It is a shame, there are real heroes out there. Most of the time they don’t wear a uniform. The vast majority of times, they aren’t Americans. Now and then, they are Germans from the mid-1900s. Hey, whodathunk; they might even be Christian.
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Bonhoeffer came from a famous family of German physicians, physicists and pianists.He had a regular habit of calling it like he saw it; even his church. As was his habit with the things he loved, either his church or his country, he would not walk away, but fight to fix it from within. He was often alone. Fear makes cowards of most, but not this man.
Staunch secularists who preferred waltzes to stained glass, most of his relatives frowned when Bonhoeffer said at 14 that he wanted to be a Lutheran pastor and theologian.
They said the church was a silly and irrelevant choice for a young man of his talent.That has always been a contention of mine. A lot of the reason for the rapid loss of faith in Western Europe was the loss of stature of many churches that did not stand up to Hitler. Just a theory.
"If the church is really what you say it is," Bonhoeffer replied, "then I shall have to reform it."
He called for a spiritually liberating "church without walls." He also wrote extensively about ways for Christians to be disciples rather than cosmetic followers of Christ.
He was one of a handful of Protestant leaders in Germany who openly fought Adolf Hitler. He was a founder of the anti-Nazi Confessing Church, which rejected Hitler's leadership in church affairs.
Few church leaders at that time saw the Nazis for what they were. Germany was recovering from the chaos and Communist agitation of the 1920s. Many in the country's dominant Lutheran Church welcomed what they saw as Hitler's strong, conservative leadership.Not easy to do pre-1945, remember that.
Bonhoeffer, however, looked for cause behind effect, and saw darker meanings in the Nazi purpose. When Hitler's followers talked of removing the Old Testament from the Bible because of its "Jewish taint" and discussed limiting baptism to "Aryans," Bonhoeffer was one of the first to thunder from the pulpit about the threat to Christianity.
"I'm a Christian first and foremost, a German second. And I can only hope to God that the two will never oppose each other," he said at the time.Next time someone talks about themselves or others as "heros", you may want to look to Pastor Bonhoeffer as a benchmark.
To sound the alarm, Bonhoeffer turned to the strongest tool he had - his sermons. He attacked Hitler in a series of articulate and well-aimed homilies.
The Nazis banned Bonhoeffer from preaching in various parts of Germany. Undaunted, he went underground, carrying the message of his anti-Nazi Confessing Church by traveling secretly from one village to the next.
Still, the Nazis were on his trail, so Bonhoeffer finally fled to the U.S. in June 1939. He took a lecturer's post at Union Theological Seminary in New York, but soon had second thoughts about exile.
"I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. . I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people," he wrote in a letter to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in July 1939 knowing it was a one-way mission.
Though violence went against his values, Bonhoeffer was equally repelled by what he saw as the "pious pacifism" of church leaders who refused to fight Hitler.
To him it was not pacifism, but cowardice in the face of a dictator who wanted to destroy basic Christian tenets. After agonizing reflection, he decided that Germany's only hope was the removal of Hitler by any means necessary.
Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer kept a low profile. He concentrated his energies on a bigger purpose, throwing himself into secret efforts to help Jews and others escape to Switzerland. He also joined a plot against Hitler organized by German military officers. It was this group that made a failed bid to blow up Hitler in July 1944.
Bonhoeffer knew great risk brings great reward. When his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnany, a fellow anti-Hitler conspirator, suggested Bonhoeffer sign up as a German military intelligence agent to throw the Nazis off his scent, he agreed.
As a figurative agent of grace, Bonhoeffer used his job as a cover. When he was supposed to be spying on the Allies, he actually used the clandestine conversations to spread word about Nazi death camps and the anti-Hitler resistance.
The Gestapo eventually uncovered Bonhoeffer's activities and took him away in 1943. He was imprisoned, first in Buchenwald, and later in the Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany.
Even in peril, Bonhoeffer refused to stop sounding his warning. Throughout his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer continued to write passionately about his beliefs.
He was hanged on personal orders from Hitler a few weeks before Germany surrendered in April 1945.
His last words were a message to his friend, Anglican Bishop George Bell. "This is the end, but for me the beginning of life," he said.
Bonhoeffer was 39 years old.
Harumph. I don't know about you, but I am just a day-laborer in a small Mid-western town living off of handouts.