding religious freedom than President Trump’s peccadillos may read these lines and believe they have found a kindred spirit. When they encounter Bonhoeffer’s conclusion in his Ethics that abortion is “nothing but murder” and discover his intense impatience with American liberal theology, they might feel themselves justified in christening the Obergefell decision a status confessionis — roughly what today might be called a “Bonhoeffer moment.” Perhaps those who are potential targets of an anti-discrimination lawsuit feel especially justified in doing so.

Yet when Bonhoeffer came to Union Theological Seminary in New York for the 1930–’31 academic year and, again, for the summer of 1939, he had some harsh words for those obsessed with religious liberty. “The American praise of freedom is more a tribute to the world, the state, and society than it is a statement concerning the church,” he wrote. “But where the gratitude for institutional freedom must be paid for through the sacrifice of the freedom of [gospel] proclamation, there the church is in chains, even if it believes itself to be free.”

Bonhoeffer, it would seem, may have found the conservative panic over Obergefell more faithless than politically feckless. He may have thought their “Bonhoeffer moment” more about self-preservation and power politics than gospel proclamation.

American progressives might feel even more justified in appropriating Bonhoeffer’s legacy. After all, the first thing most people learn about the Lutheran theologian is that he resisted a tyrannical government that systematically oppressed minorities. And, as many on the American left argue, the Trump administration has at least tried to do just that. These progressive believers might buttress their case by lauding Bonhoeffer’s courageous philosemitic efforts or citing the Sundays in 1931 he spent with the Black community at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. And when they read the blistering criticisms of “otherworldly” faith in his essay “Thy Kingdom Come!” or discover his hope for the future development of a “religionless Christianity” in his final letters, enthused Democrats might be ready to enlist Bonhoeffer’s help in the 2020 election. Those “Bonhoeffer moments,” after all, will come in handy on the campaign trail.

Yet letters and documents from his year in the United States reveal a Bonhoeffer at odds with the progressive American version as well. The historical Bonhoeffer was sometimes appalled by the oppression of African Americans, but he spent much more of his time filling letters and essays with criticisms and even contempt for American liberal Protestantism and progressive politics.

“God is not the immanent progressive ethical principle of history; God is the Lord who judges the human being and his work, he is the absolute sovereign (God’s kingdom is not a democracy!),” Bonhoeffer fumed in a memo about American Christianity. “The ideal of international, democratic, collectivist life together on the basis of the value of individuals (notice the inner contradiction!) is not identical with the kingdom of God.”

For Bonhoeffer, American liberals had misunderstood an essential part of Christianity: no matter how hard we try, human beings cannot inaugurate the kingdom of God. The best believers can do before that bright day in which Christ returns is preserve human rights, political stability, and a modicum of justice and proclaim the gospel message whether or not they find it politically expedient.

So how would Dietrich Bonhoeffer vote in 2020? Which side would he back in the United States’s vituperative, divided political landscape, and which would he think has the right to claim their political program as a righteous reaction to a “Bonhoeffer moment”?

For the rest of the article…

January 20, 2019

Article by Scott Klusendorf

ABSTRACT: The pro-life movement in America seemed in dire straits in 2016, with losses on almost every front. Donald Trump’s surprising win appears to have stalled the abortion juggernaut. An escape, however, is not a triumph. Dunkirk was not Normandy. Abortion is here to stay as long as millions of young Christians are uninformed, unequipped, and unconcerned.

The pro-life movement faced a gathering storm in 2016.

In California, pro-life pregnancy centers were forced to advertise abortion services or pay crippling fines. In New York, Catholic nuns were told to fund abortion in their health-care plans or dissolve. Nationally, pro-life doctors were pressured to refer patients for abortion or risk their medical credentials. Politically, the outlook was grim. Abortion activists were one appointment away from commanding the Supreme Court. A conservative justice was dead. The Republican presidential candidate had lamentable character, and his pro-life commitment was unproven. And the candidate sworn to uphold abortion at any stage of pregnancy appeared to be running away with the election.

Then, in God’s strange providence, Donald Trump’s win stalled the abortion juggernaut. Given a choice between a flawed presidential candidate who might limit abortion and one who affirmed it wholesale, a majority of pro-life advocates voted to limit the evil and promote the good insofar as possible.1Political ambition did not drive them to the polls. Survival instinct did. They feared a Clinton presidency would irrevocably crush their efforts to save children.

