The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Bonhoeffer Unmentionables

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BonhoefferFor those in Iowa, there’s a worthwhile piece of history on Monday’s public television. I believe it was Bonhoeffer who said, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And when he was in prison for opposing Hitler, a friend (so I’ve heard, anyway) said, “Dietrich, why are you here?” Bonhoeffer responded, “Why are you not here?”

Here’s text from IPTV. See a more complete description at the PBS Bonhoeffer page (click here).

Program Highlights

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among the first to oppose Adolf Hitler. As a young pastor, he helped establish the Confession Church, Germany’s only true organized challenge to the Nazi state. Through Bonhoeffer’s own writings and the firsthand accounts of those who lived through the experience with him, the documentary Bonhoeffer presents Nazism and the Holocaust in a new light, letting viewers see a creative model for the role of the church in a “world coming of age.” Bonhoeffer airs Monday, April 24 at 9 p.m.

Seems like an important example for our times. We people of faith – like all people, I guess – tend to fall in line behind the worldviews of popular leaders. If those leaders are of a religious outlook that we endorse, we easily assume they are right and thoughtful on a host of issues.

And thus, godly people have ended up backing a host of notions that bear little resemblance to Jesus: apartheid in South Africa, slavery in the USA, Crusades in western history. “How could they?” we ask. Here’s how: I am sure all those things felt like the Christian duty of those who participated in them.

Are we immune to such attractions today – those ideas that seem right to so many but sit so uncomfortably next to our image of Jesus? Those things we figure people smarter than us have figured out, and they’re best left alone? Those things we just can’t talk about without everyone freezing up?

Want an freeze-up example? Try pre-emptive war. Every Christian theory of war ever written opposes it. But we evangelicals have been mostly unwilling to bring it up. Why this unmentioned elephant in the room?

Can you think of other examples? Can you answer the “Why”?
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Written by Monte

April 21, 2006 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Iraq

3 Responses

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  1. […] Bonhoeffer Unmentionables […]

  2. You might enjoy Lawrence’s story, some of which I’ve posted as New Worlds Here. I hope to write more from Bonhoeffer, too, which (was on PBS Monday night) had a lot to say about misplaced trust, governments, etc. Very challenging!


    April 26, 2006 at 2:31 pm

  3. Why the unmentioned elephants (preemptive war, torture, immigration fences, sanctions, etc.)? Maybe it’s because we know we are being watched and we are aware from history what happens to people who oppose the power that be. They get hung, ala Bonhoeffer. (No, this is not paranoia; it is very reasonable, what with laws that open our Internet files, library records, etc., to inspection.)

    Why? Maybe it’s because we’ve been well-trained to be one-issue people. Can’t be for gay rights and prolife at the same time. Can’t be pro-envirnoment and remain a businessman. Can’t love Israelis and love Iraqis too.

    Why? Well, maybe we’re very busy–comfortably preoccupied, actually. We have too much to think about, what with the gas prices increasing, our health insurance being inadequate, our lawns needing to be mowed, our favorite TV show to watch, and all that.

    Why? Maybe because we are vaguely aware our voice has been stolen from us. Well, it’s not so vague if we look at it straight on: Our vote no longer holds any meaning, any power. The love of money has vetoed our vote as corporations buy our legislators. Democracy is caput.

    Why? Maybe because we evangelicals (Christian folk on left and right, actually) have misplaced our trust. We have thought that democracy will save us, our chosen leaders will save us. They’ll bring morality and its brother, justice, through laws. They’re the ones who will bring the kingdom to earth, right? When we misplace our trust like this, we learn not to take responsibility ourselves for being moral and acting and speak justly. We forget that God is the one who demands and rightfully deserves our allegiance.

    End of diatribe.


    April 26, 2006 at 9:47 am

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