Pro-lifers received some immediate relief from the new president. He cut off overseas funding for abortion. He created a special office to protect the conscience rights of health-care professionals. Most importantly, he began overhauling the federal courts. Last summer, the Supreme Court tossed the California law that forced pregnancy centers to promote abortion. The decision was 5-to-4. Without Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, that ruling goes the other way.

All this is good news for the pro-life movement, but an escape is not a triumph. Abortion is here to stay as long as millions of Christians are uninformed and unequipped, as long as those predisposed to accept our view and contend for it never actually experience pro-life teaching. Whatever gains have been made in Washington, we are failing in our churches and Christian schools. And the political cost of that failure is steep. Sustained political victory happens when large coalitions of pro-life voters command the electoral landscape to the extent that we can protect candidates who support us and penalize ones who don’t. Christian students are especially vital to building that coalition, but they’re not hearing from us. The problem is not messaging. It’s access. For many Christian leaders, the thought of pro-life teaching is dead on arrival.

Only Two Percent

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez presides over a political party dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be set aside to be killed. For Perez, the right to abortion is absolute. “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. . . . That is not negotiable.”2 Perez blames churches for hamstringing his party’s messaging on abortion. The Sunday morning pulpit elevates abortion above everything else “and people buy it. Because that’s their only source,” the DNC chairman laments.3

Anyone who thinks Perez is right should visit Summit Ministries. Each summer, Summit runs regional worldview conferences in Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The purpose is simple: prepare Christian students for the intellectual challenges they will face once they leave the safety of their local churches and step on to the university campus.

I teach the abortion sessions at Summit. For the last five summers, I’ve conducted an informal survey of attendees. I ask for a show of hands on a specific question: “How many of you, prior to coming to Summit, heard a pro-life apologetics presentation in your church aimed at equipping you to defend the pro-life view?” The numbers are remarkably consistent. Out of 1,800 students present each summer, an average of 45 have prior exposure to a pro-life apologetics presentation in their local churches. Let that sink in: 45 out of 1,800! That’s only 2.5%.

What Makes Pro-Life Teaching Hard?

Churches aren’t the only challenge. Life Training Institute (LTI), where I serve as President, trains Christians to make a persuasive case for life in the public square. The primary way we fulfill our mission is by making pro-life apologetics presentations in Catholic and Protestant high schools. Last year, our speaking team reached 72,000 students with pro-life apologetics talks. Unlike other pro-life presentations that focus on chastity or sexual purity (programs we fully support), LTI presentations focus exclusively on why the pro-life view is true and reasonable to believe. To my knowledge, we are the only pro-life group that systematically targets Catholic and Protestant high schools with pro-life talks of this sort.

It takes a Herculean effort and a lion’s share of our budget to get in front of 72,000 Christian students. Many schools ignore us. Why is that?

Credentials aren’t the problem. Anyone who spends five minutes on Google can see that LTI speakers engage students with persuasive content and earn favorable reviews everywhere they go. Nationally syndicated programs like Focus on the Family and Issues, Etc. feature our presentations. We’ve published books with Crossway and Hendrickson. The Gospel Coalition publishes our articles. We’re contributing authors to the Christian Research Journal. In addition to Summit, we lecture at Biola University’s worldview conferences and teach pro-life apologetics to aspiring lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Academy. We were asked to advise a presidential candidate on abortion. Christian leaders like John Piper, J.D. Greear, Al Mohler, and John Stonestreet reference our training materials. We have secular credentials as well. I’ve debated my friend Nadine Strossen — former president of the ACLU — on several university campuses.

Messaging isn’t the problem. Students routinely thank us for making persuasive arguments instead of emotional appeals. A common response is, “That was amazing. You’re the first person to actually give us reasons.”

Speaking fees aren’t the problem. We understand that most Christian schools are broke. Thus, with few exceptions, we send our speakers for free. We pick up the airfare, hotel, car rental, and speaker stipend. We absorb the cost of hiring a full-time staffer to secure the event in the first place. The school pays nothing.

It’s still tough getting in.

What They Don’t Want to See

Put simply, our problem is subject matter. We’re offering an abortion presentation many Christian schools and churches don’t want. Our challenge is to make them want it, to convince them it’s vital to the formation of a Christian worldview, and to persuade them that students will thank them for hosting it.

Once a Christian high school agrees to have us, we face another challenge: negotiating an effective presentation. The best talks include persuasive arguments, gospel, and the careful use of abortion imagery. Gregg Cunningham puts it well: “Pro-lifers should stop protesting abortion and start exposing it. When you show pictures of abortion, abortion protests itself.”4Our pro-abortion adversaries know this and candidly admit their rhetoric is no match for the visuals. “When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say, ‘choice,’ and we lose,” writes feminist Naomi Wolf.5

Nevertheless, opposition to the images is stiff, even among pro-lifers. Last year, I spoke in chapel at a large Christian university. The event host refused to let me show a 55-second clip depicting abortion as part of my presentation despite acknowledging my documented history of using visuals responsibly. He knew that I never spring disturbing pictures on unsuspecting audiences, that I fully disclose the contents of the film before showing it, and that I invite people to look away if they wish not to watch. He knew that I situated the pictures within the context of the gospel, stressing God’s grace to wounded people rather than condemnation. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t fight for the clip when his staff objected to its use. He admitted the images save lives and resonate powerfully with audiences but said students at his university were too fragile to handle them.

Event hosts say this all the time. They want other people to see the images, just not their people. They hope FOX News will do the heavy lifting for them. Ironically, that same chapel host said he was on a personal mission to recruit more students for the campus pro-life club, whose numbers were abysmally low. How? By hiding the truth from them? As Cunningham points out, “When pro-life leaders care more about the feelings of the born than they do the lives of the unborn, the pro-life movement is in real trouble.”

If you think accessing Christian schools is tough, try popular Christian conferences. Students ages 18 to 24 are most at risk for abortion, yet you would never know it by surveying the speaking lineups. You’ll find sessions on global sex trafficking, world hunger, economic justice, climate change, refugees, and racism, but there’s no passion to engage the culture on the legally sanctioned killing of 61 million innocent human beings in our own nation since 1973. At times, pro-lifers encounter outright hostility. In 2015, Urbana — once the premier evangelical student conference — featured a Black Lives Matter speaker who used her keynote slot to bash pro-lifers for “only doing activism that is comfortable” and for “withholding mercy from the living so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn.”

Does any of this sound like an evangelical community woke to elevating abortion above everything else?

Functionally Pro-Choice?

It gets worse. The 2017 Evangelicals for Life conference, where I presented a session on pro-life apologetics, featured a keynote address from Eugene Cho, the former lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. Cho told pro-lifers to rewrite their job descriptions to include a comprehensive, whole-life ethic. “We can’t just be anti-abortion. We should be for the sanctity of life from the womb to tomb. . . . Not just American lives, but Syrian lives. Not just Christian liberty religious lives, but Muslim refugee lives.” We can’t cherry pick. “All life is sacred and every single human being bears the image of God.”6

Except when that image-bearer isn’t sacred enough to legally protect. What conference attendees may not have known is that Cho is functionally pro-choice. He personally opposes abortion and wants to reduce it but thinks it should remain legal in a pluralistic society due to the high cost of outlawing it. He writes, “Like most Christians I know, I am against abortion. However, I just do not believe we can legislate it. . . . Can we maintain choice but do all that we can to preserve and ensure the life of an unborn?”7

Has it ever occurred to Cho that a society which dramatically reduced the lynching of blacks, but left it legal to lynch them, would be a deeply immoral society? Imagine telling blacks, “We will do all we can to protect you so long as it’s not too expensive and meets with popular approval in our pluralistic society. After all, we want to maintain choice.” This is beyond mind-boggling. When a pro-choice pastor, who thinks it should be legal to intentionally dismember innocent human beings because it costs too much to protect them, uses his platform at an evangelical pro-life conference to tell abortion opponents they aren’t really pro-life, “pro-life” has lost all meaning.

Cho isn’t providing students or anyone else biblical leadership on abortion. He’s conveying what the secular culture already believes. As journalist Christopher Caldwell points out, Americans love to condemn abortion with words but keep the option legally available. “Even where Americans claim to disapprove most strongly of abortion, they booby-trap their disapproval so that it never results in the actual curtailment of abortion rights. A pro-life regime is not really something Americans want — it’s just something they feel they ought to want.”8

Moreover, why is the “whole-life” argument never used against other groups who target specific forms of injustice, only pro-lifers? If an inner-city daycare ministry only receives grade-school kids from 3:00 to 5:00pm on weekdays, do we cast aspersions on them for not operating 24/7? Do we insist they spread their already scarce resources even thinner fighting poverty and gang violence? True, abortion isn’t the only issue — any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or killing Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of their day. Pro-lifers are right to give greater weight to the greater moral issue.

My colleague Marc Newman writes, “Individuals and organizations that make it their exclusive mission to save innocent human beings from a culture hell-bent on butchering them have nothing to apologize for. They don’t need additional causes; they need additional support.”9

Meanwhile, we shouldn’t assume that Christian students will get pro-life teaching from evangelical thought-leaders when some of the most influential ones consider pastoral silence a theological virtue. In 1994, Billy Graham said that addressing abortion in the pulpit could impede his “main message” of salvation. “I don’t get into these things like abortion,” Graham told talk show host Larry King.10

More recently, WORLD magazine reports on an evangelical pastor in New York who says that abortion is a double-justice issue and people should be stopped from doing it, but he doesn’t focus on it from the pulpit because “pushing moral behaviors before we lift up Christ is religion” — something Jesus warns about. The biblical approach to controversial sins, he says, is to preach the gospel and let congregants arrive at the right conclusion. He cites the example of an Ivy League graduate who thanked him for not focusing on abortion from the pulpit. She added, “If I had seen any literature or reference to the ‘pro-life’ movement, I would not have stayed through the first service.” She was a lawyer, a resident of Manhattan, and an active ACLU member. Her history included three abortions. Eventually, the woman converted to Christianity under the pastor’s influence. Later she approached him to ask, “Do you think abortion is wrong?” He said yes. She replied, “I am coming to see that maybe there is something wrong with it.”11

I’m glad she eventually figured it out, but what are we to conclude — that clerical silence in the face of child sacrifice is an acceptable means of evangelism? That’s cold comfort to dead children who, this pastor candidly admits, “are not being treated as they deserve.”

Prudence in the pulpit is essential, but the pastor presents a false choice. Pastors don’t have to choose between “pushing moral behaviors” or “lifting up Christ.” They can preach truthfully on abortion but do so within the context of the gospel.

For the rest of the post…

From Bryan–Most recent articles that link Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Donald Trump will use Bonhoeffer to criticize the President. The truth does need to be expressed by both the left and the right.

JANUARY 12, 2019

BY VANCEMORGAN

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the figures we will be studying in “’Love Never Fails’: Grace, Truth, and Freedom in the Nazi Era,” an interdisciplinary colloquium that I will be teaching with a colleague from the history department this coming semester. The first thing I read when on retreat last week was a new translation of Bonhoeffer’s “Ten Years After,” an essay Bonhoeffer wrote for colleagues and friends in 1942, reflecting on various aspects of the past decade in Germany as he and others had, in various ways, resisted the rise and entrenchment of the Nazis. Less than year after writing this essay, Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Nazis for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, for which he was executed in 1945, just weeks before the end of World War Two. “Ten Years After” is comparable to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a document addressing the specific challenges of their times by speaking to greater issues, including the human capacity for decency, courage, and engagement in political culture that honors integrity and these values. How is one to think beyond self-interest and toward the common good in challenging times?

In “Ten Years After,” Bonhoeffer observes how easily human beings are swayed and seduced by peer pressure and crowd behaviors. Although his context was Nazi Germany, his observations about what happens to human decency and courage when a political culture begins to disintegrate and a social atmosphere becomes toxic read as if they were written this morning. Bonhoeffer wrestles with what happens to good people, what to the soul, and to the human sense of morality and responsibility, when evil becomes so embedded in a political culture that it is part of the very fabric of daily life, and it becomes impossible for good people to remain untouched by it.

One of the most written about and often quoted portions of Bonhoeffer’s essay is “On Stupidity,” a stupidity that Bonhoeffer claims “is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.” By “stupidity,” Bonhoeffer does not mean low IQ or lack of intelligence; indeed, “there are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull, yet anything but stupid.” By “stupid,” Bonhoeffer means something that contemporary Americans encounter every day, from the White House to the local coffee shop.

Against stupidity, we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed—in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical—and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential.

When President Donald Trump denies saying something that was recorded less than a month ago on television (at his own insistence), when Vice President Mike Pence and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spout numbers that a brief session on Google shows to be blatantly false, stupidity is in the ascendant. When millions of citizens are uninterested in fact-checking lies or changing their minds in the face of new evidence, stupidity reigns. And as Bonhoeffer notes, we misjudge the situation when we dismiss such believing persons with condescending pejoratives—persons with PhD’s and people with no formal education are equally susceptible to stupidity as Bonhoeffer defines it. How can this be?

According to Bonhoeffer, people either consciously choose to become stupid or allow it to happen because their defenses are down.The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them . . . Every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity . . . The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.

In our current political climate, stupidity ranges across the spectrum from the most obsessed Trumpster to the most avid Berniebot. Whether in support of or in opposition to any particular agenda or political figure, stupidity always dehumanizes, replacing thought and deliberation with soundbites and memes. Bonhoeffer’s diagnosis seventy-five years ago could have been written this morning.

One virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him . . . Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.

So, what is to be done? Bonhoeffer expresses his prescription for stupidity in religious terms: “The internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.” This is not a call for everyone to become a person of faith, however; from a prison cell a couple of years later, Bonhoeffer will write that God wants people of faith to live as if God does not exist. Bonhoeffer’s call is for people to take responsibility for who and what they are, rather than turning this responsibility over to others in exchange for perceived power or solidarity.

For the rest of the post…

The following was written by Jack Heppner, an obvious anti-Trumper. It is amazing to me how often I have read of those who compare President Trump to Adolf Hitler. It is an incredible leap when you consider that Hitler was a monster, responsible for tens of millions of deaths in World War II. Many times, when this comparison is made, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gets dragged into the discussion because his response to Hitler can help serve as our response to Trump. I know many people cannot stand Trump, and he is far from perfect, but to compare him to Hitler is absurd. I would love to get Eric Metaxas’ take on this post.

Bonhoeffer on Politics

While travelling in the United States recently I was at the same time working my way through Eric Metaxas’ epic biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, (2010). I couldn’t help but notice how similar political and religious dynamics in Germany in the 1930s were to those presently unfolding in America. In this essay I will reflect on the political similarities I see. In the next essay I will consider similarities on the religious front.

On the political front, I will argue that many of the authoritarian moves Hitler made in the 1930s are mirrored, at least to some degree, by Donald Trump today. I don’t think Trump will be able to elevate authoritarianism to the level Hitler did. American democracy has more than two centuries of experience and has built-in checks and balances powerful enough to thwart the authoritarian impulses of any president. On the other hand, democracy was first thrust upon Germany in the wake of WWI and so had not developed institutional protections against the abuses of authoritarianism.

I must say at the outset, that I was greatly disheartened to learn, after reading Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer, that he is presently an avid supporter of Donald Trump. This is hard for me to fathom, given his exposure of authoritarianism under Hitler in the Bonhoeffer book only eight years ago. Nevertheless, I will proceed to note the reflections of Adolf Hitler that I see today in Donald Trump. I will do this largely by quoting directly from the Bonhoeffer book, making a few observations and then allowing the reader to connect the dots.

“Germany wanted to restore its former glory…So the people democratically elected the man who had vowed to destroy the democratic government they hated. Hitler’s election to office destroyed the office” (114).

Trump’s enduring slogan has been to “Make America Great Again!” However, since being elected he has regularly demonized and tried to manipulate institutions designed to rein in an authoritarian president, including; the Congress, the judiciary, the free press and the FBI. By doing so he has brought the office of the presidency into great peril.

“Klaus and Diedrich agreed that Hitler and the Nazis could not last long, but the damage they were doing to the nation was grave” (158)…

Based on Trump’s erratic behavior from day one of his presidency, many predicted he would last perhaps a few months, at the most a year. But both Hitler and Trump were able to out-maneuver their opponents and hang on to power in spite of the damage they were doing to their nations.

“There was still hope that this madman might not be so mad after all or that his wildness might yet be domesticated” (249).

At first many were predicting that following Trump’s dizzying rhetoric of hate, fear and division on the campaign trail he would calm down once in office. However, that hope was never realized.

“We will have to move through a very deep valley, I believe much deeper than we can sense now, before we will be able to ascend the other side again” (374).

Given the intense partisanship Trump has reveled in and exacerbated from the outset it is hard to see a quick exit to the morass the country finds itself in. Some are hopeful that midterm successes of the democrats will quicken the process, but in any case there is a long road ahead, in my opinion.

“One sometimes hears that Hitler was a Christian. He certainly was not, but neither was he openly anti-Christian. He was utterly pragmatic. In public he often made comments that made him sound pro-church or pro-Christian, but there can be no question that he said these things cynically, for political gain” (165).

Prior to entering politics there were no indications that Trump was a Christian. However, once he intuited that he needed the evangelical base to win and keep power, Trump began making statements about how important God was to him. He allowed a Christian chaplain into the White House, appointed numerous openly evangelical people to high office, and frequently invited large groups of evangelical pastors to the White House to cultivate a “Christian” relationship.

“Hitler worshipped power, while truth was a phantasm to be ignored; and his sworn enemy was not falsehood but weakness. For Hitler, ruthlessness was a great virtue, and mercy a great sin” (168).

It is no secret that Trump regularly says things that are simply not true. Fact checkers have documented thousands of untruths he has told while in office, many of them on Twitter. I just don’t get it. In Canada just one lie can be enough to bring down someone in high office. And even more troubling is the fact that many of those lies are made in a ruthless way to put down or “punish” those who disagree with him.

“Required of all army personnel: ‘I swear by God this sacred oath, that I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Fuehrer of the German Reich…’” (232).

Trump values personal loyalty above truth and competence. It is clear to me that the many firings within the White House revolve around the question of loyalty to Trump.

“But as he (Hitler) was every atom a petty man, he was accustomed to diverting exceedingly precious resources of time, personnel, and gasoline for the purposes of his own revenge” (529).

Pettiness and revenge are never far from the surface for Donald Trump. Hoping to pitch an image of strength, he instead projects the impression of a deeply wounded child who has never learned that love and trust will always trump pettiness and revenge.

For the most part I have refrained from writing about politics on my blog.

For the rest of the post…

by Brooke Conrad  & William Nardi

“The justification for support of Trump is he is seen as Cyrus, a megalomaniac mass murderer, so I guess that qualifies,” said Schenck at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., for his new book Costly Grace. “It’s the ends justifying the means. We support this ungodly character with massive flaws so we can get what he’s giving us. We did a deal with Donald Trump. We sold our principles if not our souls to get a laundry list of promises.”

In his book, Schenck discusses his 1970s conversion from nominal Judaism to Christianity and his subsequent 1980s political activism as a “leader of the most extreme wing of the anti-abortion movement.

In the preface to Costly Grace, Schenck writes about rediscovering the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an evangelical German pastor and spy who was hanged in an extermination camp near the end of World War II because of his opposition to Adolf Hitler. Schenck writes that he felt Bonhoeffer’s time reflects our own.

For the rest of the post…

I have been a fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer since I was a student at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN back in 1970s. Over the years, the person and works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been embraced by evangelicals, liberals, Jews and Catholics. He is also the champion of both the right and the left. He has been described as a “flamingly gay“.

No matter the issue, people from both sides of the issue look to Bonhoeffer for wisdom and guidance. The issue may be same-sex marriage, gun control, abortion, immigration, politics and politicians.

If Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived today, let’s say in America, what side would he take? Back in 2016, would he vote for Hillary or Trump? Voters for both candidates would build a case that Bonhoeffer would certainly see their point of view.

My thesis for my Doctor of Ministry degree focused on the impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on twenty-first century preachers, but I am far from being an expert on Bonhoeffer. But I did do enough research then and since then to say that Dietrich Bonhoeffer cannot be boxed in.

He was only 39 years old when he was hung. Imagine if he lived another thirty or forty years and was able to develop his ideas and theology further.

What side would he take? My take is this: Dietrich Bonhoeffer would teach us to pray, read the Bible and meditate on God’s Word. He would also not to place our trust in people (like Presidents) but in God alone. He would tell us to love others who are vastly different than us. I think he would say that even though, we live is an age of outrage, Christians, are to be at their very best and represent Jesus.

Bryan

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), photographed in 1939.
Ullstein Bild / Getty
How the murdered theologian came to be a symbol in American politics.

The Battle for Bonhoeffer
Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump
by Stephen R. Haynes
Eerdmans, 208 pp., $19.99

You can tell a lot about people by their heroes. After all, people model themselves after their heroes—and sometimes model their heroes after themselves.

That’s the basic premise of Stephen R. Haynes’s The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian executed in 1945 at the age of 39 for joining a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, lives on today as a hero for American Protestants across political and confessional boundaries. Different readers and biographers of Bonhoeffer have made different things of him—so strikingly different that in 1964 theologian Harvey Cox famously called Bonhoeffer “a veritable Rorschach test.”

Bonhoeffer wasn’t always a hero for American evangelicals. For two decades after his death, his legacy was the near-exclusive domain of liberal theologians attracted to the concept of “religionless Christianity” that Bonhoeffer developed while on death row. For those so-called “death-of-God” theologians, he was a prophet of a happy future in which Christianity would outgrow many of its traditional beliefs and practices. Needless to say, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians were unamused.

But as death-of-God theology started to, er, die out, the growing evangelical movement began to claim Bonhoeffer as one of its own. New interpretations of Bonhoeffer and his ideas emerged in the 1980s and ’90s. Haynes sorts these into four types: Bonhoeffer as a “Critical Patriot” showing liberal Protestants how best to critique their own government; Bonhoeffer as a “Righteous Gentile” whose advocacy for Jews models Jewish-Christian relations to this day; Bonhoeffer as a “Moral Hero” whose ecumenical battle for conscience transcended particular religious traditions; and the “Evangelical Bonhoeffer” whose Bible-believing Christianity can be weaponized in today’s cultural battles.

Each new Bonhoeffer has required more abstraction than the last—and because each has relied heavily on the broad outline of his life (and, more importantly, the story of his death) for symbolism of heroism and holiness, the actual details of his life and his writings have taken a back seat. It wasn’t Bonhoeffer’s theological ideas but the model of his self-sacrifice that demanded emulation, asking of every American, as Haynes puts it, “What are you doing to arrest this ongoing assault on innocent life?” As for which “ongoing assault,” well, that’s up to the reader. In recent decades, Bonhoeffer’s example has inspired right- and left-leaning Americans alike, all insisting that if Bonhoeffer lived today he would be on their side. Haynes documents Bonhoeffer’s postmortem crusades against abortion, the Iraq War, President Bush, President Obama, and finally, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In this back-and-forth deployment of Bonhoeffer’s legacy, Eric Metaxas’s bestselling 2009 biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy has a special place. Metaxas’s book and his subsequent attempts to employ Bonhoeffer to critique the Obama administration are significant not so much for changing anyone’s view of its subject but for amplifying the “Evangelical Bonhoeffer” in its public role. Dismissing prior Bonhoeffer scholarship as “a terrific misunderstanding,” Metaxas made a Bonhoeffer from scratch, one who (as evangelical reviewer Andy Rowell put it) “looks a lot like an American evangelical—an extraordinarily courageous American evangelical.”

Thanks in large part to Metaxas, the phrase “Bonhoeffer moment” became a powerful call to arms, especially for politically conservative Protestants. And as Bonhoeffer’s symbolic importance grew, the need for facts, either about him or about present realities, diminished. In the battle over religious liberty, for example, Haynes notes that evangelical leaders used the phrase “Bonhoeffer moment” almost without context. “Elaboration was unnecessary,” he explains, “because these leaders shared with their audiences an intuitive understanding of the expression.” The fact that the real Bonhoeffer might have disagreed strenuously with any number of the uses to which his name was being put doesn’t matter in the least.

At this point in the book, it looks like Haynes is about to ask why: Why do we still tie our political disputes today to the (usually far more dramatic) struggles of the last century? Why do the real details of those times matter so little to those who invoke them today? Why do our causes need to piggyback on the credibility of older ones?

But Haynes doesn’t ask. Instead, his narrative and argument collapse into the very misuses of Bonhoeffer that he criticized in the first half of the book. His analysis of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision about same-sex marriage struggles to retain scholarly neutrality, and the closer the story gets to the 2016 election, the more it relies on personal views and anecdotes.

By the end, Haynes’s scholarly project is altogether abandoned.

For the rest of the post…

Vegas Prof. Shoots Self as an Anti-Trump Protest

In August of this year, 69-year-old Mark J. Bird, a sociology professor intentionally shot himself in the arm as- he says- a protest against the president. In so doing, he violated a number of laws and local ordinances such as carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, discharging a firearm in a prohibited location, and possibly endangering students.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Bird had taped a $100 bill to the mirror of the bathroom with a note that read, “for the janitor.” That’s nice, and while it’s good that he did take the time to think about the trouble he was causing the cleanup crew- he did not think of the damage he was doing to the anti-gun rights cause.

Namely, by bringing a gun onto a college campus and using it within deadly range of students and faculty while violating a handful of laws, Bird proved conclusively that gun control laws do not work.

It’s unclear how the sociology teacher believed that shooting himself in the arm would hurt Donald Trump. At present it might be sufficient to say that the man had a clear case of Trump Derangement Syndrome; a satirical condition that appears to be more real and less satirical with each passing news cycle.

The professor joined the college staff in 1993. He was an emeritus member of the faculty according to Richard Lake, a college spokesman. This coming Fall season, Bird was not slated to teach any classes. As yet, the school has not taken any disciplinary action against the professor, and they do not have any plans to.

One student called emergency services when professor Bird was seen stumbling out of the bathroom bleeding and staggering. The professor fell to the floor where he was later collected by emergency medical personnel.

Other students reported hearing what they called a loud noise, though a .22 caliber shot report from inside a well-insulated lavatory would almost certainly not be terribly loud. One employee of the college told police that he had tried to hold Bird’s hand and comfort him while others worked to stop the blood gushing from his wound.

During the interim before the authorities could arrive, Bird told the people surrounding him there on the floor that he had done this to himself in order to protest the Trump administration. The incident took place at 8:15 am and the campus was declared safe at 9:00 am that morning. A campus-wide alert informed students that the gun had been sequestered and was in the control of authorities.

The faculty president Robert Manis said, “They never really told the students much about it except that it was resolved on the actual day of the shooting. When you don’t give the full details, then rumors go crazy. It’s unfortunate because it made the students and faculty very afraid and allowed rumors to proliferate.”

The college president, Federico Zaragoza released a statement that was published in the college newsletter, saying “I appreciate all of the expressions of concern and interest, and I pledge to keep everyone updated should the situation change.” A typical information-free administrative statement.

Further details about Bird’s mental health and his motivations have not been pursued by the press either local or national. But this is clearly another expression of the increasingly violent nature of the anti-Trump movement. The story has not gone beyond local Los Vegas papers and it is highly unlikely to reach national media.

For the rest of the post…

 

In an era of intense polarization, as liberals and conservatives argue over the meaning of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and work, a Bonhoeffer scholar considers what it means to be a disciple in the age of Trump.

Scholars and theologians across the spectrum have long argued over the meaning of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and work, but in recent years, those disagreements have intensified, spreading beyond the church and academy and into the political world, says Stephen R. Haynes.

“Basically everybody with an opinion who’s even heard of Bonhoeffer wants to use him to strengthen their case about whatever issue is under consideration,” said Haynes, the author of “The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump,” to be released this month by Eerdmans.

Since 9/11, and especially in the past few years, as America has become increasingly polarized, so too has Bonhoeffer’s legacy.

“People want to use him in a liberal way or a conservative way,” said Haynes, the Albert Bruce Curry Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis. “They want to use him in a way that speaks not only for what they believe but against what they’re against.”

The politicization of Bonhoeffer became most apparent in the 2016 presidential election, Haynes said, when Eric Metaxas, author of a best-selling Bonhoeffer biography, and other conservative evangelicals cited Bonhoeffer in urging evangelicals to vote for then-candidate Donald Trump.

“For the first time, people are using Bonhoeffer to say specifically, ‘We need to support this candidate in order to salvage our democracy,’” Haynes said.

In his book, Haynes takes issue with Metaxas, who he said “normalized” Trump in a way that many Christians find “difficult to imagine.”

As one who grew up in the evangelical tradition, Haynes said he is trying to speak to evangelicals who support Trump.

“I’m talking to people I know and respect who are committed to Trump, to try to think outside the box, outside the voices that they hear all the time, and reconsider what they’re doing,” Haynes said.

For the rest of the post…

Jon Ward

Senior Political Correspondent,
Yahoo News
Eric Metaxas speaks during the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C, on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Image

The case of Eric Metaxas still remains a puzzling one to many of his fellow evangelicals.

How could the man who wrote an admiring, bestselling biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the German pastor martyred for his opposition to the Nazis — become one of the most prominent evangelical supporters of Donald Trump, the most authoritarian, least churchly president in recent American history?

The answers to this question go to the heart of the cultural fears that motivated a large majority of white evangelical Christians to vote for Trump, opening an enduring split among evangelical elites.

“There are not many people … who truly surprised me in the 2016 campaign,” said David French, a conservative writer for National Review who was briefly mentioned as a possible third-party presidential candidate. “Of the publicly prominent Christians [who backed Trump], the two most surprising to me were William Bennett, author of ‘The Book of Virtues,’ and Eric Metaxas, author of ‘Bonhoeffer’.”

But it wasn’t just his credentials as an intellectual that made the Yale-educated Metaxas, on the surface, an unlikely Trump backer. It was his magnetic personality, the immaculate suits, the sharp-tongued humor and his public profile in New York City, where he hosted high-minded conversations with authors and public intellectuals at the Yale Club. Malcolm Gladwell made an appearance in January 2015.

Metaxas, the son of a Greek immigrant, began his career as a writer for the successful Christian children’s TV show “VeggieTales.” His wife, Susanne, is deeply active in the antiabortion movement as president and CEO of a pregnancy support center in Manhattan. And while Metaxas’ flamboyance has crossed over into excessive self-promotion at times, he is so talented, funny and sincere that his friends just laughed it off.

You can get a sense of his quirky, dry humor from his “Socrates in the City” events, like his 2014 conversation with former talk show host Dick Cavett, including an extended riff about how the gathering is really a “UFO cult.”

For the rest of the post…

August 2019
S M T W T F S
« Jul    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Twitter Updates

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.